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The Cauthens did splurge and buy a phone recording machine, but this marked change in life-style mainly assists strangers who mispronounce the family name. Most say the first syllable as in coffin or cough, while correctly it is as in cotton, with an h: Cothin.
The family is from England, possibly Cornwall, and moved west to Sweetwater via the Carolinas. Myra Cauthen is a Bischoff, from the Bluegrass. She grew up on a horse farm not four miles from where she is raising her family. Besides Steve, there are Doug, 14, and Kerry, eight. The house is comfortable, and the home is filled with ample amounts of affection and respect.
"I got everything from my mother and father," Steve says. "They're loving parents. And the main thing is, they gave me the love I needed when I needed it. And that's why I'm where I'm at."
Nonetheless, to maintain this felicitous location, it helps to have Lenny Goodman sharing the address. A jockey's agent is crucial to the rider's success, as his fee of up to 25% attests. Agents are allowed only one customer, so a kind of symbiotic relationship develops. This is revealed best by the agents' sloppy use of pronouns. They say things like "I ride the six-horse," when, to every other naked eye, it appears that the 75% is in the irons.
As Tex Cauthen discovered when he went comparison shopping among agents, Goodman is regarded as the best in the land—a view that probably is shared by Goodman himself. Quite often he prefaces remarks with: "Tell me if I'm wrong"—which a person never dares say unless he is secure in the knowledge that no one will and he isn't.
In tandem, Goodman and Cauthen resemble characters out of Dickens. A single glance suggests that this back-street sharpie must have obtained this innocent child from a foundling home in order to perpetrate some nefarious caper. But stay around, and see that it is no overlay. The kid, in his way, is every bit as dapper as his emissary. Cauthen finds it hard to pass a mirror by without slyly inspecting his profile and searching for wayward hairs to put back into place. In civilian attire he favors a soft camelhair cap of a sort fashionable half a century ago, and his dark, melancholy eyes give the eerie sensation that this 95-pound child is Babe Ruth, shrunken by jungle specialists.
Goodman, on the other hand, comes prepackaged: Guccis, pinkie ring, hefty cigar, color coordinates. His silver hair, brushed back, glimmering, suggests that he has watched too many Victor Mature movies. And tell me if I'm wrong: Lenny Goodman can touch his tie. This is a lost art, going the way of shooting cuffs. Just a touch at the knot at the right time. Very few gentlemen can still do it just so. And, for that matter, with all the Sunbelt turning away from four-in-hands to wearing chains and necklaces, you are not going to see much more tie touching.
There is a wonderfully sly communion between this disparate pair: Goodman, with his crinkly eyes, jesting with his pink-cheeked meal ticket. The kid does a great deadpan. "I'm riding this in th' ninth Sat'day, yahear," Lenny announces, making subtitles in the air with his big cigar. The farm boy cocks his head, just enough to indicate which one it is who is still drawing the 75%. Lenny smiles. Neither one of them is going anywhere. "Lenny's making more money than the United Fund," another agent explains.
"Natural talent, sure," Lenny says of his boy. "But tell me if I'm wrong. There is no one around with a head like this child. Instinct, talent, intelligence. Put it all together, it spells Mother...or somethin'."
Cauthen goes back to his locker to prepare for another ride. He is truly scrawny, a fact accentuated by his ghostly complexion. But then, all jocks must be transformed. Their room is like a wizard's laboratory—such a surprisingly drab place of browns and blacks, tack and trunks, peopled by tiny specimens in white knickers and, even, terrycloth robes. Only at the last do they change and leave, suddenly adorned in gaudy colors, flicking whips in the air with bravado.