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OF MULES AND MEN
By Marshall McClung
Webster describes a mule as being the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Others within earshot of some men (and women) working with mules have heard them described in other terms that we are unable to print in this newspaper. Mules and men are said to be similar as both are stubborn. But mules are also known to be smart and there some say, the comparison ends. We have an account in the Holy Bible in the book of Numbers chapter 22 of a relative of the mule speaking to it's master when it saw an angel of the Lord standing in the path.
The Colvard family who at one time in the early days of Graham County owned most of the lower end of Tallulah Valley had some well known mules. Robert (Bob) Colvard had a white mule named Pete that did not like to stay away from home at night. One time Bob had ridden Pete to Hooper Bald to work on fences that had been constructed as part of a game preserve at the time. Pete came back home and two days later Bob showed up carrying the saddle. The only way to keep Pete away from home at night was to hobble his front feet. Pete wasn't partial to being penned up in the barn either. Once when he had been put in a cow stall, he kicked boards out of the side of the barn in order to get outside to graze. When being worked in the field he would stop at exactly noon and begin to bray for something to eat. Pete was know for his ability to turn at the end of a corn row and not knock down any corn. It was unnecessary for the plowman to use the trace lines to turn Pete.
Jim Lail had borrowed Pete to work him once and they fell through a wooden bridge. After that it was next to impossible to get Pete to cross a bridge. Pete didn't like to have his tail trimmed. Once when tied to a buggy for that purpose, he kicked the spokes out of a buggy wheel. Bob Colvard was about the only one who could trim his tail.
Bob Colvard also had a red mule named Kate. John Colvard said Will West would ride Kate down Tallulah to school and back in the afternoon. John said he once saw Will coming up Tallulah on Kate riding her backwards and singing to his heart's content.
Alfred Colvard had a mean mule named Fannie that loved to bite. Dr. Gerald Eller, a brother of Hugh Eller borrowed Fannie to work her. They cautioned Gerald about her biting habits. When Gerald brought Fannie back they asked if she had bitten him any. Gerald replied, "Well let me put it this way, I'll have to be careful how I sit down for a while."
Hugh said when he worked Fannie he was careful to always drive her and not lead her for she would surely bite you. If you crossed the fence into the pasture, Fannie would wait until you were on the fence to make her move, take a bite out of you,
and then go backwards. Hugh said he learned to drive Fannie through the gate before attempting to cross the fence.
Agnew McClung, father of Wayne McClung had a mule who was a stickler for time. If Agnew was plowing and his wife Frankie came out and called him for the noon meal, the mule would stop in his tracks and not budge, no matter if it was the middle of the field. Frankie had to watch until they were at the end of a row before calling. In the afternoon when the whistle at the Bemis Lumber Co. mill blew, the mule would quit for the day.
Wayne said his dad and the mule had a Sunday afternoon game they would play. The mule could open the gate latch with his mouth and come into the yard. Agnew would sit on the porch with a slingshot and some small stones and watch for him. The mule would sneak around the side of the barn and peek around the corner with only one eye showing. Agnew would let fly with a rock from the slingshot striking the barn near the mule's head. The mule would take off bucking and snorting only to reappear in a few minutes for a repeat performance. Wayne said this would go on all afternoon. Wayne said the mule would only do this on Sundays when it knew Agnew would be sitting on the porch.
Leslie Hedrick had a mule he used to pull a buggy from snowbird to his watch repair shop in Robbinsville for many years. The mule was named Kit and was thought to be around 30 years old when it died.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO RAMONA MARTIN KERNODLE, JOHN COLVARD, HUGH ELLER, AND WAYNE McCLUNG FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THIS STORY.
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