A friend told me the other day that “mules are so smart you can’t help but wish they could run for congress. This buddy of mine knows a lot about a lot of things. This particular day he was recalling the glory days of those noble creatures – the mule – now all but forgotten.
He was telling me about how he and another friend were about to cross a bridge and the mule in their charge refused to cross the bridge. It turned out that the bridge was unsafe. This action has unlocked stories and memories of some other mule lovers we know about.
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and female horse. Many folks have commented on the wisdom, patience, sure-footiness, agility and loving cussedness of the creature. They say a mule is less obstinate, faster and more intelligent than a donkey. Mules also tend to be curious by nature. A mule generally will not let its rider or leader put it in harms way.
One friend harked back to the mule trading days at the Jockey Lot behind Skin Drake’s general store on Main Street in Hendersonville, NC while others recounted mule tales of their own.
Robert Pace, store owner and somewhat of an historian in nearby Saluda had a story that dealt primarily with the grace of the ungainly looking animal. “My daddy would let me ride Buddie to see my girlfriend or sometimes to church.” he said.” My girlfriend lived across the creek two or three miles from town. The afternoon I was going to see her, it came up a big rain and turned dark as a sack of black cats.” Together they set out and soon reached the creek.
The bridge was under water. But earlier, a big tree had blown across the creek. Robert said: “ I trimmed off the limbs on the upper side and fixed some steps on the butt end so I could walk across and told Buddie that he would have to swim. I unfastened one side of the bridle so he would have a long leash. I got up on the log to the side to kind of guide Buddie. So, I set out not looking back. Gradually the leash tightened in my hand. Just as a big flash of lightening lit the sky, I looked back to see how Buddie was doing. And, there was Buddie walking the log as I had done and doing it just fine.”
Amish farmers who reject tractors and other modern technology for religious reasons use teams of mules to pull plows and other farm equipment. They use horses with their buggies on the road.
It has been guardians to safety that mules have really shone their worth. My grandfather George Connell tells the story that he, my grandmother and I were on our way home from a family picnic at Teneriffe where my grandfather’s brother, Graham Connell, was caretaker. We were in one of his wagons drawn by two beautiful mules when a thunder storm came up.
We were on Kanuga Road the way we went home from Uncle Graham’s. Most times we walked both ways which would have been about 12 miles from where we lived at 120 West Allen Street in Hendersonville.
Suddenly the mules stopped and started backing the wagon. They had backed about 50 yards when a big tree came crashing down in front of us. So, mules could not only sense hazards they couldn’t see, and they could not only walk water soaked longs across raging streams , but they even knew when something bad was about to happen.
In times like these we are living in and a land like ours that has almost given up on people, let us not forget that there is still time to return to mule breeding.
When do we start?