August 11, 2014
This little community of Loving had a country store, Church, and school. The same time had the “born in Hell” mules, I had a friend I ran with named Bill Blevins. So one evening, he and I are sitting on the porch of the little store drinking Cokes and eating peanuts.
Here comes a pair of mules at a fast trot. They were hobbled together, left foreleg to right foreleg. Bill said, “there goes Paul’s new mules.”
Paul was Bill’s Uncle. About five minutes later, Paul’s neighbor came by in his truck, “Have you seen Paul’s mules?”
“Yes, they are on their way to Arkansas.”
Arkansas is about two miles down the road. Paul’s neighbor is really mad. Paul’s mules, hobbled together, jumped the fence into his wife’s garden and ate all of the cabbage. It is hard to keep a straight face, but this guy is really mad.
After he left, Bill told me the story. A few days back, Paul had bought this team of mules. He brought them home, put them in the corral. They were small mules, way pretty. Well they milled around for a little while then together they jumped the fence and took off.
Well, Paul chased them down and brought them back. He hobbled their front legs. This worked for an hour or less. Then over the fence again. I never seen this fence but Bill said it was five to six feet high. I will add that Bill was helping chase them down. They were brought back and hobbled together.
I talked to Bill later, he said, yes they jumped out and ate the neighbor’s garden. Yes they caught them before they got to Arkansas.
As I said before, we sold the little forty-acre farm and back to California. I don’t remember how long we stayed this time, California that is. Yes, Dad comes home from work, we are moving to Oklahoma.
Yes, back to Loving, Oklahoma. The first thing Dad did was buy a little twenty acre place. Very small house, barn, and couple of small outbuildings. Yes, and an outhouse.
All of this was on the back side of the property. Back side of the outhouse faced lane going from main road to house. Well, let’s see, no back wall on outhouse, roof was gone. It doesn’t snow a lot but it sure gets cold. One one stays in the outhouse very long. This place was all pasture and a small stock pond.
We stayed there for the winter only, back to California. I got my first in Oklahoma driver’s license so I must of been sixteen. I still have the driver’s license, would be fun to go into Oklahoma motor vehicles and ask to renew fifty-eight year old license.
I worked all Summer and bought a car, 1940 Studebaker, lasted only one month and fell apart. Bought another car, 1946 Mercury, drove this one to Oklahoma next Winter. We still owned the 20 acres.
Yes, back to Oklahoma. This time to say, HA-HA. A couple of months later, Dad bought a forty acre place, no buildings on it. This place was covered with small pine trees. The idea was to cut the trees and sell them. There was a few logs, some pulp wood, and many small telephone poles.
Well since this was not a big-time logging operation, giant trucks and tractor, we need a truck. Well Dad bought a truck, 1943 Ford. He brought it home and said it needs brakes but I paid less than two hundred dollars for it. Well, let’s see, big holes in floor, no brakes, but good emergency brake. Burnt one quart of oil in twelve miles. Hauled poles twelve miles, one quart going, one quart coming. In the Summer you drove with doors open to let smoke escape.
Now to the next and last mule. This forty acres had give or six loads of logs on it. Dad being a mechanic was always helping out the neighbors, fixing trucks, tractors, and chain-saws.
When our next door neighbors heard we were going to log these larger logs they said they had just bought this new team of mules, and we were welcome to use them and they would bring them to the job.
Well, that was great. One thing they didn’t tell us, they had never used these mules before. It was obvious the mules didn’t like each other, they were fighting in the back of the truck.
Well to make a long story short, they left one mule, took the other back with them.
Now this was a small young mule. So with harness on and skidding dogs hooked up, Dad drove mule and carried skid dogs. Well, we got to first log and I hook up dog, Dad drove mule back to landing. I will explain, these skid dogs were hooked to the harness on the mule. When you had a log hooked up there was nothing to do for me. So I walk back to the landing then carry the dogs, behind the mule back to the next log.
Well we did this a number of times, then we loaded the logs when we had a truck load.
Something I forgot to tell was that Dad and his bad hip and everything. When he came to a narrow place, the mule would go through, Dad would jump up on the log and ride it through. I was very surprised when he did this.
Well, loaded and ready to go to town with the logs. In my dreams, Dad turned around handed me the reins and said, “Skid another load while I am gone.”
Well, let’s see, here I am out in the book-docks with this four-legged animal. At least another twelve logs to go. Well you don’t know if you can swim if you don’t get wet.
So reins in one hand, skid dog in the other, up the hill we went. Hooked up to first log and started down hill, going through a narrow spot, jumped up on log, and fell off. Of course, the mule continued on, she pulled log to landing and stopped. Since it took me a couple of minutes to get out of the brush pile I fell in. When I got to the landing I swear the mule turned her head around and smiled at me. Well, we continued on for a few more hours.
A few ups and a few downs. I guess I should say, thank God, the mule knew more about skidding logs than I did.
A couple of months later, Dad sold everything and back to California to stay.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.