Want to know how to get a police escort to the front gates of Churchill Downs while making your first appearance at the Kentucky Derby? It’s quite simple, it just takes four lovely ladies in big hats, a golf cart (or two) and a little collision. Please read on.
As we parked the car, a golf cart sidled up beside us. “You ladies like a ride to the track?” Given that one in our party had recently had back surgery, we figured the less walking we did, the better. We slipped into the golf cart, Maika and Shannon facing forward behind the driver and Emily and I on the back seat, facing backwards. We bounced along the neighborhood streets that surround Churchill Downs, darting through small alley ways, getting closer and closer to the gates. Emily and I were chatting when we heard a loud crash, the cart stopped suddenly, and I bounced off of the back of the cart, landing solidly on my bum, legs flailing in the air, my hat flying several feet to the side of the road. I lay there, staring at the neighbors staring back at us, slowly making myself upright and trying to resurrect what little sense of pride I still had. Emily remained in her seat and Maika and Shannon were attempting to exit the cart, wobbling unsteadily. We immediately saw that Shannon, the one who had recently had back surgery, had hurt her knee. As in, couldn’t put any weight on it, swelling up massively, and a trickle of blood running down her leg hurt her knee. We stood there, knowing she needed medical attention, but not sure how to get it. Try to carry her to Churchill Downs? Call an ambulance (we had no idea where we were)? Other ideas? Another golf cart driver, a young lady, through puffs on her Marlboro cigarette, insisted that we get in her cart and she would drive us to the closest police station, only a few blocks away. Hesitant to get into another golf cart, we gave each other questioning glances. Realizing we didn’t have much of a choice, we got in. The driver’s friend, a healthy young woman, to put it euphemistically, lifted up the edge of the cart as we drove along, making sure that Shannon’s knee was not jostled on the pot-holed alleys on the way to the police station.
“Can I help you?” the policeman asked, somewhat taken aback by a golf cart barreling through the police barricade. We all started speaking at once.
“She’s been hurt.”
“There was an accident.”
“Is there a doctor here?”
“She just had back surgery.”
He called his sergeant, and she arrived a few minutes later. I explained as succinctly as possible what had happened, and asked if there were a doctor or EMT at the station. There was, indeed, an EMT. Praise the Lawd. (I find myself not only speaking with a southern drawl when south of the Mason-Dixon line, but also inexplicably more religious as well.)
After icing and bandaging Shannon’s knee, the EMT led us to a church pew in the hallway of the police station. This was a bona-fide church pew, hymnal pockets and all. Not sure why it was in the hallway of the police station (please, every time you read the word police here, pronounce it PO-lees), but it provided a comfortable place for us to rest out of the now-falling rain.
As we sat there, all in a row on the church pew, banter began once again.
“You two should at least go to the Derby. I mean, you came all this way, it’s a shame not for you to go.”
“But what are we going to tell your husband? We need to get our stories straight.”
“No mention of the word accident. Do not use that word. Let’s say incident instead.”
“Do we need to take you to the hospital?”
“Where will you be? We can’t just leave you here.”
At that point the sergeant, one of the only women in the station, having watched this for several minutes, said, “This is mo’ entertainin’ than the Sisterhood of the Travlin’ Pants. I’m gone get me a piece of pie to enjoy this most thoroughly.” That stunned us into silence for a moment.
Sho’ ‘nuf (I can’t help myself but to speak southern in the re-telling) she came back with a piece of mighty fine-looking pie. “Ya’ll cain’t make a decision to save yo’ life,” and back to her pie she went.
“What ch’all fine ladies in here fo’?” asked another policeman walking by. “Not the type we no’mally see on Derby days.” And, once again, we all tried to explain the accident we had been in.
“Y’all been drinkin’?”
“No, sir,” I replied. “We ne’er made it to the Derby.”
“Well, that’s why ya’ll’s got hurt. Ya’ll been drinkin’, you’d been fine. This lil’ lady needs a drink, that’s what she needs.”
I nodded. “Yes, sir, that’s a fine idea.”
“Well, where’s yo’ flask?”
“Excuse me? I, I, I don’t have a flask.” (Am I really being asked this at the police station?)
“Young lady, is this yo’ first time to the Derby?”
Once again, we sat in stunned silence. And then went back to trying to decide what to do next. We finally agreed that we would all go to the Derby. I mean, three of us had flown all the way from Cal-i-forn-i-a to see those horses. Shannon would limp, or we would carry her, or we would get a wheelchair. We would make it work. We had come too far not to make it to the Derby.
When the sergeant heard our decision, she offered, “Well, the leas’ I can do is offer you a police escort.” Why, yes, you can.
And that, dear readers, is how you arrive to the Kentucky Derby with a police escort.