May 30, 2024

Update on training the mules and me


           “Be careful what you pray for,” the saying goes, “because you might get it.”

            I didn’t really pray for a miniature mule.

            But when two were advertised for sale—just up the road from the farm—I didn’t hesitate. Now when I ring the chow-time bell, a big red mule, five miniature donkeys, five llamas, three cats, a miniature horse and two petite mules trot to the barn. Well, the cats scramble down from the rafters.

            Puzzled friends ask:

§  What are their names?

§  How are you going to tame them?

            Good questions.

            I’ve been wondering about those, too.

            Maybe you can help me name the young mules. Because they are milk-chocolate brown, a neighbor suggested “Cocoa” and “Puff.” Another person said, “Call one ‘Polly’ and the other ‘Ester.’”

            Several folks have said, “Good names for them are ‘Thelma’ and ‘Louise.’” We had a Thelma and Louise pair of miniature donkeys, but we gave them to our daughter, Emily, to protect her fainting goats. Yep, our family goes for critters. And an F-150 wouldn’t hold all the dogs.

            For years, a retired neighbor helped watch over our critters. One afternoon, Pete asked, “Do you know that you have 100 animals with names that expect to be fed every day?” He wasn’t complaining. Pete, too, loved our menagerie of goats, turkeys, chickens, cows, mules, llamas, miniature donkeys, Great Pyrenees dogs and a horse.

            But I digress.

            Back to the names.

What are we going to call the barnyard newcomers? Right now, I just greet them: “Hey, girls!”

They deserve better.

So, let me know your ideas of names for the miniature mules.

How’s the taming going?

            Until the seller put halters on the mules, they had never been touched by human


            Wild” is an understatement.

The minis are kicking machines.

Will Rogers was right. The cowboy comedian quipped, “We are all ignorant … just in different subjects.” I know that I am ignorant about taming—let alone training—a pair of wild mules. But I am just smart enough to call in an expert.

Thirty years ago, I met Eddy. As a farrier, he started trimming the hooves of our original mules, Ruby and Rose. About 20 years ago, I bought Maggie, our big red mule, from Eddy. Along the way, he also sold us Lady, a Morgan-Arabian cross, that pulled a cart as if it were a magic carpet.

I am proud to report that Eddy has accepted the mini-mule challenge, too. After two sessions, “we” are making progress. That’s the mules and me.

On his second visit, Eddy said, “Let’s trim their hooves.”

Didn’t I tell you these frisky girls are kicking machines?

Eddy, 79, is a pro. And he still has his dance moves. His trimming techniques take most of the danger out. But twice, I saw Eddy dance out of reach of a flying hoof. Both times, he laughed.

This isn’t Eddy’s first rodeo.

He never raised his voice. His one-on-one motions were calm and fluid. All the while, he was talking to each mule and me.

The final lesson of the day was introducing each mule to my Kawasaki Mule. Eddy explained that the mules—one at a time—had to learn to follow the lead. Snapping two lead ropes onto a mule’s halter, he tied the ropes to the motorized Mule.

The goal wasn’t to drag the mule. No, no. Instead, we started in a creep to get the mule moving. And just like that, the mule was following along. Next time, we’ll hitch both mules.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate your prayers.

For the mules.

And me.