Obstinate mules lead to buyer’s remorse

From our May 2017 issue

By Effie Thornton – Hanna, Alta.

School days often come to mind, along with many of the old-time phrases of the time. I  vividly remember one the young people liked to use: “Stubborn as a mule.” I didn’t think I would ever come in contact with the reality of it.

My childhood home was seven miles southwest of a small town called Mont Nebo, Sask., and it remained home for many years. The scenery to the south and east of us was especially dear to us.

The house was surrounded with spruce and popular tees and lots of Saskatoon berry bushes. The large yard slanted down on the south side to a little valley where a creek flowed out from a lake in the west. It bypassed us to the east to Boggy Lake hill, then swerved left to Pratt’s Lake.

We felt surrounded by lakes and enjoyed swimming and boating to catch jackfish (also called northern pike). The house of my parents was becoming too small for a family of nine, so dad wanted to add on to it. Lumber was needed.

Mom and dad were both hard workers and my big brother, Jim, was on hand. Dad and Jim hooked a big team of horses to the bob sleigh. They gathered their axes and saws together and headed to the other side of the south hill for wood.

Heehaw sound was entertaining

It was laden with spruce and poplar trees. They worked for many days. Heading home through the deep snowbanks, the load of trees was quite heavy for the horses.

Dad heard a neighbour had bought a team of mules. Half donkey and half horse, they’re not a big animal, but are very strong. As a bonus, their big voice with its heehaw sound was entertaining.

This appealed to dad, so he went to the neighbour and bought the team of mules for $50.

The next morning they rose early, fed the mules and harnessed them for the job. He then went out chopping down trees with the axe and removing the limbs. It left a sharp pointed edge on the limbs.

When they had the bob sleigh loaded they headed for home. The snowbanks were still deep and difficult. The mules should have been a great help for the job, but they did not think so.

Right in the middle of the snowbank, they both lay down stubbornly, with no intention of getting up.

The men were well-trained with horses and used every way they could think of to cause the mules to get up on their feet. Sometimes a light tapping of the reins was successful with horses, but not mules. They had no intention of listening.

Finally the men took one of the trees with all of the sharp edges from the removed limbs and pushed them under the mules bellies. Uncomfortable, the stubborn mules finally rose their feet.

The next day, dad had the mules all ready to head back to their owner who had sold them to him. He took them home and the man gave his $50 back to him. The team of horses were satisfactory enough for dad!

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