Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bold and the Brayful: misbehavior and the art of predictability

Reprinted with permission from the Brayer, the magazine of the American Donkey and Mule Society.

I don't know if I have had a chance yet to tell you this: I am imperfect. Not by much, I assure you! I am perfectly handsome (albeit pearshaped) and perfectly mannerly, and I am perfectly strong and perfectly clever. I am not, however, perfectly unflappable.

I think I did tell you about the ruffed grouse incident, in which a terrible chicken-monster nearly gave me an aneurism by rattling unnervingly in the underbrush as I passed. I think I mentioned how there are terrible, giant tan goats in the woods (my FarmWife calls them "dear," but I find them awful). I have been known to spook.

The funny thing about all of this is that my FarmWife trusts me, and trusts me well. This is because I am predictable, and my misbehavior never comes as a surprise or out of the blue.

I have a bit of a footing problem—that is, when the footing changes, I watch my footsies. One never knows whether the road that we walked on yesterday has turned to quicksand overnight, or whether the black asphalt that was solid last week has turned to a viscous oil pit today. My footing problem has traveled with me from one home to the next . . . in fact, when FarmWife spoke with my old owner (from two homes ago) he told her this: "He was a real good mule, though he was always funny about stepping on something new." He also told her to feed me Snickers bars, and that I was the best and the strongest mule he knew.

FarmWife knows about my footing problem, but she still loves me. We have practiced walking over gravel, grass, cement, mud, and tarps. We have practiced walking over shadows, which the hardest and the most awful thing to do, but I do it for her. When she asks me to walk over a shadow onto a new sort of footing, I consider running away and living with the wild burros. I never do, though. I would miss the ear rubs.

I love going out on rides, and always meet FarmWife at the gate. She grooms and tacks me, giving special attention to my daily ear rub. I drop my head for the bridle, lift my hooves for the boots, and away we go.

Once FarmWife's aboard, she tucks her little chihuahua inside her vest and we proceed down Meredith Lane towards the wilderness. I spook at the end of the driveway for the transition from gravel to cement, and then I spook at the end of the lane for the transition from cement to asphalt. I snort at the Samish River bridge, which is flooded more than half the time, but I proceed in any case. I go through water well enough, though I find a stagnant puddle far more threatening than a rushing stream. If the water's moving, I groove right along.

In the final stage of our journey to the trailhead, I spook at the logging road and its transition from asphalt to gravel. FarmWife urges me on, and we're golden. The rest of the ride is, flawlessly and always, perfect.

Once we're on the trail, and whether or not it's a trail I know, I am a good, good mule. FarmWife lets down her doggy and we adventure: up hill, over dale, and wherever our hearts take us. We have fun, and when it's time to go home I skip the spooking. Gravel/asphalt/cement/gravel/home . . . I take it in stride. I'm predictable.

Ears to you,

Fenway Bartholomule


  1. Fenway:

    Do you like Snickers with or without nuts?
    BTW,I didn't know the Brayer was still being published; I'll have to look it up on the Web.


  2. Fenway:

    Sometimes, I think you're a ruffed grouse.


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