If you ask around a little amongst the rural set of folks in America, a good percentage of them will have a mule story to share. It seems that particular beast of burden has influenced lives throughout the ages.
Solomon Cordova was a classic cowboy, now deceased but his legend lives on in his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. And so do his stories.
Many decades ago, Sol and some other cowboys were riding home after dark from a branding. Somewhere along the way, the crew had managed to lubricate their day’s adventures with a little whiskey.
In those days, superstition was more the norm than not. The night sky was lit with a full moon, so finding their way home in the dark was doable, but it also gave license to seeing things that may or may not actually be there. Also par with the era, they were all packing pistols.
The cowboys were riding along telling tall tales embellished by the accents of alcohol, when out of the black of night came a woeful wail that stopped them in their tracks.
Ol’ Sol looked toward what he thought to be the devil himself, horns and glowing eyes included, as it came out of the shadows headed directly toward the cowboys.
Backlit by the soft glow of the moon, the form drew threateningly closer as Sol pulled his pistol and fired a shot. The bullet hit the devil right between his fiery eyes and he was silenced and still.
The cowboys, not knowing for sure what really happened but not in a state of mind to process it, rode on until they hit home.
About a week later, they learned that a local fellow had reported that the new mule he’d bought and just turned out to pasture was found dead, shot in the head. Somehow, a full moon and bellyful of rotgut hooch turned a braying mule into Satan.
Mule or burro racing, while not actually the sport of kings, has been a popular competition for as long as anyone can recall.
One year, a farmer along the Rio Grande decided to enter the annual mule race that ran 25 miles along the river route. To get his mule in shape, every day for a month he’d have his wife haul him to the starting point and he’d ride the mule home. Home was seven miles short of the fairgrounds which was the official destination for the race.
Come race day, the farmer and his mule were delivering a serious butt kicking to the competition. That is, until they got to the gate leading into the home place. The mule turned in and had no intention going one step further. They never made it to the finish line at the fairgrounds.
Many years ago, a rancher-dairyman south of Marfa, Texas used a sweet little burro to carry glass bottles of milk seven miles across the mountain to Shafter, Texas, where he delivered it to residents there.
One day the man fell ill and was unable to make the trip himself, so he simply sent the burro by herself. She went all the way, stopped at every house, and returned home. This true story, shared by the family, included the fact that not one bottle of milk was broken and the little burro even brought home the empties.
I’m always a little cautious about asking for burro, donkey or as most people will say, “jackass” stories. I always try to clarify that I’m speaking of the four-legged variety.
However, without fail, someone will have their mind set on a particular annoying version of a “jackass,” but to qualify for the narrative, will add, “Well, then, think of it as him and Earl holding hands. There you go. Four legs.”
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.