Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my
mother, one fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mom’s
death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one
and nothing.” They married late, 34 and 38. He adored her
unconditionally. She filled my life with horses, music, love,
cornfields, hayrides, ambition. Whatever she felt she
had missed, my sister and I were going to possess: books,
piano lessons, a college education. Her father, who died long
before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses. So did she. During
my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night
coughing with stories of runaway horses pulling her in a wagon.
With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination,
she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri
River Bottom, strong, willful, free.