Rarely do I hear a bad mule story, especially in conversations comparing mules to horses. Mules are held up most often as having common sense, calmness in a wreck, not having sense of humor, and sleight of hand (or hoof) tricks.
Hank was wintering some big steers on corn stalks in the corn stalk state of Nebraska. On the day of the “great ride,” Hank had climbed aboard his big saddle mule, 16 hands tall, ears as big as swinging doors on the Gatorade refrigerator in the Cornhuskers locker room, and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in the time it takes to spell Thayer County Fair!
He named the mule Tom, after a revered football coach. Hank made a pass through the steers. The ground was covered with three inches of snow. There was a layer of frozen ice covering the field but the soil was still soft and moist. A hot wire kept the steers from drifting into the road.
Hank was a former rodeo man and capable with a rope. He spotted a steer that was not lookin’ too good. It needed a shot. All of you who have rode wheat grass pasture realize most set-ups have a trap into which you can drive a sick steer, but if you are like Hank and are a member of the Senior Trippers, there’s a better way.
He roped the steer around the horns and laid the trip. The steer flipped around and flopped to the ground. Hank jumped down and tied the steer’s feet together with a piggin’ string. He reached up to peel the rope off the steer’s horns. Tom spooked! The rope came tight and pinned Hank’s right hand in a vise grip, not unlike a bull rider’s hand when the bull takes is first deep breath!
Tom took off running, taking long strides, dragging the steer across the ice-covered terrain of corn stubble! The steer floated like a sled behind him. Hank was anchored to the steer’s head, stretched out head-first like a luge in the Olympics! Occasionally he would flop from one side to the other and flattened his own share of the corn stubble.
It was more of a sprint than a long distance course. When the mule pulled up at the pasture gate and stopped Hank managed to free his hand and the rope. He staggered to one knee. The trail behind them was littered with his hat, medicine bag, and the right leg of his chinks. His right pocket was ripped off his jeans and he was pock-marked from the pelting of mud divots that clung to his face like manure on the inside of his trailer gate!
The steer was no worse for the wear and Tom had gotten his brains back. Hank crossed himself and gave thanks that the gate was closed or they would have been drug another quarter-mile to the house. ❖