Lawrence "Corky" Smedley
"You didn’t have to have the best, but he wanted you to do your best," commented Roger Riggs of his long-time friend, Corky Smedley. "He was competitive when showing horses, but he believed more in teaching and learning than in winning."
Lawrence "Corky" Smedley was born on March 28, 1928 in a house on West Market Street in Salem, Indiana. He would proudly tell people "That was the only house that I was ever born in!" He was a thirty-second degree Mason and a DeMolay sponsor. He loved to read and enjoyed the stage and musicals. He was a member of the First Christian Church. He had three children and two grandchildren at the time of his death in 1986.
Corky will always be remembered for his love of horses, which started at an early age. As a young boy, he taught his pony to untie the ribbons in the hair of his younger sister. Thus started his long relationship with horses that would last the rest of his life, as he was never without a horse to break or train. Corky was also a highly respected horse show judge. He served as ring steward for the Corydon Labor Day AQHA show, as well as being show chairman of the Washington County Fair horse show. "Anyone in Indiana or Kentucky who knew horses knew Corky," stated Marji Morris, one of Corky’s many friends.
A long-time horse competitor himself, Corky seldom competed without bringing home trophies, ribbons, or a check. During his horse training and showing career, he competed in western pleasure, reining, and halter classes. He loved trail riding in the woods, especially in Henderson Park. "It was not unusual for us to trail ride five or six times a week," noted Bill Reister, another long-time friend of Corky’s.
When Corky was sixteen years old, he was in an accident and lost his right arm. This didn’t slow him down in the slightest. When his mother picked him up at the hospital after the accident, she was going to drive him home. He said, "It’s my car. I’ll drive." That’s the attitude he displayed about everything in life. He didn’t let the loss of his arm be a handicap. His wife, Sharon, commented, "People didn’t notice his prosthesis. He had a wooden arm and wore a black glove, but as soon as you got to know him, you never noticed his arm again."
"He could do as much with one hand as most people could do with two," recalled Bill.
Roger added, "When he drove a truck, he shifted gears with his foot."
Marji remembered, "One day we were out riding and I noticed that his arm kept getting longer, and suddenly he exclaimed, ‘Oh, I lost the bolt right out of my arm!’ I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. We really did have to get down and look for the bolt."
Corky was serious about his dedication to family, to horses, to work, and to doing his best at all three. He was also serious about having fun. He loved life and brightened the lives of everyone with whom he came into contact.
He was happiest when surrounded by family and friends and horses. Sharon commented, "He loved kids and liked to work with kids and horses. He delighted in teaching kids to ride." Corky was a 4-H leader for many years, and a 4-H volunteer for even longer. The 4-H Horse and Pony Club (now the Lucky Leathers) flourished under his leadership. He served on the Area II Horse and Pony Committee and took his duties seriously. It was important to Corky that he keep his word; he would not agree to take on a responsibility that he couldn’t meet. And he expected the same dedication from others.
Corky’s saddle was unique in that he had a compass attached to the saddle horn. "One night, several steers from a neighbors farm got loose, and there were several people on horseback looking for them," remembered Sharon. "As soon as Corky got home from work he went out to help. He could hear the group of searchers, but went in the opposite direction, because he had a feeling that the steers were the other way. He found the steers and rounded them up, but then headed in the wrong direction, away from the farm. As a joke, some friends gave him the compass."
"He had a magnetism that drew people to him," recalled Marji. "At the fairgrounds, there was always a crowd around Corky. People would ask him how they could get a horse to improve, and he would always respond, ‘Wet saddle pads’ meaning you have to be persistent and keep with it. Now, when I unsaddle and see my saddle pad wringing wet, I know Corky would be proud."
Corky would always kiss babies on their heads, whether he knew them or not. "That’s what babies heads are for," he would explain to his wife, Sharon.
"Corky was honest and fun loving," recalled Sharon, "And he expected others to be honest. He had perfect attendance at his work until he got really sick. He was generous with his time and knowledge and had a terrific sense of humor. He didn’t like winter at all. On the first of January, he would start saying, ‘Well, January is almost over, February is a short month and spring comes in March.’ He knew how to enjoy life."
Corky rode and trained horses up to the final months of his life. "He rode through a lot of pain because he loved riding so much," stated Marji. "That is actually how he was first diagnosed with multiple myloma. His ribs were sore after riding and later he found out that they were broken."
"The idea for a scholarship fund in Corky’s honor actually came to us before he died," reflected Marji. "It was so hard to watch him go through the chemotherapy. Corky was always so vibrant and alive, even after he got sick. We knew we wanted to do something to honor him and his indomitable spirit. He loved kids, horses and teaching kids to ride horses. A scholarship fund that helps the youth of Washington County advance their equine studies, either at camps or at the college level, just made sense. His friends needed to keep his memory and his desire to help kids alive."
His wife, Sharon, added, "Corky brought the best out in horses and kids, and horses and kids brought the best out of him."
For Corky, there is an old saying that holds especially true: "There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." Corky’s friends, 4-H co-leaders, and loved ones, by establishing this scholarship fund, will help future generations of Washington County residents understand the meaning of that old saying.