• Kate Richards

Straight Outta Proctorville: My Cousins’ Belmont logic, Biblical analogies and pound cake

I come from a tiny town in North Carolina that has its own library (listed in the National Registry of Historic Places), a Baptist Church, two cemeteries (one for people, one for pets), a general store, a playground, 2 gas stations, a fire department, a beauty parlor, a Community building & Masonic Lodge and two in-ground pools. There are a number of horses that all belong to cousin Joe. Proctorville is a town wherein pound cake is a food group. And when I write tiny…I mean T-I-N-Y. Maurice, Louisiana, home of the Desormeaux family is bigger but just by a tiny margin. Size does not matter….as Proctorville is a town that gets written up quite a bit on social media and the NC newspapers, especially when the W.R. Surles Memorial Library received its designation as a place of historical significance. And also because my cousins are prolific writers with educated attitudes on sports, the Bible, beach music and recipes. We can pick sides on pound cake recipes. Tobacco Road basketball ranks numero uno as the most controversial and opinion instigating. Proctorville is also a town that can fill a landscaper’s heart with pride (and every Lowes sales clerk with joy) as every lawn is a manicured wonder; mowed and flower- bedecked with the resident’s preference on state teams stated in their garden flag. We are not allowed to plant the school flags in the Proctorville Cemetery, although Dad and Cousin/Dr. William may have approved that rule…so far we just do the US flags and holiday tributes. President Ellen (also a cousin) thinks that it could start something unsavory. She makes a powerful argument about civil unrest.

The Surles/Lewis/Richards plot would feature the UNC insignias as everyone in my immediate family went to Chapel Hill since Adam was a child, except me who was trotted off to Stephens College for Women. Stephens just had an equestrian team yet I am Carolina blue, once removed. Proctorville is dead split on the NC State and Carolina Tarheel loyalty issue. March can be a stormy month in my home town. No Duke (Dook) but a House divided. Dee-vah-didd. Just like what that the Biblical King was going to do. Cut that baby. Split it so that the two parties feel like winners.

Understanding the analogy of King Solomon and his solution to a rivalry, one has to understand that we all grew up listening to Bible stories and listening to our Sunday School teachers draw comparisons to everyday life. The ‘tater story’ (dic-tater, agi-tater et al) was my favorite children’s service tale. I see the parables all the time (and a Pharisee around every corner). And given those heavenly powers of reasoning I would offer a suggestion about the case of Runhappy, the unhappy case that certainly caused a fissure in the horse fan groups. Instead of attorneys, maybe a pastoral intercession would have helped in this case. I know that Pastor Steve could have brought both entities to heel minus mega legal fees (maybe just a tiny donation to the church mission fund). And I am serious.

Kings 3: 16-28

March is the month that Pastor Steve has to trot out the cut-the-baby Bible story about King Solomon and the 2 women fighting over who was that child’s momma. The King was going to cut that baby. And evidently the true momma threw in the proverbial towel because, well, of course…she did not want that baby hurt. The message here is ‘simmer down’…something that Pastor Steve tries to do annually when the Atlantic Coast Conference gets ferocious and everyone has an opinion on how their NCAA brackets will play out and with how many ACC teams will be in the Final Four. Fans of ACC teams stick with ACC teams or else. More than I can say for the Republicans. And probably a message that maybe a few race fans may feel as we face the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont; home of the longest home stretch called ‘Big Sandy’ and the new shooters. Fresh horses are taking a shot at the hard driving warriors that have been campaigning for points to get into the Derby since, well…way before even the basketball tournaments started. One horse, Lani, had to qualify in another country (Dubai, Doo-bye) to make the Kentucky Derby roster. No wonder he is a bit cranky… jet-lagged. I hope that, at least, those Lani owners collected air miles. His grand sire was one of the prettiest colts ever bred in Kentucky, Sunday Silence, winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1989. Sunday Silence after smoking just about everything in the US went on to become the foundation sire of Japanese t-bred bloodstock. His passing from the dreaded laminitis was mourned world-wide. His grandson, Lani has his sires’ features, yet no one has stepped up to claim the genesis of character. Lani reminds me of Gate Dancer and I think that it is time for the connections to consult Jack Van Berg, a trainer that can spin goofy horses into gold.

This is shaping up to be an interesting year because last year we finally saw a Triple Crown horse who also glided past the finish line in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Pinch -city.

One horse cured the drought of Triple Crown dreams…one horse smashed every argument that the schedule was too tough and the demands too severe. American Pharaoh. I loved the fact that his Egyptian kingly title was spelled incorrectly just as I loved that California was misspelled on Junior’s saddle towel when he first arrived at Churchill. I reveled in those oddities because the beauty expressed in AP’s phenomenal talent and in Chrome’s courage were gifts from the Almighty… so is the humor. I am filled with wonder. And giggles.

And woah…I bet Mario wished that he had said that to Nyquist in the Preakness…what a finish! Dale Roman’s horse, Cherry Wine, came in for second which was an out of the clouds accomplishment. ‘Quist held on for third. Buster (Exaggerator) ran in tandem with his pilot, Hall of Famer, Kent Desormeaux who also comes from a tiny town called Maurice (pop. 621) which lies in the great state of Louisiana south of Lafayette. I do believe that tiny towns produce large talents. His brother Keith Desormeaux did a phenomenal job with conditioning Buster, much as he did Texas Red, a horse on the comeback trail. Doug O’Neill, Nyquist’s trainer did as well and I wish that I knew where to send him a pound cake. Maybe he would feel better about his strategy and a slice of pound cake fixes many a bad mood. Write me Doug, and it is on its’ way to Santa Anita as the barn bird said that ‘Quist is going to the left coast for a spell…. or to the Haskell.

Buster is the son of Curlin, a gorgeous muscular chestnut, once owned by the great grandson of the namesake, a former slave named Charles Curlin. Buster proved his Daddy’s sire line on Preakness Day as well as his dams’ line with the immortal Seattle Slew. It goes to prove that grandparents as well as great-grands can influence character and stamina in humans as well as finely tuned racehorses. At least I am hoping that this is true. There can be no more profound declaratives as an instruction…”do not embarrass this family”. My parents have passed yet I can hear them clear as a bell with that exact statement. Curlin the Mighty must be really proud of his boy Buster.

I am hesitant as I embarrassed myself in the HRN national poll for the Kentucky Derby but let me crow a bit…I had the top 3 in the Preakness. BaBoom. Clint Eastwood once asked his adversary “Are you feelin’ lucky?” and of course Clint whomped them because that is what he does in his movies. It is hard to figure out one of the classic races and there exists some very hard core “cut the baby” attitudes in this horse racing nation. Dirty Harry fans knew that Clint was gonna be the lucky one…how he got to the lucky part was part of the intrigue. Is there a horse that can whomp Buster (no) or will an un-named new shooter take home the white NY-Belmont carnations? The Buster gang sure knew how to induce the feel good happy dance motif into the winners’ circle at Pimlico. It made me smile and do my old standby, Curlin dance (so appropriate) and blow my guests’ ear drums out.

I am consulting my cousins and family friends in Proctorville, neighboring towns and states and getting their picks. This evening before the finals for Dancing with the Stars airs, I am sending out messages to the aforementioned. Afterwards…I will run an average and report their picks as well as their comments. It has been interesting to get their responses. Two of them did not respond at all, one told me that I was silly, another forgot to watch and 6 or 7 signed up for Horse Racing Nation to study and ask for links to previous races. One cousin with double degrees doesn’t see the point of any sport that requires a dictionary of terms. Smart cousin. Another cousin cannot keep his hand off of the meep key of ‘thumbs up” …even when the question that is posed requires an ‘I think” answer. He will vote the meep. I worry about the national election when he cannot use a meep. My six cousins that are studying take sports very seriously and are very attuned to anything competitive…doesn’t matter if it is about dancing, Miss America (my Pop, Happy Lewis, said that Miss A was a sporting event) car racing (NC shut down when Dale Earnhardt died) or college basketball…we pick sides and fuss with each other. I pitched a serious fit when that Miss Colorado, the nurse, did not win last year. Now, that was a crime of not-so-tiny proportions. Pound cake is another subject but I will include my inherited recipe because it IS the best and this is my blog.

Pastor Steve has enjoined this effort as a precaution.

Cut the baby time. First … the recipe;

Kate Anne’s Pound Cake by Aunt Treva

5 med. eggs (room temperature) or 4 large eggs (same)

2 cups white sugar

1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter

1 heaping tbs. shortening

Cream butter & shortening in mixer until blended. The addition of the shortening makes for a finer crumb.

Sift together

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 sm box vanilla or white chocolate instant pudding mix

Crack eggs and add them to mixing bowl with butter & sugar, alternating with dry mixture (the flour & stuff) …try to end with the dry (no one knows why this is…it just is).

Mix in 1 tbs. vanilla extract.

Do not over-beat…just make sure that the mixture looks creamy. Scrape the bottom of bowl & mix once.

Prepare the pan…tube, loaf or bundt pan. Butter or use shortening and lightly flour the bottom and sides. Spoon it batter. Bang it on table to knock the bubbles out. Pretend you are making a point.

Place in cold oven and turn heat to 350degrees. Check at 45 minutes by touch/spring back (you know what I mean) …cover with foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Do the clean toothpick test to check for ‘ready’? Remove from oven and place on elevated bakers rack. Invert when cooled a bit. Run a wet paring knife around the rim to loosen.

My technique for frosting: when it is still warm, spoon vanilla butter frosting on inverted cake and let it melt to form a glaze. Let it cool down, spread on more and complete the frosting exercise. Serve and be popular.

The tricks

*start with a cold oven…actually every oven performs differently. Starting cold and checking after 45 min. works world-wide.

*use that shortening unless you are planning to freeze the cake for later. A pound cake that sits out wrapped in foil will tighten. Using the shortening will tighten the cake right away.

*finish with dry ingredients…again,I do not know why. Maybe it’s in the Bible.

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