My father was a blacksmith for the coal company all his life. I don't doubt I like horses because of my father. He'd pull off the old shoes, make new ones and put them on again. He did 28 horses in one day, once.
I went into the mines when I was 19. I was a driver. I was working with a fellow who had a big horse by the name of Jim. We started in pulling eight boxes and another trip was coming out. The two horses crashed. Well, mister, that took the joy out of me. They had to kill one horse right there. Oh mister, I said, No more of that driving for me.
So I worked my way up till I got a place on the coal face. She wasn't all sunshine, though. I've seen lots of times, you'd go down and wouldn't open your can until you went home.
I quit in 1955. I was trying to work here in my yard as well as in the pit. I'd work all day, come back and get a bite to eat. Then crawl under somebody's car and put a motor in or a transmission. Work there until 11:00 at night, then back into the house and into the pits again the next day.
But oh shit, yes! I enjoyed working more on cars than in the pit. Listen, it's a job, but if it was left to me for my boys, I would sooner see them go pick up horseshit than go into the mines. Too dangerous.
I always had ponies, working and jogging horses. I paid one dollar for my first racing horse. He was an old one. But I started training him and he came to think he was a three-year-old. That old son-of-a-whore, I must have put 25 bags of Royal Horse Feed and Oats in him - I just took to that old son-of-a-gun. First thing you know, we could beat all them horses up here on the track. That old horse made me a dollar and I had a lot of fun with him.