Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Joseph "Butch" Murrell, July 28, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:14 - Introduction and background in the horse industry

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Partial Transcript: Okay, this is Kim Lady Smith and today is July 28th.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes his childhood and early career in horses. He says that he got started in the horse industry as a groomer in 1960 at Bluegrass Heights Farm. He worked at a new farm in 1963 called King Ranch as a groomer and left after three years. He says that he rarely left Kentucky. He says that he had no experience with horses before working for Bluegrass Heights Farm. He says that working with stallions was his favorite. He describes his family members and how they were involved in the horse industry.

Keywords: Bluegrass Heights Farm; Family; Family history; Groomers; Horse shows; Horsemanship; King Ranch

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Horse industry; Horse-shows; Horses

00:14:48 - African Americans in the horse industry

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Partial Transcript: Back then, uh, it basically wasn't nothing but black people that worked back then.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes the lives of African Americans in the horse industry. He said that at the King Ranch, African Americans were the only ones allowed to work with the horses. He says that African Americans worked on a lot of farms in the area and some of them were very good horsemen. He describes his experiences with segregation, although he says that he never really felt that he was treated differently because he was African American.

Keywords: Employees; Family; Family history; Horse shows; Horsemanship; Horses; Jobs; King Ranch; Racism

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Childhood; Horse industry; Horse-shows; Race discrimination

00:18:57 - Impact of Christianity on his life

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Partial Transcript: And I thank God that I'm going to wait.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell discusses the importance of Christianity in his life. He describes how Christianity has impacted and his family. He tells of his family's involvement in the church. He says that his father was a deacon in the church and he has family members that are involved in church.

Keywords: Churches; Family; Family history

Subjects: Christianity; Families.; Religion

00:21:40 - Big Sink Ranch and the Benjamin family

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Partial Transcript: Um, so how long were you at King Ranch?

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes why he left King Ranch in 1966. He says that another ranch in Lexington, Kentucky called Big Sink offered him more money. He says that he worked for them for seventeen years before the farm was sold. He says that another family bought Big Sink and he worked for them for seven or eight years. He says that he also stayed with the same farm as it was bought and sold by different groups, including the group that owns it now, Three Chimneys Farm. He also discusses his duties as a groomer. He says that he raised mares, fillies, and yearlings, and the Benjamins would race some of the horses. He discusses the horse Genuine Risk and how she had trouble breeding. He says that she was a good horse to take care of at Big Sink. He says that he was very close with Mr. Benjamin and he worked very hard for him. He also explains his duties at Big Sink Ranch. He says that Mr. Benjamin was from New Orleans and he made his money from the oil business.

Keywords: Big Sink Farm; Big Sink Ranch; Duties; Employees; Family; Genuine Risk; Horsemanship; Jobs; King Ranch; Responsibilities; Three Chimneys Farm

Subjects: Families.; Genuine Risk (Race horse); Horse industry; Horses

00:42:56 - Horse sales

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the sales.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes the horse sales that he was a part of. He says that he was involved in every sale at the farm for the previous twenty-five years. He says that it is very hard work getting horses ready to be sold. He describes some of the highest prices that he has seen at horse sales.

Keywords: Duties; Employees; Horse industry; Horse sales; Horses; Jobs; Responsibilities; Selling

Subjects: Horse industry; Horses

00:46:44 - Procedures with the horses

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Partial Transcript: Let's take you back to when you started at, at--with the Benjamins.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes the size of Big Sink Farm before it was sold. He says that there were no stallions on the farm. He also talks about the changes that have taken place regarding the care of horses. He says that the groomers can do procedures on the horses that veterinarians used to do. He also describes horse breeding and birthing. He discusses injuries that he has seen with the horses. He also describes how he would break yearlings.

Keywords: Big Sink Farm; Birthing; Duties; Employees; Groomers; Horse industry; Injuries; Jobs; Responsibilities; Yearlings

Subjects: Horse farms.; Horses; Horses--Breeding; Horses--Care

00:57:57 - Farm manager at Big Sink Farm

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Partial Transcript: Now you were telling me, and, and Dr. Fallon was telling me, that sometimes the farm manager would, uh, uh, take off on a little bit of a binge.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell discusses the farm manager at Big Sink Farm. He says that he had a lot of issues with drinking and relationships and he had to leave. He then describes how he and Dr. Fallon had to run the farm by themselves. He says that they had insurance and workers compensation at Big Sink but no retirement. He says that he never felt capable enough to be the farm manager because he did not have the schooling to keep up with finances.

Keywords: Big Sink Farm; Duties; Education; Employees; Farm managers; Horsemanship; Horses; Jobs; Responsibilities

Subjects: Horse farms; Horse industry

01:02:49 - African Americans and women on horse farms

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Partial Transcript: Now, um, at, uh, Big Sink, were there very many, um, African Americans working?

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes African Americans and women working on horse farms and how that has changed over time. He says that there are more women joining farms than there used to be.

Keywords: Discrimination; Gender; Horsemanship; Horses; Race

Subjects: African Americans--Employment--Kentucky; African Americans--Social conditions; Horse farms; Horse industry; Horsemen and horsewomen--Kentucky; Women--Employment.

01:12:07 - Breeding and foaling

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever have any problems--I know there have been, um, cases--well, this was in the '90s with reproductive loss syndrome.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes the problems that he encountered while breeding, including stillbirth and viruses. He says that he did not really have too many problems with foaling. He talks about a man named Billy Hendricks who foaled all the mares at Big Sink and he says that he learned a lot from him.

Keywords: Big Sink Farm; Billy Hendricks; Horse breeding; Horsemanship

Subjects: Horse farms; Horse industry; Horses; Horses--Breeding

01:16:34 - Daily routine

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Partial Transcript: I don't know if you can do this 'cause it sounds like you do so many different things, but could you describe what a typical day would have been like say in the 1970s working on Big Sink?

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes a typical day working at Big Sink. He says that he would get to the barn at 6:30am every day during breeding season and check on the mares. He says that he would then clean out all the stalls then get the horses ready every night with food and water. He says that he would get home around 4:30.

Keywords: Big Sink Farm; Horse breeding; Horsemanship

Subjects: Duties; Employees; Horse farms; Horse industry; Horses; Horses--Breeding; Jobs; Responsibilities

01:19:19 - Wife and children

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about your wife.

Segment Synopsis: Murrell discusses how he met his wife. He says that they grew up together and went to the same church. He says that she had two children before they were married, and they had two of their own afterward. He discusses his kids, who are adults now, and their occupations and education. He says that his children were around the horses often.

Keywords: Children; Family; Family history; Wives

Subjects: Families.

01:23:41 - Sales of Big Sink Farm

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Partial Transcript: Okay, now when the Firestones, um--now did Mr. Benjamin die bef--

Segment Synopsis: Murrell describes the two sales of Big Sink Farm. He says that Mr. Benjamin sold it to the Firestones because the horse industry was not doing well at the time. He says that the Firestones sold the farm just five years later to Three Chimneys Farm.

Keywords: Benjamin family; Big Sink Farm; Firestone family; Horse industry; Selling; Three Chimneys Farm

Subjects: Horse farms