I’d like to share a story about Molly the Mule. Molly was not ours, she belonged to my Uncle, but she did live here for a while with our horses, and occasionally he would ride her with us.
When he bought Molly, Uncle sure was proud of her. He would show us everything she could do, how smart she was, how she would load up in the trailer from clear across the yard just by voice command, how she could unwrap her lead rope from the hitching post (pretty cool, but also kind of inconvenient), and how smooth and long her gait was. All of these are great tricks, and I must admit every bit of it was true – I saw all of these skills with my own two eyes. But, all of them were demonstrated right there at the barn, and that’s an important distinction I want you to keep in mind as I tell this story.
This was the first time we were going to go on a ride of any significant length with us and Molly. Dad rode Wyatt, me on Carmel, and Uncle on Molly. The day was sunny, and we were going to ride the river the few miles down to the far east place and check for catfish holes along the way. That was generally just an excuse to ride down the river for an extended period of time, but whatever, you get the idea. We took this ride often, and at the end of it there was a sandbank with some shade where we would stop for a break, dismount, and drink a Dr. Pepper that we carried on ice in Carmel’s insulated saddlebags. And if that doesn’t sound like just the greatest way to spend a morning ever, that’s because you’ve never tried it. Trust me.
So, we rode to the East place, and we stopped at the sandbank. This is where Uncle told us about another of Molly’s great skills. “You know this mule will ground-tie? It’s just the most amazing thing, you throw the reigns down, tell her Whoa, and she’ll just stand there,” he said.
Well now, we had good horses, and we only needed to wrap one reign just loosely around a tree or something to kind of fake them into not wandering off, but ground-tie? Now THAT was something we only read about! But so far, Molly had lived up to all the hype, so we didn’t doubt him. And sure enough, that mule stood right there while we sat on stumps, drank our Dr. Pepper, and marveled at her excellent training.
Yep, she stood right there like a statue, just flipping those big ol’ ears around, and Uncle was pretty much beside himself, he was so proud. “Look there,” he’d say, “She hasn’t even un-tracked her feet. Now that’s training, I tell you. Bet you wish you were riding a smart mule instead of those silly horses you have to tie up.” On and on it went, and we just had to nod and agree, because there was the proof, standing still as stone right in front of us.
But here’s where it’s important to note we were NOT back at the barn, we were in fact about 5 miles from there, and honestly I think Molly knew it all along. She was just toying with Uncle by standing there ‘ground-tied’. Because when we went to mount up to head home, she miraculously came UN-tied.
Staying just out of his reach, and even more amazingly, keeping her REIGNS out of his reach, she would dance around and raise those big ears and look at him with eyes that I swear said, Not getting back on ME today, buster! But we had 2 horses there, right? I mean, surely two riders on horseback could corner one silly mule. Well, that’s what we thought too. About 45 minutes later, two sweaty horses, and one very hacked-off Uncle taught us otherwise. We tore that sandbank up from left to right, back and forth…after we were done it looked like the Man From Snowy River had brought his herd of mustangs through there. The most maddening part was the mule didn’t have any interest in LEAVING, oh no. She just didn’t want to be caught. If we had had a lariat it might have been a different story, but we didn’t, and it was getting hot, so there was only one solution.
We must have looked pretty silly riding all the way home, horses all lathered up, with two grown men riding double on Wyatt (Carmel is a bit small to carry 2 adults), and a very self-satisfied looking riderless mule following about 5 yards behind dragging her reigns. Too bad I didn’t get a picture of THAT, right?
I think Molly did get ridden again that day, probably back to the same place and home again at a much faster pace, but it still seems like she got the last laugh. After that, Uncle carried a very long rope on his saddle when he rode Molly, and he also didn’t think it was too funny when we would ask for a ground-tie demonstration every time he got down.