Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Recently, one of the boys attended Mule Days at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration Arena in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He was excited and told me all about it. It seems that mules have come into their own – especially gaited mules (a cross between a donkey and a Tennessee Walking horse) and are extremely expensive. One friend of mine sold his gaited mule for over $10,000.00 , quite a large amount for a STERILE animal in my opinion. You cannot go to a horse show these days without there being a mule class. I, for one, am still not convinced that these people know exactly what they are dealing with. My grandfather, a farmer, always had mules to use for plowing. His favorite quote was “A mule will live twenty years to get a chance to kill you.” If any mule aficionados ever read this, I am sure I will get hate mail because they all espouse the wonders of a mule and it’s extreme intelligence. I, for one, have to agree – they’re smart, like a fox casing a henhouse.
For general information, a mule is a cross between a donkey stallion (called a jack) and a horse mare. Hinnies (not as common) are a cross between a stallion horse and a female donkey (called a jennet – Chaucer anyone?). Male and female mules have all the correct anatomical parts but are ninety-nine percent sterile. Only one in a million mare mules have foaled and there has never been a reported case of a male mule producing an offspring. Burros are really donkeys that the Spanish brought over to Mexico (today you don’t call donkeys that unless you can show they are of that original Spanish stock – who knew?) If you ever wondered where the term “jackass” came from, well, a donkey was originally scientifically called Equus asinus (ass) and a male donkey is a jack. Hence “jackass.” This is all probably more information than you will ever want to know about mules and donkeys but I thought you might enjoy it for…well, so maybe I might be wrong.
I grew up around mules. My grandfather used draft mules to plow and pull wagons. I never gave much thought to them, not considering my love of horses. A mule was just an ugly large horse with long ears – not my cup of tea. A few years ago we purchased a farm near Arab. I thought it would be fun to get some horses (not my brightest thought) and relive my youth. Part of the package deal was that the previous owner had left a blind horse and her two-year-old baby, a mule (anyone see this coming?). I felt sorry for the mother and the mule was, well, just a mule. Or so I thought.
My first meeting with Daisey, the mule, was not pleasant. She took an instant dislike to me which she firmly adheres to, even today. She adores my husband and will not allow me to get within ten feet of him. I decided right then and there that my hubby could deal with her; I had better things called horses.
Daisey, however, was not to be denied. She knew that she deserved attention and went about getting it. She made, in her younger days, frequent jailbreaks. Getting loose was her favorite pastime and she certainly would not come to me, running around and daring me to get just close enough for my fingers to brush her halter. It crossed my mind, time and time again, just to shoot her but she knew my hubby would always save her- she was his favorite. And after all, she was, in her mind and in his, the most beautiful creature on the place. We established a wary relationship with each other – I made sure not to be near her hindquarters at any time. She had a nasty habit of trying to kick me while still looking angelic.
Daisey is not happy!
One day, I pulled in at the farm with my husband and Daisey was lying on the ground in the middle of the pasture. Just for information, horses and mules do lie down to sleep but usually kind of sitting up. Daisey, however, was sprawled out and appeared to be dead. Good, I thought, now I don’t have to deal with her and her spiteful antics. Turkey buzzards were circling, a sure sign that she had bit the Big One. Then I saw her tail twitch. I blinked and it twitched again. As I stood there watching, a buzzard landed near the “carcass.” In a flash, the mule was up and chasing the buzzard. Poor bird- it was too confused to fly because dead things just don’t get up. The bird kept running around in circles while Daisey gleefully chased it. To this day we still refer to this as the “buzzard-hunting incident.” I haven’t seen too many buzzards near the pasture any more. I’m sure word gets around.
The next year I had a mare that foaled. We kept her and the baby penned up in the paddock. I had constructed what I thought was a mule-proof fence: seven feet high (mules can jump any fence from a standing position – a rare feat but normal for them) and made of sturdy four-by-fours. However, I quickly learned, the old saying that a mule can tear up a steel ball is true. I had wanted to make sure that my nemesis did not get to the newborn filly. Imagine my surprise upon seeing Daisey lying flat on the ground, inching her way under the boards. She was halfway under the fence when I caught her. Now, this is a fourteen-hundred-pound mule and needless to say it was a tight squeeze for her. The minute I started shouting at her, she stood up, took out half the fence and continued into the paddock toward the foal. To my surprise, all she wanted to do was sniff the baby. That done, she went back to the new, rather large, hole in the fence and crawled back under. That incident earned her the moniker of “Commando Mule.” I keep looking for her weapons stash. I know it’s around here somewhere.
Daisey and I are both a lot older now. She walks more slowly and has less interest in killing me (I think). Her biggest antic these days is to fasten all the quarter horses up in their stalls and make me panic looking for them (she can actually open the stall doors, waits for them to enter looking for food and then she slams the door shut on them – so much for horses). Lately, she’s had a couple of bad incidents with her feet and has condescended to allow me to doctor her. After all, what do serfs do? They serve. I am sure, that when I die, she’ll be standing there, laughing. After all, a mule will live twenty years to kill you…
Daisey with one of her victims.
Any fond memories of the old days when farmers used mules? Any farm stories? I know a lot of us grew up around farms and I want to hear about your experiences.