I Like Mules…

Mules. They are half breeds and the result of a mixed relationship. The father is a jackass and the mother is a horse. The progeny is a hybrid known as a mule, an animal that is stubborn, strong, smart and peculiar.

Gerald McClure says comparing mules to horses is like comparing diesel fuel to high octane gas. Mules are smart, hardworking, sturdy animals, but there is nothing classy about them. Baxter Black posted his opinion of mules on The Mule Store website. He said: First they are not real. They are the equivalent of a Caterpillar body on a Volkswagen chassis with Cadillac suspension, a Cummins diesel and lawnmower wheels.

Our farming forefathers depended on them for many chores from plowing to transportation. This compulsory partnership created a wealth of tales concerning what happened when a mule’s stubbornness challenges a farmer’s resolve. It was always a chaotic experience that would pitch man against mule, the world’s most defiant and all knowing beast of burden. I love mule stories because the settlers who followed the Wilderness trail were society’s pack-mules.

I grew up around mules, Poppa Link had a couple of mules, My dad and brother plowed spring fields with our mule, Sunshine. An unfortunate name for a mule who thought he was Socrates. If you farmed, you needed a mule.
I like mules and I delight in mule stories…only if tale does not involve hurting the mule. For some reason, when a farmer locked head and horn with his mule. They both took it personally. I have heard tell of one farmer who out of desperation, frustration, and fatigue shot his own mule.
I recall an ex-husband bragging about his father cold-cocking a mule. The father was a stout strong man who just didn’t like the mule he had recently purchased. When the mule expressed the same opinion of him, well, it wasn’t pretty.
It went like this…one afternoon after hours of plowing, the tired mule just stopped. After a short time of prodding the mule, which still refused to budge, he simply assumed a boxer’s stance, balled up his fist, threw his best punch and knocked the mule out. What he got out of that tale was entirely different from what I took from the from the story.
On The Mule Store website I also read that people, who lost their temper, lack tolerance and empathy, are highly domineering or aggressive and will probably dislike mules.

I have always been fond of the peculiarity of mules and that is probably a reflection of my own personality. However, I first fell in love with mules when I read the following paragraphs about a mule race written by Mark Twain:

There were thirteen mules in the first heat; all sorts of mules,
they were; all sorts of complexions, gaits, dispositions, aspects.
Some were handsome creatures, some were not; some were sleek,
some hadn’t had their fur brushed lately; some were innocently
gay and frisky; some were full of malice and all unrighteousness;
guessing from looks, some of them thought the matter on hand was war, some thought it was a lark, the rest took it for a religious occasion. And each mule acted according to his convictions. The result was an absence of harmony well compensated by a conspicuous presence of variety–variety of a picturesque and entertaining sort.

The thirteen mules got away in a body, after a couple
of false starts, and scampered off with prodigious spirit.
As each mule and each rider had a distinct opinion of his own
as to how the race ought to be run, and which side of the track
was best in certain circumstances, and how often the track ought
to be crossed, and when a collision ought to be accomplished,
and when it ought to be avoided, these twenty-six conflicting
opinions created a most fantastic and picturesque confusion,
and the resulting spectacle was killingly comical. Eight of the thirteen mules distanced. I had a bet on a mule which would have won if the procession had been reversed.”

It happened in much the same way as Mark Twain described the race, it took some pretty prodigious mules to settle the Carolina Backcountry, and the farming families who settled the western wilderness for they were also, stubborn, strong, smart and peculiar.

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