One night, when Arthur was 17, Bull told him to be home at 11:00. At 10:50, Arthur called from a hamburger joint in Paris to say that he would be 15 minutes late. Bull hung up on him. Instead of coming straight home, Arthur waited for his cheeseburger. When he walked in the front door at 11:15, Bull was standing behind it. The first right to the jaw dropped Arthur to the floor, and then Bull started kicking him. Arthur scrambled to his feet, but Bull knocked him down again. Leaning over his son, Bull said, "I tell you to be in at 11 o'clock, you goddam be in at 11 o'clock. Understand?"
Such episodes of physical violence were infrequent, and Arthur admits to provoking his father's anger. "I was scared of Daddy, but I admired him tremendously, and I loved him," he says. "But I was just an arrogant, cocky little sucker. You're Bull Hancock and your son gets up at Joyland Park in Lexington and plays rock 'n' roll with Little Enis and the Tabletoppers. Wild and crazy hair. They write in the Lexington papers the next day that Bull Hancock's son was singin' 'Johnny B. Goode' and doin' the duckwalk across the Joyland stage. I think a lot of that caused the clash."
Seth never stirred his father's ire as Arthur did. "I saw the problems Arthur had and what I viewed as his mistakes," says Seth. "I thought, I ain't comin' in late, I ain't gonna argue with him. You couldn't win. I could see that. I just stayed away from those types of things, and we got along fine."
Arthur's errant ways continued in college, at Vanderbilt. As a sophomore, a week after swimming to the Southeastern Conference championship in the 100-meter freestyle, he was still celebrating his victory. He left a party and was driving about 100 mph down a Nashville road, his radio blaring, when three police cars pulled him over. A policeman jerked him out of the car. Arthur started laughing and dancing the monkey in the road. They slammed him against the hood, handcuffed him and took him to the station. When they tried to give him a Breathalyzer test, he drew in all the air he could—"I was really fit from swimmin'," he says—and exhaled so hard that the balloon exploded.
He laughed in their faces and spent the night in a dim cell that reeked of vomit, lying on a cot, facing the wall. "Oh, Lord," he moaned. It was not the last night he would spend in a drunk tank.
He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1966, worked a year as a groom at Belmont Park for the Phipps family's trainer, Eddie Neloy, and then headed back to Claiborne to resume apprenticeship under his father. The end nearly came in 1969. Arthur was attending a wedding reception, and drinking too much, when a group of men began goading him with an unseemly suggestion regarding one of his sisters. He punched one of them so hard in the face that the fellow left a bloody trail as he skidded across the floor. It took four men, including the bride's father, to get Arthur out the door. The next morning, Arthur was visited by his old drinking nemesis, "Mr. R.E. Morse," as he calls him. The bride's family were old friends of the Hancocks, and Bull was mortified.
"Pack your bags and get out," Bull told him.
Arthur did some of the fanciest talking of his life, pleading with his father to forgive him. Bull grew quiet. He looked at Arthur sadly. "I was like you once," he said. "Get a grip on it, Bud. Be a man."
So Arthur stayed. A year later, Bull sent him to Stone Farm, to learn the business for himself. He was doing just that when Bull died and his executors gave Claiborne to Seth. When Arthur attended the January sales at Keeneland in 1973, men who had backslapped him two months before—"Hey, Ahhthur, how ya doin'?"—now dropped their heads when they saw him.
"They figured I was useless," he says. "They figured, here's a sonofabitch who can't follow Claiborne tradition."