Resurrection 22Posted: November 8, 2016
This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.
Langford Farm is one of the beautiful horse farms on Russell Cave Road between Cynthiana and Lexington, Kentucky. From the road you can see the rolling green hills of the farm, dotted with small knots of trees left to provide the thoroughbreds relief from the summer sun. Along the road is a stacked rock fence dating from the Civil War. The rest of the farm is surrounded by a pristinely painted double wood fence.
The wood fencing was a status symbol around the farms of the Bluegrass as it required constant, expensive maintenance. Both the weather and the horses’ chewing meant constant paint and repair. Only a solidly profitable farm could afford the upkeep, let alone keeping the fence as impeccable as Langford’s.
The manse is set off the road, but large enough to be an impressive site. Entrance to the farm is through a modernly created, vintage appearing, iron gate, emblazoned with the farm’s shield and colors. Upon entry and past a typically unmanned security shed, the true size of the house would slowly be revealed as a driver covered the quarter mile paved drive.
Standing in front of the fountain in the middle of the circle drive, the house was a breathtaking site. Assembled from limestone blocks originally mined near Maysville in Mason County, along the Ohio river. The blocks were moved to Lexington by train They were moved from the train cars to building site on specially built, heavy duty wagons, pulled by six-horse teams. Construction took five years and the original edifice was completed in 1914.
Langford was built as a symbol of status and success. Growing up poor in Kentucky, at 28 Ulysses Langford set out to make his fortune. He found it in the midwest, sinking oil wells into the rock of Indiana and Illinois. When he came back to Lexington he was the third wealthiest man in Fayette county and the 13th wealthiest in the Commonwealth.
When Langford was completed, it was the largest and most expensive private home ever constructed in the Commonwealth.
When Ulysses Langford died in 1932, aged 78, the farm and his fortune passed to his two sons, Edgar and Pollard. The farm and money from the oil business continued to flourish and both enjoyed all the benefits and status they provided.
Edgar Langford’s son was born to Edgar and his wife Eloise in 1948. By the time he as two years old, the money from the wells had begun to decline. Not a crisis, of course, but the decline was noticeable. Edgar and Pollard had never run a business. They didn’t have the tenacity of their father nor his foresight.
“Dickie,” as Eloise called him, was her only child and she treasured him. She was quick with both correction and praise. Edgar was rarely available for either. Even as he entered his teens, his mother was his best friend, confidant and comforter.
In Proverbs 27:24, the Teacher writes “riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.” This seemed to be the case with the Langford fortune.
Edgar and Pollard tried land speculation around central Kentucky, trying to increase the income as it dwindled. They began taking loans against the farm. As one by one their ill-conceived schemes fell apart, they borrowed more and more heavily.
Growing up, “Dickie” or “Dick,” as his friends called him, questioned his father’s and uncle’s plans. He had only voiced his concerns to his father one time, when Dick was 15. The family was sitting together at the head of the 26 seat table in the vast dining room. Edgar bloodied Dick’s lip with the back of his hand. In that moment, Dick decided he hated his father.
Dick took after his grandfather. He had a keen mind for opportunity and the tenacity to work to take advantage of it. When he began classes at UK in 1966, he decided his first week to begin selling candy, cigarettes and pop from of his dorm room. He contacted local suppliers, negotiated bulk wholesale rates and soon was making good money every day.
During his second year, he had the opportunity to buy a failing candy wholesaler. He didn’t have the money and refused to depend on his father, so he arranged a combination of small investors and bank loans. Much to his mother’s disappointment, he dropped out of school to run the business full time.
Dick was a difficult man. He was exacting and almost impossible to please. His workers feared him, even before he turned 25. He had a quick temper and was known to dress down his workers verbally with vicious diatribes when they failed to meet his expectations.
The business grew quickly over the next decade and one by one, he bought out his investors. In 1976 he sold the business to a competitor, netting out almost $2 million in cash. He was 28.
The new Fayette Mall on the south-west side of Lexington had opened just a few years before and that area was beginning to boom. Dick bought a Chevy dealership near, anticipating to grow with that area of town.
By the time Dick was 35, he owned five dealerships stretching from London to Georgetown. He met and married Barbara Young, a former Miss Kentucky runner up, whose family was socially and politically connected. He prefered young women and she was 10 years his junior. “Almost too old for him,” he joked.
Within two years, they had their first and only child together, naming him “Jonathan”.
When Dick was home, tension reigned for both “Barbie” and “Jon.” He would berate, belittle and harass them for the slightest infraction or for no infraction at all. Dick’s sexual needs were intense and often were both physically and mentally painful for Barbie. She also was confident he wasn’t faithful to her, but it was a relief. The more he wanted to take out his anger on someone else, the better for her.
Fortunately, Dick wasn’t home often or long when he was.
Dick’s uncle Pollard died first. Cancer, in 1988, aged 70, still dreaming of resurrecting the fortune and restoring the farm to it’s former glory. He had been a playboy in his younger days, had no legitimate offspring and had never married. His half of the much reduced fortune went to Edgar.
Edgar’s wife, Eloise, died not long after in 1989. They had not been close for years, but the loss seemed to take away any remaining ambition he had left. It also had a profound effect on Dick.
Until her sudden death to stroke, Dick had talked to his mother daily. He had meals with her several times a week, picking their favorite places. His mother was the only one who truly understood him, truly loved him. Any kindness he had in his dark, angry heart was spent solely on her. She was still his friend, confidant and comforter until the day she passed. The first time Barbie ever saw Dick cry was at her graveside.
Eloise’s death changed Dick’s view of his life and his world. She had loved the farm, the horses. She had loved horses ever since her parents had taken her to Chincoteague to see the ponies. It was her fondest childhood memory. Even while the business struggled, the horses still gave her joy.
Dick decided to take over the farm.
It was not to be a friendly takeover. Edgar and Dick had not spoken for more than a decade. Dick had his loyal and often unscrupulous attorney quietly buy up the majority of the debt on the farm, using a shell corporation. Within a year, Dick’s “Bluegrass Development Partners” held all but a tiny portion of the debt. Now he simply had to wait until his father could no longer meet his obligations and he would force him out. Dick was looking forward to seeing the pain on his father’s face.
But he never got to see it. Instead he got a phone call one Sunday morning in 1991 that his father had killed himself the night before.