I have a confession to make; I hate horses! This is a big step for me to admit my dislike of the beasts, because living here in Kansas and hating horses is akin to living in a retirement home and hating the Wheel of Fortune. I grew up in central Ohio where coon hunting was a popular and noble sport, and an offshoot sport that grew out of coon hunting and was popular for a time was hunting raccoons from the backs of mules. Now I cannot fathom riding a smelly, cantankerous, sweaty old mule in pursuit of a raccoon through briars, brambles, fallen tree limbs, swamps and hidden barbed wire, and in the middle of the night, no less. By night’s end most coon hunters have fallen into the river or swamp at least once, skinned and dressed a couple big greasy coon’s, and all this after thoroughly enjoying a huge pot of Texas style chili their buddy fixed before the hunt, all making for some rather unique and horrible smells at the end of a good night’s coon hunt. So why on God’s green earth would I want to start the evening as a passenger on the back of a critter that already smells that bad from the get-go?
I can’t imagine a mule would be known for its smooth ride either, so it seems to me Mr. “bobblehead” coon hunter would be shining his head lamp about everywhere but where it was needed. To solve this problem I’d mount lights on the mule. Ace hardware has clamp-on trailer lights, so hang an old milk crate on the mule to hold the battery, then buy a half-dozen of those lights and get creative. Those big ears have to be good for something, so clamp one on each ear. Myself, I’d clamp the other four to the loose skin under each leg and shine them downward for ground-effect lighting, (but that’s just me.) By the time I got through with my mule, it’d look like a transformer clomping through the woods.
Coonhounds are notorious for getting lost before the nights over, so what if the “coonmule” tosses me off in the middle of a briar patch and lights out on its own? I’m thinkin’ it would be easier to just shoot the thing than try to lasso it or get it to load into a stock trailer after having run loose all night. And I can only imagine what would happen if someone found the thing standing in the middle of the road. Spotting a coonhound in the middle of the road would not seem too strange. But topping a hill on a country road in the middle of nowhere at three A.M. only to spot my coonmule standing in the road in front of you lit up like a four legged Christmas tree with high beams shooting out from both ears and all four armpits? You’d have to change shorts immediately and I guarantee you’d be in the front pew at church the following Sunday.
So far I’ve railed pretty badly against the poor mules, but as I search my soul, I have to say their tainted reputation is probably not all their fault. I think the name alone gives them a bum rap. I mean really, what does the word “mule” conjure up for you? It’s right up there with other one-syllable four-letter words like carp, crap, lard, lump, toad & turd. Just because mules are a cross between a male donkey and a female horse, why curse them from birth with a name like mule. After all, dogs are cross bred all the time and given fine exotic names that use parts of each breed, like Afador, Cockapoo, and my personal favorite, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a Poodle, the Labradoodle. Why not be a little more creative and help lift the mule’s self esteem with a fine and noble name like Donkhorsey or Hordonk…Or maybe not!
Anyway, I know Donkhorseys and Hordonks make great working steeds and excellent pulling teams, but as far as riding them into the woods in the middle of the night as a way of chasing coons and following coon hounds, not so much! The way I see it, riding a mule to follow a coonhound ranks right up there with using a Labradoodle to chase the coon. A nickname my grandmother had for our feet was “shanks horses,” and as far as I’m concerned, shanks horses are the only thing I’ll ride into the woods chasing a coon, thank you very much!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]