18 October 2011


Until late September just before my return to Mexico, I had never given mules much thought in my life. In fact I had never given them any thought at all other than to recognize when a man was riding a mule instead of a horse, such as in the old Gunsmoke television series, or to recognize that a wagon was being pulled by mules instead of horses in western movies. Other than that mules had never, ever entered my mind at all. I ride horses.

Right click on any photo that might interest you for a larger version in a new tab.

Let me introduce you to Rick. I have known Rick since I was five years old when we started Kindergarten together. We discovered girls at about the same time. We were co-captains of our high school football team, if you will forgive me for mentioning that. The fact is that it was a truly awful high school football team. Then we discovered beer and women at about the same time. 

Rick and his wife Marlys live on a heavily wooded little acreage on the banks of the noble Wapsipinicon River in Linn County, Iowa. Whenever I am back in that area now, I enjoy passing the time of day with him there in that picturesque spot.

Rick has owned mules for years. You might say that he is a mule enthusiast. It came to pass in late September, while I was sitting outside with Rick scratching myself and pontificating, that I remarked on the beauty of the two mules in his corral. One thing led to another, as one thing always does, and we decided to ride mules that evening. I went back to the farm and changed into warmer clothes.

Rick telephoned Matt, a friend of his whom I had not previously met. Matt brought over his mule in a trailer and joined us.

We set off from Rick's house into the woods along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River toward Waubeek, a little village down river. 

Now about that hat of mine. First, some older folks from Texas may smile at that hat. It is older than some of you who are reading this and of a style long out of fashion. However, it was the only one that I had left at the farm. Second, and more importantly, I should not have worn it at all. You will notice that my companions are wearing caps. We were riding into such brushy county that a hat like mine is easily knocked off by a tree limb. However, nobody told me that before we started. I never lost my hat, but I did a lot of dipping and dodging to prevent that over the course of the evening.

On the trip out it was beautiful along the Wapsi on that early fall day.

We had to ford the river once.

After about an hour's ride, we ended up at an old restaurant and beer parlor in Waubeek that has been owned for some years now by Tim Kula. The mules have their own hitching rail there.

After profiling in the beer parlor there for quite some time, we set out on the real adventure. We headed back in the dead of night. This is when I truly came to appreciate mules. Matt and Rick had brought three lamps that strapped over our caps or hat, as the case might be, sort of like the lamps miner's wear on their hard hats. The mules did not need this light at all nor was it any help to them. Rather, the lamps simply allowed us riders to see tree limbs before they knocked us off the mules.

Rick and Matt, who had done this innumerable times before, determined to take a challenging route home through extrordinarily thick brush, into gullies and out of gullies, over rocks, up and down. Those animals were unbelievably adept at this. I simply gave a loose rein to mine and let her follow the others. As I write this, I am ashamed that I cannot remember the name of the mule that I was riding that night. I will say that she was one of the better females that I have ever encountered in my life. We got along well.

The eyes of these mules at night lead me to believe that they can see in the dark just like cats. It surely seemed that way.

The point is this. Those of you who have read this blog for some time know that I never recommend anything to anyone. Not books. Not films. Not music. Nothing. I do not recommend shit to anybody else. I shall here make a rare exception . . .

I recommend mules.


Deb said...

Some of my favorite photos. You and Rick look so macho! I shall have to visit the Waubeek pub along the wipsy pipsy again sometime in my travels. I'm so happy you finally found a female you can get along with.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this photo set too.