Wednesday, August 12, 2009


repost from last year in honor of Marvin, R.I.P. 08/09/2009

I wouldn't say I grew up with mules plural. We had one, Marvin, and briefly two, but she died while giving birth. One day a trailer from Nebraska pulled into the drive, backed up to the calf barn and dropped her off, heavy with colt. Marvin would bray from the adjoining lot and drag his dick on the ground. With age, he has mellowed. I learned that, like all animals, including us, if you feed him, Marvin will be your friend. Some mornings, Marvin will nudge his feedpan out under the gate as a gentle reminder. He still serves as a combination rooster/watchdog.

I remember Dad tying headstrong little steers to Marvin to break them to halter. It was an entertaining tandem. If the mule wanted to drink, they would get to drink. Same for eating and generally anything else. If the mule wanted to. Stepping out of line meant getting donkeybit along the ridge of the neck or kicked. A day or two on the mule's schedule was enough to strip a young calf of its' will.

But how to break a mule, an animal long noted for its stubbornness? On smokebreak near Council Bluffs, Iowa, an old horsetrainer just told me. It's called sidelining.

How to Sideline a Mule:

1. Attach one end of the rope, noose-style, around any of the mule's legs. Pull it tight. The best place is the joint just above the hoof. A sheepskin or leather tie is best because nylon can break the mule's skin.

2. Pull up on the leg and once it is raised and bent at an angle approaching 90 degrees, tie the other end of the rope around the mules neck. The mule is now rendered three-legged. As soon as they lose balance, they lose confidence.

3. After your mule has fallen over, place a tarp over it. Make sure it is completely dark under there. Give it a couple hours.

4. Remove the tarp. Your mule will be a blank slate. And always carry a knife like this in case something goes wrong.

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