The Wonders of Florida
Camping and horses also the southern life style and the unpredictable weather
After working in southern Miami at Gulfstream race track and then finally landing a job working for my horse racing idol John Nerud in at Hialeah race track Tartan Farms built a new barn to winter and train our horses for instead of race for those lesser purses in southern Florida and so the winter of 1976 in drove to Ocala for the first time and our beautiful and highly successful breeding operation where many champions were produced by the genius of Mr. Nerud like Horse of the Year Dr. Fager who was named after the surgeon that operated on Mr. Nerud saving his life and in a show of gratitude he named his best colt by Santa Anita derby winner 1951 Rough N Tumble who was owned by long time friend and golf buddy Mr. and Mrs. Genter. I spent several winters in Florida working for Tartan at the track and then the farm, I loved it there and have only the fondest memories of those golden warm winter days.
After my relationship grew between Larry Barrera it became clear to me that I could not stand those long separations during the winter months where he went west with his father and I went south to Florida so one spring instead of returning back to Belmont Park with our stable I took the I-10 west towards California and the love of my life leaving Florida far behind.
Finally I returned to my home state of New Jersey the spring of 2007 and worked at Monmouth Park ponying horses morning and during post parade during the races five days a week, it was hot and humid as always that time of year but I enjoyed it and finally Monmouth became the host of the Breeder's Cup for the first time, they went all out cleaning the place up , planting flowers they even removed the large swimming pool that had been there for decades to provide more space for the spectators. Finally the big day arrived but to all involved the weather didn't cooperate and it began to rain and rain and rain spoiling the big day, the surface of the dirt track was a sea of mud but of course the show must go on, it really broke my heart that they finally got a chance to host the biggest day in American horse racing to have it spoiled by the poor weather. As soon as the Breeder's Cup took place I left my car behind and left for Florida for the first time in over thirty years, I used to drive real fast stopping briefly crossing the United States but not anymore since I bought my first motorhome, I also avoid the I-95 and take the old 301 avoiding Baltimore and Washington DC, to much traffic that way and it was bad thirty years ago. Florida was gaining ground on Kentucky in the breeding world especially after 1968 Horse the Year Dr. Fager was sent back to Ocala and our farm to stand stud duty and the first horse of the year to do so causing any breeder to send their mares to Ocala if they wanted to be breed to the world record holder for a mile that ran in an astonishing 1:32 1/5 carrying 134 lbs quite a feat and that record still stands today.
Return to Memory Lane
As I casually passed state after state stopped for a day or two here or there like the Georgia Welcome rest area and it was beautiful and I parked at the very end of this scenic rest area and camped with my cat Kiddy that loved traveling as much as I did , he never complained and seemed to enjoy the new landscapes and trees and animals we encountered along the way. I found what remained of Tartan Farms and you will never know how I cried when I saw what was left of this once power house of thoroughbred breeding, in my photo you can see what once was a road that ran around the training track and near my motorhome was a round tipped over water trough that was in one of the paddocks where our stallion were turned out during the daytime, all that really remained were the giant mature oaks that are incidentally all tagged that spotted the property that was Tartan Farms.
One of my favorite places that I always stop at for a day or to coming and going to and from New Jersey, in this photo are the protected Florida cypress, it is illegal to cut them down and they also grow in standing water covered in Spanish moss and give an eerie appearance at night as the moon shine down on the trees and the lake. A paradise for bird watchers and besides the abundant Osprey and Bald Eagles there are owls and with my binoculars I spotted on the other side of the lake fresh water pelicans that appear completely white but as the spread their long wings during flight the last ten inches or so are solid black and I got a closer look at them while I was out fishing in Oregon this past summer.
Florida is loaded with fresh magnitude one spring which means that over a hundred thousand gallons of fresh clear warm spring water emerges for the head of each spring and there are many. After pestering my friend and Florida local Charlie Goad to take my out on a pontoon boat before I left for the still irritating California he agreed and this is where he took me, you can see for yourself just how clear the water is, I jump of the boat and swam towards the spring but it was so creepy because the water was so clear I every fish that casually swam by me like the mullets that are large and fat and even the long blades of the eel grass that grown in the swampy waters, I will return to Florida that is for sure and I think about it a lot and the fun I had there and the interesting birds that flew around all over, snakes like the black racers that startled the hell out of the first time I came upon one of the at Silver Springs that was famous for the many Tarzan movies that were filmed there as well as many Sea Hunts episodes but now after returning to Silver Springs that had so many fish it was a big disappointment when I returned thirty years later and the river was practically empty of fish except for the occasional Gar and the gators that line the shores that are protected because move really fast because people hunt them for money what else and this uncontrolled harvesting of naturals creatures decimate many species and break the chain of life like the bullfrogs that were hunted and sold to restaurants for their legs and now Lake Lockaloosa is eerily quiet instead of the croaking of million of frogs only fifty years ago, sad really and do the snakes eat and so the whole ecological chain is disrupted. Man must be held accountable and consider future generations and the habitat of the other species that share our planet.