November 22 marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death. Grocery store magazine racks are full of memorial tribute issues. Authors have released and re-released updated editions of assassination conspiracy theory books and are doing book tours on radio and television talk shows. Television networks are scheduled to run specials and news stories. You can’t get away from it. Not even in the Kuna Melba News.
Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson’s link to JFK is much more interesting. In the early 1960s, Captain Nelson, a U.S. Army veterinarian was in charge of the army’s last horses. The 25 geldings were used exclusively for parades in Washington D.C. and funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Although Nelson had been transferred to South Viet Nam to set up a war dog program at the time of JFK’s death, the horses he cared for were used to during JFK’s funeral procession in Washington D.C.
Nelson was familiar with all the horses and said that the riderless horse behind the caisson in President Kennedy’s funeral was called Black Jack. Apparently the horse was acting up and nervous, uncharacteristic of the gelding. In an interview given to a newspaper in the 1960s, Nelson said “I have seen Black Jack stand without flinching when the guns fired the salute. I was very surprised to see him act up.” He attributes the horse’s nervousness to the president’s flag that was behind the caisson.
Nelson also cared for the First Lady’s horse Sardar, a gift from Pakistan, and Caroline Kennedy’s Shetland pony Macaroni. Nelson relates that upon Sardar’s arrival the spirited horse had to be put in quarantine, standard procedure due to concerns from animal diseases common in Pakistan. Jacqueline Kennedy had come down to the stables intending to ride the horse and Captain Nelson informed her that she couldn’t. Mrs. Kennedy did not like being told no and asked when Nelson worked in the stables. Upon answering her, she said that she would come down when he wasn’t there to ride. Mrs. Kennedy did not take no for an answer and got to ride her horse any time she wanted after that.
Captain Nelson’s other duty was to conduct food inspections including grading all the meat that was shipped to Washington on the train. This meat, used to feed the army and personnel stationed in D.C. was graded by quality. He said the best meat was sent to the White House, followed by the officers and then the lowest was allocated to the enlisted troops.