Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Bold and the Brayful: A family affair

Reprinted with permission from the Brayer

The Bold and the Brayful: A family affair
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

I am a family mule. This means I do moderate labor (carrying FarmWife, a gangly woman),
light labor (carrying the children, ages four, six, and eleven) and occasional hard labor
(carrying FarmHusband, who is an athletic but muscular man).

FarmWife would have five mules if she could—three for the children, one for herself, and
another for herself because we're like potato chips (you can't have just one) and because
FarmHusband would probably rather have an ox. Instead of five mules and an ox she has me,
though, and I am wonderful! I am five times as wonderful as your average mule, and so she
has just me and I am enough. We live on one acre, which just manages to hold me and the
goats and the chickens and gardens. I cannot share this paddock more ways.

When FarmWife was small she lived in a 14-foot travel trailer because horses were the
priority in her family. She lived in a travel trailer but she had a five stall barn, and she had her
retired gelding and her new gelding and her homebred colt, an up-and-coming sport horse.
All this for a girl who had only so many hours in each day and on a budget that was none
too large, and all this in addition to the other horses which belonged to her mother. She's not
complaining—it was a wonderful childhood!—but, as the mother of three animal lovers, she
can't offer the same abundance of mounts. Where her own mom managed to provide three
mounts per daughter, FarmWife tries to keep the peace with three daughters per mount. They
take turns. We have a house, which I'm not allowed into but which is an improvement over
FarmWife's childhood. We don't have a barn, but my shed has three sides and a waterproof

On an average summer day, I carry the biggest girl for 30 or 40 minutes. We mostly walk, and
so I am still fresh for child number two. She gets on and rides for 15 or 20 minutes, and then
her first-grader attention span is used up. Her littlest sister mounts, then, and is led about by
FarmWife for five minutes or until she grows bored. By then, an hour or more has passed and
we're usually all ready to get out of the sun. I'm fat, if I hadn't mentioned it, and so FarmWife
actually looks forward to the day when all the kids want to ride me for forty minutes and do
some trotting and cantering. FarmWife thinks it will make me slender, and she waits with
eager anticipation for this future boost in my daily exercise. We shall see.

FarmWife sometimes wishes she had more mules than one, but then she thanks her lucky
stars that her one mule is so good—that he manages to be both a bold, intrepid trail mount for
her and a gentle friend for her children.

As for me, I don't mind the attention. I have four women and they all adore me. How lucky is

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

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