Roy Exum: My Garden In May

Saturday, May 1, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

“Hooray, hooray, for the First of May …skinny-dippin’ begins today!”

That’s a note the late and great Sports Editor Emeritus Freddie Russell of the old Nashville Banner would send to me during the last 20 or so years of his life, and while the “sin” would change from year to year, the laughter the thoughtful note would evoke was always new and ever genuine.

As I sit in my garden today, as is my custom on the first day of every month, all around me is springtime lust and I glory in it. Our water tables are about 50 percent below a typical April but the abundance of rain we had earlier this year puts us well ahead of the year-to-date averages after the first fourth months of 2021.

My soil experts decreed I should add some amalgamated sulfur with my fertilizer and thus far my yard hasn’t exploded. This still wait-and-see ….

Already there is a hearty yield of orchids and onions so let’s hand out a bucket full of each ….

AN ORCHID to the 147th Kentucky Derby, that will sound its ‘call to post’ at 6:57 p.m. today. “Hot Rod Charlie” is the ‘talk’ at Churchill Downs, the early waging on Friday betting him down from 8-1 to 9-2. ‘Essential Quality’ is 5-1, but longshots ‘Midnight Bourbon,’ (20-10), ‘Highly Motivated (10-1), and ‘Medina Spirit’ (15-1) are fun bets. There will be 19 horses going into the crowded first turn so it will be fun race to watch.

AN ONION to Friday’s news that ‘King Fury’ had to scratch (fever) but watch the interest in ‘Hot Rod Charlie,’ where a “syndicate” known as “Boat Racing” owns a 25 percent share in the horse. College kids will recognize ‘boat racing’ as a college drinking game, and the five partners in the syndicate were teammates on the Brown University football team a few years back. Also, fraternity brothers, these guys – still in their late 20s – are having the time of their lives.

AN ORCHID to the greatest horse performance ever. Secretariat got into an early duel with Sham in the 1973 Belmont on his way to winning the 1½ mile test with a world record of 2:24 that still stands! My goodness – his stride was 24 feet, 11 inches. Here’s a clip that I watch all the time for inspiration. It comes from a movie by the same name (turn up your sound) CLICK HERE.

AN ONION to the weirdest unit of measure ever … only horses are measured by a ‘hand’. For instance, Secretariat was 16.2 ‘hands’ tall – that’s from the top of an animal’s shoulder to the ground. And the unit of measure is used around the world. A ‘hand’ is measured across an open palm from the first knuckle of the thumb straight across. Because some horsemen have larger hands that others, the universal measure is 4 inches. Thus, when you hear a horse owner say his mount is “sixteen and two,” you know that means -- if 3 ‘hands’ equal a foot (pun) -- then 16 equals 72 inches, the same as a person who is six feet tall. The “and two” adds about another inch to the total.

AN ORCHID to Parkridge Hospital for earning its fourth consecutive “A” 2021 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a national distinction recognizing the facility’s achievements protecting patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections. Tom Ozburn, president, and CEO of Parkridge Health System, gives credit to the Parkridge “team” – the stroke of a successful leader.

AN ONION to the abrupt departure of Erlanger Chief Financial Officer Brett Tabor. He had been the heartbeat of the hospital for 31 years and his leaving only adds to Erlanger’s ever-growing woes.

AN ORCHID for the wisdom of Jay DeMarcus, the bass player for the band “Rascal Flatts.” Jay has found, “If you take the shortest steps toward God, He’ll take very large steps toward you.”

AN ONION to the NCAA for taking an outlandish stance that transgender males should be able to compete against biological females or else they will cancel all tournament play in states that refuse to comply. A huge number to states – 31 and counting -- have enacted legislation that prohibits the unfair law. Now, should transgenders be able to compete? Yes indeed, but against biological-like opponents. But the NCAA is down to 19 states that meet its “woke” agenda and that’s good, really good.

AN ORCHID to the new law that enables patients’ access to read their doctor’s notes.

AN ONION to any patient who dares to read their doctor’s notes. Hint: You are clinically “obese.”

AN ORCHID to Billy Aiken and Roger Dickson for their years spent cheering on the Boys’ Club “Stake and Burger” dinner. This year’s event, where the two will be honored, is May 20th and sponsorships are available by calling 423/266-6131. Information is also available at SNB2021@BGCCHA.ORG.

AN ONION for the frightful news Erlanger Hospital’s admissions were down 28 percent last quarter. Combine that with a lack of nurses and a parade of doctors who have left, and you’re guaranteed of bitter days ahead when the COVID bail-out cash goes dry. Then there is that pension dilemma. …

AN ORCHID to “Mr. Anonymous” who, at Gatlinburg’s ‘Burg Steakhouse’ who, on a whim, paid the bill for each party’s table beside his. Then he left a $1,000 tip. He would simply smile while leaving but then came word he was terminally ill and wanted to deplete his bank account. My mercy!

AN ONION to “high grade midline glioma,” a rare type of cancer that snuffed out the life of Aaron Wilson, a brilliant four-star football player in Baltimore who had scholarship offers from over 20 universities when he died this week. The sad part: “He was twice the human being outside of football,” said a coach. “Everyone adored him.”

AN ORCHID to the Southern Literary Alliance for saluting Silverdale Baptist’s Carolyn Henley and Leila Babb with the Verbie & Hugh Provost Awards for outstanding poetry. Today’s kids say they hate poetry, then sing every line to songs that are poetry with musical accompaniment.

* * *


As is my custom, my monthly “Walk in the Garden” holds sway over the Saturday Funnies but – fear not – a sparkling edition of The Sunday Funnies is right around the corner and will appear on tomorrow. I promise.

But since today is revered as “The First Saturday in May” across the entire state of Kentucky, and since “The 147th Run For The Roses” will be late this afternoon, I must filter in the funniest Churchill Downs story I’ve ever heard …

* * *


A group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, accompanied by two female teachers, went on a field trip to the local racetrack, (Churchill Downs) to learn about thoroughbred horses and the supporting industry (Bourbon), but mostly to see the horses.

When it was time to take the children to the bathroom, it was decided that the girls would go with one teacher and the boys would go with the other.

The teacher assigned to the boys was waiting outside the men's room when one of the boys came out and told her that none of them could reach the urinal.

Having no choice, she went inside, helped the boys with their pants, and began hoisting the little boys up one by one, holding on to their little 'wee-wees' to direct the flow away from their clothes. As she would lower one, she would tell the child to “Zip Up” and grab the next.

As she lifted one little guy, she couldn't help but notice that he was unusually … er, well endowed. Trying not to show that she was staring, the teacher said, "You must be in the 5th grade."

"No, ma'am," he replied, "I'm riding Silver Arrow in the first race, but I appreciate your help."

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