Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


October 22, 2012

Mules in our history

When I was a youngster, parents had an expression for kids who didn’t mind instructions immediately. It was “stubborn as a mule.” I must admit that I may have warranted that term applied to me at times. And it didn’t help very much that my mother braided my hair and turned the braids under and tied them with ribbons. The boy who sat behind me called this hairdo “mule bridles.” He would grab my hair as if driving a pair of mules. If long braids were worn, they were in danger of being dipped in the ink well. So I guess mule bridles were a little better than that, but not much.

Personally, I don’t know any mules, but we did sing a song called “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?” It described the unfavorable characteristics of a mule. As I remember, it said that a mules had “long funny ears” and that “he kicks up at everything he hears.” Now, I saw that was not too good, but what really stuck in my childish mind was the part about the mules not liking to go to school. You see, I liked to go to school; so from this song, I received an unfavorable impression of the mule.

Even though I had no real experience with a mule, we did have a cow named “Muley.” (She had been dehorned, and I gathered that this condition was responsible for the name.)

My parents, of course, had a great deal of experience with mules. I recall a picture of mother standing with Grandpa Chapman in the field with their team of mules. This was in the Blooming Grove area probably in the early 1920s. And Daddy and Mother had a team of mules when they were in Oklahoma soon after they married in 1925. People in that day were acquainted with the location of the mule barn when they went to town. My parents kept a good many of the trappings used in hitching up a team of mules. Giving up the mules for a town job was a big change in their lifestyle.

They turned that page, but they kept the mementos of those bygone days. So I was delighted to read Clay Coppedge’s piece titled “The Underrated, Under-appreciated Mule.” The author reminds us that mules didn’t just pull the farmer’s plow; they also built railroads, and their strength came in handy when wagon trains crossed country going west. Remember that song “Mule Train?” It told about the “wind and rain,” as well as the many other hardships the mules helped our early pioneers face.

In other words, mules are responsible for a great deal of our national history, and you know how I do love history. Also you know my favorite hero — George Washington. Well, Coppedge tells that Washington “started the mule industry in this country.” It happened in this way. The King of Spain gave a mule to Washington, who bred horses and realized that the mule had qualities which horses lacked — mainly they (the mules) didn’t eat as much and worked a lot harder.

Coppedge also reminds us that, to the farmers in earlier days, the purchase of a team of mules was as vital as the purchase of motor vehicles are today. I can testify to this because in looking through my mother’s papers after her death, I found an agreement Daddy had signed to buy the team of mules they used in their first big crops after they married.

Mules pulled the wagons and hauled the cannons during the battles fought in this country also. In fact, army mules are some of the most celebrated for their stubborn tenacity. In one account of Union losses made to President Lincoln, his reply expressed more concern for the loss of 40 mules than for the capture of one of his generals.

I think that when the impossible was called for, that’s when they brought in the mule teams, 20 mule teams if necessary. I believe there is at least one huge mansion in Waco which the owner wanted to have facing a different direction. So he called for teams of mules and moved it around where he wanted it.

I know one thing. I am willing to give mules the credit they deserve for all the struggles they have been through in the building of our state and nation. And I don’t care whether they went to school or not.


Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

Text Only
  • Janet Jacobs Technology versus common sense

    The gadgets of the future will include an internet-assisted backyard grill, according to news accounts this past week.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Belcher, Bob.jpg Salute to 'Mr. Derrick Days'

    I can’t help but think back to the “near-death experience” that Derrick Days had 14 years ago, and how one man’s determination brought it back.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Tinsley Resurrection

    I was 29-years-old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was 53 years of age. Only hours before his death, I spoke with him. Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg It’s about time

    Some aspect of time steals quietly into our psyche in all conscious moments, and our use or abuse of it is central to much poetry, lyrics, scripts, conversations — you name it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg The Wonderlic Test

    Did you hear the one about Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” Manziel testing better than all the other quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine? No, this is not the start of an Aggie joke.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • deannakirk.jpg Work Out? Bite your tongue!

    I've shared this before, but it bears repeating. I'm a lot like my late, dear Daddy … whose idea of “working out” was a good, brisk sit.
    Amen, Daddy. Me too.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letters to the Editor for Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Thanks for service
    To the Editor: The Blooming Grove Elementary School would like to express appreciation to several individuals and businesses that for three years have provided a “free” vision exam and eyeglasses for many of our students.

    April 11, 2014

  • Dr Don Newbury 2014.jpg Uncle Mort: For the Birds

    Personal experiences racked up across three-quarters of a century — including yips and yaps at lecterns spanning five decades — offer positive proof that many times, utter silence is preferable to spoken words.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick Platt 2014.jpg One-liners

    For many years, in a previous life, I had somewhat of a reputation as a master-of-ceremonies and I stayed relatively busy at that avocation. I never met a microphone I didn’t like

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deanna Kirk mug Gotta love a small town

    There's so many things to love about living in a small town. Why just last week I got to hang out with my ex-husband, his folks, his wife and baby at the Youth Expo. Then just a day later, I got to see my other ex-husband and his wife at the hospital, when one of our daughters got sick and landed there.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo