To Win the Kentucky Derby
When this year’s Kentucky Derby began, local racing fans watched with bated breath: Longtime Ellis Park jockey and local favorite Calvin Borel, a Louisiana native, was racing for his second Derby win. Borel won this year’s race riding Mine That Bird; he won his first Derby in 2007 riding Street Sense.
From the first quarter-mile in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, I had so much confidence. Street Sense was just a natural from day one. I always said he’d win the Derby. He was so much talent, everything I needed to get me there. It was unbelievable. You just don’t find those kinds of horses, you know? With Mine That Bird, it was a big accomplishment, but it was very surprising. I’d only been on him a couple of times, and I’d been on Street Sense all his life.
During the Derby, you mostly focus on yourself and enjoy the race, but you also focus on the horses that you think you have to beat in the race, make sure they’re where they should be.
It’s every jockey’s dream to ride in the Kentucky Derby, much less win it. It’s the best feeling in the world. When you stand up, it’s like the ground’s shaking. You’re just so numb. My mom and dad have passed away, and I thought about them first — I wish they could see what I’ve accomplished in my life. But then you look back and go, “I worked so hard to get here, and I finally got here.”
To Make a Hole In One
In his 51st year as a golfer, Robbie Kent Sr. approached the seventh hole at Victoria National Golf Club like any other day on the greens. This time, he needed only one swing to make a 157-yard hole.
That day, I was hitting the ball well. I’d just bought some new clubs. I went up, and it was in the cup. I had a real calmness about this, and the calmness, I think, is because I finally reached the finalization of something I’ve tried to do for so long. My golfing companions looked at me and said, “Why are you not screaming?” Because it took so long in coming, I was a little bit in shock. I’ve been close to holes in one all my life, and I didn’t figure that hole, that day. For 24 hours, I felt as good as I have for a long, long time. I hope it’s not once-in-a-lifetime. They sometimes come in pairs, and I’m going to play as much golf as I possibly can now because I know it can be done. I’m looking forward to every day God gives me to play golf. It’s a great feeling that doesn’t go away. I go between euphoria and disbelief.
To Have Heart
In 1985, Newburgh resident Lesa Bowley was a 21-year-old college senior who had already survived chemotherapy treatments for her teenage diagnosis of lung cancer. As she prepared for spring break, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an inflammation of the heart. After 14 years on medication, the drugs began to fail her; the final option was the heart transplant she received at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis in 2001.
In January 1999, I was put on the transplant list. For two years, I still clung to the hope that things would get better. There were lots of nights I’d go to bed and pray that God didn’t give me the heart that night because I was too scared, I didn’t feel like I could do it, or I wasn’t ready.
The call came at 3 a.m. I asked for a lot of prayer and peace in that moment. Our day that is so big for us in a positive way is such a big heartbreak for them. I wrestled with that a lot. The absolute hardest part is trying to say goodbye to your kids without saying goodbye to them. The goal is to have the surgery and live a long time, but those moments are very uncertain. Trying to stay strong for them was difficult.
After the surgery, it’s thankfulness, gratitude. I’ve really been blessed, and I have a lot of gratitude and respect for the family that chose to donate life to so many people.
To Make Your First Confession
Last year, Fort Branch resident Kevin Menke joined Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, an eight-month process for joining the Roman Catholic Church. Just weeks before Easter in April 2009, Menke, a high school basketball coach, attended his first sacrament of reconciliation, an event of forgiveness, at Holy Cross Parish.
I was a little nervous and anxious. I was really looking forward to getting it done and getting the monkey off my shoulders. I just jumped whenever they said we could go do it.
Father Tony Ernst made it easier. Once I got in there, I was real comfortable with him. It was just like a regular conversation. He discussed some of the problems that he had — stuff that he confesses every day. There are challenges he faces day in and day out. It was comforting to know he had some of the same challenges I have.
Afterward, I felt very relieved and on a spiritual high. I’ve never done anything like that before, and to think your sins are forgiven — it was a pretty amazing feeling.
To Play in Your Last Professional Baseball Game
Don Mattingly was the most popular New York Yankee for 13 years. The first baseman with a sweet swing played his final game in 1995 — an extra-innings loss to the Seattle Mariners in a postseason division series. For those five games, he batted .417. Now, the Evansville native and current hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers looks back at his final game.
I was fairly excited but a little bit nervous. During the season, in the afternoon, an hour or two hours before the game starts, you get that feeling. The playoffs are a whole different thing. You wake up in the morning, and it’s there already.
In the playoffs, momentum switches so fast. There’s nothing you can do with it. It’s really just excitement about playing and knowing it’s a big game. You pretty much do your normal things, but you are just waiting for game time. It’s really killing time at that point.
It’s funny. At game time, that stuff goes away. Even though it’s not a normal game, it’s still a normal game actually because it’s still baseball. So I just get into the “Who’s pitching? What is he throwing?” I’m just playing the game at that point. The pre-game stuff is where all the feelings are at. Once the game starts, I’m all right. And actually, it’s fun. The fans are excited, and both teams are playing at a high level.
During the game, the momentum changes at any moment. The emotions come when something goes good for the team — or bad. Then, I’m riding that back and forth. Individually, I just have to concentrate on doing my job. When I’m hitting, it’s really more of a calm feeling.
I kind of knew my whole year that that was going to be my last year. I was really looking to go out with a bang. So I knew it was there, but I just had to prepare for that game.
At the end of the game, I was just soaking it in, and it was a tough loss. Our whole team was down. The whole city was down, it seemed. It took a couple days to recover from that.
To Race on Salt
For a man who bought his first motorcycle at 13, Jake “Jack” Tate of Evansville has had a long affair with speed. In 2005, the local carpenter raced a motorcycle at 162 mph on the Bonneville Raceway, the Utah salt flats known for their remarkable speed.
When you’re there, you can tell it’s a special place. Absolutely beautiful. By the time my back tire hit the salt, I was in tears and knew the place was going to change my life. It was absolute excitement knowing I had an opportunity to participate in something really big.
It is not just the thrill of the motorcycle. It’s truly a spiritual event. When I’m on course, I am so calm that I can count my respirations. The adrenaline doesn’t get to me until I’m off course, and I’m on the return road back. By the time I get back to the pits, I can hardly stand up. Most times, I’m so overcome emotionally that I don’t even go by the stands to pick up my timing slips. I go back to the pits to collect myself.[pagebreak]
To Be Colorblind
Bill McCormick of Evansville has difficulty distinguishing between his blues, blacks, and grays. To be colorblind, he says, is never too embarrassing and occasionally humbling.
My grays, my blacks, and my blues just all kind of blur together. I’ve had customers look down at me and say, “I love your tie, but do you know you have a blue sock on one foot and a black sock on the other?” I say, “No, but thank you very much.”
Years ago, JC Penney had a men’s clothing sale, and I was in buying shirts and ties. They were all pin-striped. All of these colors — it’s just like a wave. The voice from behind me says, “Can I help you, sir?” I said, “Yeah, apparently I get my blacks and my whites mixed up.”
He said, “I wish everybody did.” I turned around, and he was black. I’m Native American, and I started laughing and said, “I’m so sorry.” He said, “That’s OK. You just made my day.” I felt like I was about an inch tall. He helped me through my shopping experience and helped me out the door.
To Fly in a Private Jet with the Future President of the United States
The Sunday before the Democratic presidential primary election, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and his wife, Patricia, flew from Indianapolis to Evansville on then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign jet with key members of his staff.
This wasn’t Air Force One. This was no different — maybe even a scaled-down version — of what you would fly commercially. The staff and press have their own accommodations set up: I vividly remember a poster of Rocky Balboa with Obama’s head superimposed on it. At the bottom it said, “Baracky.”
Think about how hectic that campaign for president was, non-stop, 24/7 — and what surprised me is that Barack Obama wanted to just keep on chatting. He came back to where Patricia and I were sitting and talked with us. I don’t remember specifically what we discussed — everything from Indiana politics to what we were experiencing in our lives with our families.
Knowing what his schedule was that day, I expected that he would get on that plane and collapse. But he was still full of energy. That was the thing that really struck me. He was just so gracious and accommodating … He’s a very charismatic, sincere individual, so he makes you feel very much at ease.
To Sail a Boat For 3 Years
Randy Julian was an executive vice president at Rexam when he and his wife, Margaret, spent nearly three years sailing from Kentucky Lake to, ultimately, the Virgin Islands with some lengthy stops — including Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas — in between.
We left in November from the north end of Kentucky Lake. It was just us and the barges until we got to Mobile, Ala. We started to pick up a lot of houseboats and river-cruising boats. So at that point, you just work up the courage and go out through the cut into open ocean.
When you’re in the middle of it, there’s this incredible sense of self-reliance. When you get into the deep waters, you’ve crossed some kind of safety net. You are on your own, and it’s a little scary. After you’ve survived it, the better you feel about it, the more alive you feel. The sense of being OK with self-reliance is one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve ever experienced.[pagebreak]
To Trace Your Family Back to Their Country of Origin and Go There
With help from Internet archives, Willard Library, and family documents, Evansvillian Rena Goss traced her family tree back to Wales. In 1998, Goss and her husband, Larry, traveled to Haverford West, Wales with a page from a family Bible (shared with her by a relative) listing several names and locations dating back to the mid-1700s.
Researching genealogy gets to be an obsessive behavior. It consumes you for a day or for a week or for your lifetime. I at least go on the Internet once a day to look up somebody.
Walking into the county records office in Haverford West, I was unsure, apprehensive, wondering if somebody would be there to help. Luckily, a man was very helpful to point out the church, the parish, and the lake. It just substantiated the information I had from the Bible. It was exciting to find that these places mentioned in the front of the family Bible were real. It’s overwhelming. It’s like, “Wow, did they ever suspect that their third or fourth great-granddaughter is standing here in awe?”
To Adopt a Baby and Then Get Pregnant
After trying to have a baby for several years, Mount Vernon resident and schoolteacher
Susan Wezet and her husband, Mark, adopted a daughter, Claire, now 21. Three and a half years later, Susan learned she was pregnant with daughter Meg, now 17.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked. It was one of those fluke things — those wonderful fluke things.
It’s been neat to watch my daughters go two different directions — one’s really into art and drama, and my other one’s more sporty — but they still are crazy about each other. They’re typical sisters. They fight — in fact, they argued today over a shirt. But I know they’ll always have each other’s back.
I don’t think they’ve ever felt like we’ve treated them any differently. We’ve never tried to, and they both tell us they honestly don’t even think about it. In the good times and the bad, they’re just both mine. They’re both ours. After teaching for 27 years, I’ve seen every combination of family possible, so our family unit is just another type.
To Run the Naked Mile at Harlaxton
While studying at the University of Evansville, Evansville native Josh Riedford spent a semester abroad at UE’s British campus, Harlaxton College, a Victorian manor near Grantham, England. There, he took part in a long-running tradition: “the Naked Mile,” a jog down the manor’s mile-long driveway clad only in sneakers.
I can just remember feeling, like, complete freedom. While I was running, I wasn’t really thinking about the tradition, but I think I pepped myself up that night: “Tonight I’m gonna do something everyone always talks about when they go over to Harlaxton.” When I was stripping off my clothes, I was like, “Yeah, I’m part of it now.”
It’s sort of like a realization — “Wow, I’m really naked in front of this giant castle” — in two respects. First, I don’t have any clothes on. But second, Harlaxton is something that’s been there for so long and something that’s so big and grand. You really feel kind of small. It’s very humbling, but you feel like you’re at one with it because you’re your most bare, stripped-down self … and then you look up and see the security cameras and realize there’s probably somebody watching you.[pagebreak]
To Have a Wedding That Rocks
Heidi Krause, co-owner of Penny Lane Coffeehouse with her husband Paul, didn’t book a reception hall or a band for her wedding on June 21, 2002. Instead, the pair tied the knot at the first Bonnaroo, an outdoor music festival held in Manchester, Tenn., with more than 70,000 people in attendance.
We didn’t want to do the whole big wedding thing. It’s nice, but at the same time, it costs a lot of money. It just seemed like it was nerve-wracking and stressful. This was just something that was between us and very, very simple. There was a lot of anxiousness. We were like, “Ah, I can’t wait! What’s this going to be like?”
It was 90-something degrees the day we got married, and we were both sweating bullets. It was horrible, but we didn’t care. We were so excited.
It was really just nice to not have all this stress on you to feel like you had to deliver and you couldn’t mess up your vows and you had to be standing in all these different positions to have your picture taken. There were people stopping and saying really sweet things. It was kind of cute. They would walk by and yell, “Woohoo!” And then, we were on our honeymoon at Bonnaroo. It was really fun.
To Win the Lottery Twice in One Year
Retiree Bruce Rockman of Evansville is proof that lightning can strike twice. After four decades of buying lottery tickets, he hit it big last year, winning a total of $100,000 from two separate tickets.
I don’t think I ever thought it would be a good idea to enter the lottery. I mean, I know the odds and all, but it’s fun to play.
Last April, I was sitting at the table looking at the Lucky Five numbers, and I missed one the first time. I thought, “Well, I got $200; that’ll make it easier to buy tickets this week.” Then I looked again, and I had all five of them. In November, it was a scratch-off ticket. Two within a year after 40 years of practically nothing! That makes me nervous.
To Be Hardcore
In his 15 years as a wrestler, Allister Fear of Louisville — a professional wrestler at Coliseum Championship Wrestling’s weekly shows in Downtown Evansville — has set his own leg on fire, been hit with a barbwire baseball bat, and had fluorescent light tubes smashed against his skull, all for the entertainment of the fans.
It’s an adrenaline rush that you wouldn’t believe. When someone looks at you from the outside, he says, “Oh my God, does that hurt?” But when you’re actually doing it, the adrenaline’s running so fast. I messed my arm up a couple of weeks ago and didn’t even know until I was driving home.
I had my hand almost cut off with a fluorescent light tube and had six hours of reconstructive surgery on my wrist. That’s the thing with wrestling: It’s the illusion of combat. For people who say that wrestling’s fake, let them go out there and get smacked in the head with a light tube and then come back and say it’s fake.
Whether you’re a good guy, bad guy, face, heel, the fans respect what you do. They know you’re putting your body on the line to entertain them. It makes you feel good as a wrestler to have that kind of reaction.
Like I said, I know the odds, but some people beat ‘em — like me. I keep buying and hoping for three times. My wife says, “That’s your job: Find another winning ticket.”[pagebreak]
To Find the Silver Lining
In 1997, when Evansville native Holly Dunn Pendleton was a student at the University of Kentucky, she was raped and brutally beaten by Angel Maturino Resendiz, the “Railway Killer,” who murdered her boyfriend and left her for dead. Just two years after surviving the trauma, Dunn Pendleton — the only known survivor of the killer, who was executed in 2006 — began sharing her story publicly; she’s now the executive director of Holly’s House, an advocacy center for victims of intimate crimes.
My first speaking engagement was in 1999 at a religious retreat. I actually got asked to do a talk on faith at a time when I was probably questioning my faith the most. I thought, “This is like a slap in the face.” It was scary, and I don’t think anybody could hear me because I was crying and I was so upset. But in the great, positive response I got, I realized there was maybe something to telling my story.
Being open and honest and talking freely about what had happened to me, and seeing that I could do that — I saw that as a gift. I wanted to give that gift to everybody that I could. It was always difficult. It still is difficult.
At Holly’s House, it’s hard emotionally every day to be in this and live this. But it doesn’t feel like I go to work every day. It feels like I’m going where I belong. I can hardly put words to it. It’s like a dream that I never thought I would have, coming true.
To Work Underground
In 1974, James “Bo” Nall of Clay, Ky., entered his first coal mine. He still works underground and says his years of experience as a miner make him feel healthier than his years as a banker.
Everything down there is a whole lot bigger than you think it is. The tunnels are 18 to 20 feet wide. The equipment is huge and even larger today than it was then. Back then, I was young enough not to have sense to be scared when I should have been, but as I progressed and got more experienced, I was aware of the dangers around me. Back in the ’70s, the top was low — about five and a half feet tall and sometimes a whole lot lower than that, depending on where you were. I had to work in a crouched position and sometimes on my knees.
I worked at a bank for seven years, and I feel better after I work a day in the mines than I did working at that desk. It was killing me. It really was. I got to the point that I’d come home and I’d just get in that chair and I wouldn’t get out. Since I started my job underground, I sleep better, and my back hurts a whole lot less.