After years of threats, I have finally put together my own Web page. If you are so inclined, you can go to www.webspawner.com/users/mackray/index.html to read this column as well as some of my favorite columns from the past. Be sure to look at the gallery of photos, sign the guestbook, or e-mail me. I would be glad to hear your own stories of bafflement and wonder concerning farming and country living in the 21st century.
Supermule seeks revenge
My cousin Trey Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn. sent me an e-mail with a series of photos of a saddled mule tearing a mountain lion to pieces. It seems some hunters out west were riding mules when one of their hounds was attacked by the lion.
That was when Supermule took over, kicked the lion, stomped all over it, bit it, picked it up in its teeth and gave it a severe shaking.
By this time the hunters had the presence of mind to get out a digital camera and record the proceedings for posterity. It appears that the mule slung the cougar to the ground, held it down with its hooves, and proceeded to bite large chunks out of it. The dogs just sat back and watched. By the last photo, the big cat is not much more than a bloody pelt.
By all appearances, this was just an average size bay mule, with long ears and dainty feet, unremarkable in every way. Of the many things that come to mind when viewing these photos, probably the most prominent is: Dang, just think what that mule could do to Me.
Hold that thought.
Maybe Next Year
When I got out of school and resumed working on the farm, one spring day my father, saying he wanted to show me something, took me just down the road where a neighbor, an old but spry black man, was breaking ground for a vegetable garden. He was using a mule-drawn turning plow to do it.
He had all the gear: harness, middle buster, planter, I don't know what all. The mule was just as placid and gentle as an old dog. At the time I thought, I'll have to come back later and take pictures of all this. Maybe next year.
But by next year, the old gent had died. I don't know what happened to the mule and all the tack and implements, but I still kick myself for not having my camera right then.
The Mule Renaissance
So mules were kind of scarce for a while there, but lately have made somewhat of a comeback among coon hunters and evidently mountain lion hunters. Last summer my brother ran across a guy riding a mule across the continent. He started out intending just to ride across North Carolina, but things were going so well, he just kept on. He stayed with my brother, then later with my uncle John McKnight in Searcy, Ark. His name is Bernie Harberts, and you can check up on his journey at his web site, www.riverearth.com.
As I write this, he is snowed in in New Mexico. Before starting his mule odyssey, Bernie sailed solo around the world in a boat that looks way too little. You have to admire him. I like solitude, but not that much.
My uncle John McKnight told me that when my grandfather was farming, he and his workers traveled to Memphis to buy mules. They would get about 50 at a time, unbroken of course, then drive them across the railroad bridge over the Mississippi and across country to Augusta, Ark. Most of these mules had never had a rope on them. Imagine that 85-mile cross-country rodeo. As my uncle put it, "Don't you know that was fun?"
Maybe that's why there are no mountain lions in this part of the country any more.
I've been feeling sorry for myself lately because a five-year-old used tractor sells for $50,000 while soybeans sell for $5.14 and cotton for 43 cents, but that's only money. At least I don't have to participate in a cross-country wild mule drive.
E-mail Mack Ray at MackR@aol.com.