Roy Exum: Coca-Cola Just Broke My Heart

Monday, July 2, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One of the smartest of all Life’s Rules is also one of the hardest to remember at key times in your life. Simply put it reads, “Never let your money get mad.” Let’s face it, almost all of us are going to get into a fret or a huff but when you allow yourself to get so angry it ends up actually costing you money, your best friends will build a statue and chisel your name at the bottom of it as the World’s Biggest Fool.

Trust me, I’ve done it a time or two and – after declaring myself double-dumb – I’ve dusted off my britches and tried to get back to being the kind of person I ought  to be. But one of my dearest and most beloved friends just broke my heart and, gracious goodness, the pain is so bad that my money is really mad.

On May 16 this year the ABC News show “Nightline” aired the most atrocious and disgusting video in my memory when they showed a Hall of Fame horse trainer named Jackie McConnell sadistically and savagely whipping a Tennessee Walking Horse with an electric cattle prod. The very next day the Pepsi Cola Company – which I’ve never much cared about – withdrew its sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration that will be held in Shelbyville Aug. 22 through Sept. 1.That meant a lot to me because while I cannot remember ever allowing a Pepsi to touch my lips, it told me a lot about the kind of people who today run the Pepsi organization. Please understand, Pepsi has never done anything to hurt me, but I’m a child of the South and my loyalty to Coca-Cola started when I could bang one out of a crank cooler for only a nickel.

In the 60 years that have followed, I’ve never been without a Coke. I drink Diet Cokes all day long. I have a small cooler right beside the desk where I write and I’ve got another little refrigerator beside my bed. I have known and loved quite literally thousands of Coca-Cola people and know that while the first one was bottled in Chattanooga, many millions of cases were sent – at no charge – to The Greatest Generation all over the Europe and the Pacific during World War II. We must never, ever, forget that.

I’m telling you, Coca-Cola runs through me as deep as my blood. You with me here? Good. Guess who just became the “Official Drink Provider” for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration? I’ll answer that by pledging to you that between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1 of this year I’m drinking nothing but Pepsi products for the first time in my life. Or at least I’m going to try. You say, oh, don’t let your money get mad but in the past six weeks the very real business of soring and abusing beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses has gotten personal with me and if Coca-Cola needs “thirty pieces of silver” bad enough to run with such a scurrilous crowd it is no longer “The Real Thing” in my heart of hearts.

Are you kidding me? A half-million people have now watched the Humane Society tape of the downed horse crying like an infant in that stall and – what! – last week the Shelbyville crowd just sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Celebration “handlers” have been just been condemned by the top three veterinary groups in the United States – much to the joy of 500,000 registered Walking Horse owners – and “my” Coca-Cola is now stifling that many giggles. Please!

Contrary to what some may believe, I desperately want the Tennessee Walking Horse to heal itself. I want there to be honest horse shows with beautiful animals, skilled trainers, huge crowds and lots of blue ribbons.  But today there is overwhelming evidence, guilty pleas, blatant lies, and enough violations of the federal Horse Protection Act to quite literally kill the “performance horse” forever.

Any junior high student with a computer can easily access public files that will make you cry. My goodness, there is actually a letter from a Kentucky senator – also named McConnell -- threatening to restrict funding to the Department of Agriculture if they didn’t back off investigating the Walking Horse fiasco and, written in May of 1998, the first signature is that of then Tennessee Senator Bill Frist. My goodness!

I have been studying the wickedness in the Walking Horse industry for less than two months – so help me that’s true – and it is mind-boggling. I loved it when this rich guy named Randall Baskin jumped up at one redemption meeting about a month ago and pledged $100,000 in matching funds to end violations of the Horse Protection Act. The same Mr. Baskin will get off an eight-month suspension for violating the federal Horse Protection Act in a couple of weeks. How many cans of Coca-Cola do you reckon that charade will sell?

Of course, I can’t answer that but I can tell you this; I might try to set a Pepsi-drinking record in late August. The horrible part is that I know so much about what Coca-Cola has done in the lives of literally millions of people. As a matter of fact, I have enjoyed a can and a half of Diet Coke as this article has been written and, first thing in the morning, I’ll be the first to promise I’ll start anew.

Don’t worry. Around Labor Day I’ll renew my lifelong waltz with Coca-Cola but the last part of August the Pepsi Company is going to get all of me. That might not sound like much but, brother, that’s what happens when your money gets so mad you can’t spit nothing but feathers.

royexum@aol.com


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