The Roman ruler Numa Pompilius gets the credit for adding the months of January and February to the calendar. This raises the question, “What did the Romans do about winter before adding them?” Presumably, while the folks in Rome were trotting around the rim of the Mediterranean, the weather was so mild that a change of season didn’t make much difference, and they could have winter just whenever the old thing came blowing into town for a few days.
Is it any wonder they were overrun by the Huns?
At any rate, the end of January and the first half or so of February are the dark beast of winter here in Kentucky. This is the dim arc of winter with shortened days, overcast skies, and temperatures cold enough to freeze the tail hairs off a bunny.
This year, in particular, has been notable for stretches of deep freezing temperatures, which have not been parochial and have moved around much of the South, Midwest, and Eastern to Mid-Atlantic states to spread the sensation.
But there is a joy in February because every horse owner and farm worker knows that every mild day causes fresh grass to rise out of the cold earth. Farmers are preparing to put in frost seedings of new grasses, and birds are sometimes seen flying north as if they know there are better days ahead.
There also are better days ahead for racing. And there are better days ahead for breeding and selling racehorses.
But before we look ahead to frolicking foals, warm afternoons, and the blooming buds that herald the start of racing at Keeneland, let’s look back on winter, frozen and stiff but not quite dead.
Numa Pompilius somehow got it right with the addition of the winter months that made the calendar mostly mimic the lunar cycle, rather than have winter cavorting all over the place.
And for his good work, the Roman ruler found some later recognition through a much later namesake in a good son of Dr. Fager. The equine Numa Pompilius was useful overseas, running second in the G3 Prix Saint-Roman at 2. After repatriation to the States, Numa Pompilius won the Cortez Handicap, placed in the San Simeon, was the show in the Caballero and Inglewood handicaps.
A good horse even makes winter seem shorter.