The Mule on the Farm

The Mule: Stubborn, mean, cantankerous, but still loveable

| March 2000

On mules we find two legs behind,
and two we find before.
We stand behind before we find
what the two behind be for.
When we're behind the two behind
We find what these be for;
So stand before the two behind
and behind the two before.

The mule, that hybrid product derived from a cross of a horse mare with a male donkey or jackass (jack for short), played a tremendous role in the building of this country. I will not go into the genetic background of the mule, nor will I delve in to the family history of this most loved, and yet the most maligned, reviled, derived, abused and castigated of animals. No domesticated, if one may stretch the point a bit, animal was ever born with such a malicious temper or carried spite to the utmost. Talk about the memory of an elephant. I have known mules that waited a dozen years and more for just the right time and the right spot and keer-bang, he got even. 

The mule is the biteous, the kickeous, the butteous of any creature known to man. Yet he can be the most docile, the meekest, the most submissive and complacent of any creature.

This apparent bullheaded, stubborn-as-a-mule character is in fact a scheming, insidious, shrewd and intelligent worker which will go for weeks working like a "horse" and then, for no apparent reason, literally lie down and all the persuasive tactics possible will not make him move – that is, until he is darn well good and ready to move. You can tug, whip, coax, cajole, beat and cuss. There have been more swear words coined by mule drivers than by any other vocation, and with good reason.

Seemingly all the powers of Hades itself will not prevail against him (or her, as the case might be). You see, the gender of the mule is immaterial, since both are born sterile. Perhaps the lack of a future heir may account for a part of the animal's nature.

Mules have played a major part in furnishing "horse power" for the building of this country. The traditional wizened, dried-up prospector with his worldly possessions all tied in a diamond hitch on his mule (or on its cousin, the burro) and Marshall Bat Masterson, who was said to prefer the plodding staying power of his bay mule to any horse alive, are typical examples of the mule's place in history. The image of a 20-mule team hauling borax through Death Valley has graced the kitchen shelves for a hundred years and more.


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