Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avenging Phantom Lines from Beyond

Dear Readers,

There is little about me, a mule beyond compare, that is not to relish, and little about this grand Creation that is the universe that is not good for me, Fenway Bartholomule, to enjoy. There are, unfortunately, exceptions to at least this latter rule.

FarmWife saw fit to offer constructive criticism of my behavior yesterday, and she did so not in the privacy of discreet conversation but in a public forum, in front of someone who is not only a friend to us both but a Dear Reader of this very blog. Lucky for me, the friend saw fit to correct her misperception of the circumstances.

You see, Dear Reader, it was like this:

Yes, almost, but not exactly, like this. In a puddle, on the ground, before my very hooves, lay Avenging Phantom Lines from Beyond. Sent by Satan himself to wash the earth clean of Goodness and all that is Mulish, this polychromatic emanation of evil threatened to extinguish me and the FarmWife with utmost thoroughness. It is lucky for her that I knew, and that I balked and retreated to a safer wading zone. Lucky indeed.

Of course, FarmWife had some strange human ideas about the Avenging Phantom Lines. She called them "just a rainbow," which I think is far to cutesy a moniker for things that are obviously Agents of Evil. It took a talk with our good friend Shona to help her make the link between these colorful criminals and the Evil Lines of long-established danger. Now she fully understands my reticence, and yet she still sees fit to belittle my concerns. I should, she says, have walked boldly through the Terrible Specter.

I did not. I value my life and hers too much to heed her command when faced with such a looming threat, and she is lucky indeed that I spooked. In spooking, I initiated the Five Point Strategy for the Preservation of Life and Limb which is every mule's birthright, and which is completed thus:

1. Freeze
2. Ears Fore
3. Analyze
4. Rearrange Hoofies
5. Retreat

This Strategy is a surefire way to elude death. It has never failed me, and I will commence to elaborate in case you should meet an Avenging Phantom Line or similar threat to your personal Safety.

The first part of the mule spook, aka the Five Point Strategy, is the Freeze. Seriously. Every muscle. I don't want to see some tail-up, ears-back, legs-akimbo, head-up, rider-flying business. This is not a safe spooking strategy. Nor is the whirl-and-bolt (stupid, stupid . . . there might be more Avenging Lines behind you), nor the Lateral Grasshopper (like launching yourself ten feet to your left is going to do anything for you OR your FarmWife!). The Rear is the stupidest trick of all, because you will only look like Thowra, Silver Brumby Stallion, for about two noble seconds before you are disemboweled by the threat before you. No, I tell you this and I tell you with most certainty that you MUST freeze. Make like a Breyer.

Part two of the mule spook is Ears Fore. Ears are our most important sensory organs and we must use them to every advantage. They must fixate like twin satellite dishes upon the threatening object, in order to accomplish the two objectives of, a) gathering information about the threat, and b) alerting your FarmWife to the spacial relation between herself and the threat. Thus, if the threat is beneath her, you can use Ears Fore in a downward orientation to alert her to her direction of vulnerability. If the threat is to her left, a lateral reorientation of the neck and head will allow for the successful use of Ears Fore to indicate the sideways approach of the threat. It is, of course, important that Ears Fore be executed with lightning speed. It should be instinctive and instant, in the genuine mule, and nearly so in others who desire to attain the Muleness.

Part three of the Five Point Strategy is the Analysis. This is a thorough assessment of the threat using the auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, and extra-sensory clues in the environment. In addition to Ears Fore, this step is completed with the aid of Googly Eyeballs, Expansion of the Nostril (the left, please . . . that would be my Horse nostril, and it makes for a more aesthetic spook), and Piloerection of the Muzzle. Riders, let me tell you . . . if you want your mount to execute the Mule Spook with adequate sophistication, you mustn't shave his muzzle. The whiskers are the essential conduits of Tactile and Extra Sensory Perception, and will lend key information to his analysis of the threat, whatever it may be.

Part four of the Mule Spook is Rearrangement of Hoofies. In addition to lending additional tactile information about any potential threat, the rearrangement segues into the safe Retreat (which, by the way, should be executed in a calm and straightforward manner. Never Show Fear.) The ideal Rearrangement of Hoofies will look a bit like a slow-mo Fred Astaire routine from the knees down, and like a Breyer model horse show from the knees up. Your rider should remain immobile throughout the initial phase of this procedure.

The Retreat, which forms the fifth and final portion of the Five Point Strategy for the Preservation of Life and Limb, should be performed with grace, fluidity and elegance. No hurkey jurkey, hitherdy thitherdy skippity hoppity business, please! The Spooking Mule should exhibit a leonine grace in his withdrawal from a threat, so much so that the Avenging Lines are left wondering if they made any impression at all. This is good, because it creates the duel advantages of a Confident Rider and a Confused Opponent.

The Five Step Strategy, or F.E.A.R.R. response, will allow you to sidestep danger and proceed with confidence despite the most egregious threats. If you are not born with the acute instinct of the mule, you can work on developing these skills in the safe confines of a line-free zone. When you next happen upon something as horrendous as a "rainbow" yourself, I expect you to survive through careful preparation and correct execution of F.E.A.R.R., and I expect you to enjoy the subsequent pleasant passage across many happy trails.

Love, and good luck!

Fenway Bartholomule

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