• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

50 years on the farm ...and counting

Fred Braunm went to work for the Nuckols family at their Midway horse farm in 1969, when he was 20 years old. A half-century later, he’s still hard at it. “He is the backbone of the farm, from delivering foals to driving the horse van to handling yearlings along with stallion management,” said Mary Jane Nuckols. Last week, the Nuckols asked Braunm to pause from his duties as farm foreman. “Yes, sir, it was a surprise,” Braunm said of the 50th anniversary party his employers threw for him Jan. 8. “When I saw all the people there, and the veterinarian, Dr. (Richard) Holder – we’ve worked together for 37 years – it brought back a lot of old memories.” His jobs at the farm have ranged from mucking the stalls to “looking after the little baby horses,” Braunm said. Along the way, he’s helped deliver hundreds of foals, including 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem, and cared for many hundreds more. A native of Lincoln County, Braunm said he came to Woodford County in 1969 to visit a friend, then landed a job at Nuckols Farm the next day. “I ain’t left since,” he said. Perhaps that’s because, along with the fact that Braunm loves horses and being outdoors, he’s not just an employee. “We call him Fred Nuckols, because he would just do anything for you,” said Mary Jane Nuckols. “’Nucks’s’ daddy (Charles Nuckols Jr.) was like a daddy to me. I had two mothers and two fathers,” Braunm said. He also treasures his relationship with Thoroughbreds like Monarchos, the gray 2001 Derby winner that died in 2016. “He was an angel,” Braunm said of the only horse aside from Secretariat to finish the Derby in less than two minutes. “Me and him were just like brothers. We got along just perfect.” Braunm said he’s been kicked by horses a few times, but the worst injury he ever suffered on the farm was when a horse named Soy Numero Uno objected to his presence. “When I reached in to feed him, he grabbed my hand and pulled all the skin off my hand,” Braunm said. Braunm, now 70, acknowledged that sometimes his job’s a bit harder than when he first stepped foot on Nuckols Farm. “It is, because of my age, but I’m still getting around pretty good,” he said, laughing. Asked what he would have said had someone asked him 50 years ago if he’d still be working there in 2019, Braunm said, “I’d have told him they were crazy.” He said, back then he thought he might work there for a few years, then find something else to do. He didn’t, and he doesn’t regret that one bit. “I just like being outdoors, watching the new babies hit the ground. It’s just real fun,” Braunm said. Braunm said he misses his wife, Nancy, who died in October 2018, but he still has his horses, and his second family, the Nuckols, and his two adult children and five grandchildren. For Fred Braunm, life on the farm is good, and he has no plans to retire. “I’ll work as long as I’m able to,” he said. “We get up, like, 7 o’clock in the morning, and we come out and feed (the horses) and we’ll go to the (Midway) Corner Grocery and get a cup of coffee, come back and turn the horses out and do the stalls, and about 3:30, put all of them back up, and take a shedder and shed the mud off of them, and 5 o’clock, go home.” That’s not a far trip – Braunm lives in a house behind the farm office. Charles and Mary Jane Nuckols are glad to have him around as long as he wants to stay. “He comes with the farm,” she said.

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