Mule Headed


Following is an excerpt from the book Sharecropper’s Son written by White County Historical Society member Earnest Best. When he was born at Rose Bud in 1911, 80 percent of our population was farmers and mules were important. Earnest’s books about those days are entertaining as well as historical and educational. Reprinted with permission.

1918 Airplane

I can remember in 1918, near the close of World War I, we would occasionally see an airplane fly over, the old double-wing, box-like contraption, which you would hear long before it came into sight. They were very noisy and very slow. Dad’s landlord had assigned him an old mule named "Big Red". He was a cantankerous old brute in many ways, but he was particularly averse to airplanes. Remember, airplanes were not too common in 1918. When Big Red would hear one coming, far away in the yonder, he’d just stop dead still, and look and listen. He didn’t know what it was, nor where it was. And he apparently thought it was better to just stand still until he could find out. This could take some time, and Dad had work to do. He’d try everything he could think of to make that mule move, but Red would just put his front feet ‘way out in front, and stand there, braced for whatever came. You couldn’t have moved him with a stick of dynamite. As the plane got closer and closer, Red got more nervous, but he was too scared to run. His big ears would straighten up, his eyes would dilate, and he’d stand there and tremble like a kid with a chill. When the plane would finally come into view, the poor old mule would actually cock his head to one side and watch it until it was out of sight, while he trembled convulsively all the while. After all, this brute was terrified. All this took some time, and meantime, Dad is standing there, wishing that airplane was over Germany, so he could get his field plowed.

Mules are a unique breed. They are extremely smart and intelligent, contrary to a somewhat popular belief that they are dumb. And as for being contrary, show me an animal (or a person) that never had a contrary spell. I always held that a mule was no more contrary than anyone else, and this breed has been much maligned by people who never really understood them.