As I mentioned in the last post, in 1964 I was deep into the horse and mule business. Mules, for some of you who may not be familiar with the species, are a hybrid creature that is half donkey and half horse. Almost all of them are sterile, probably since the DNA of that genetic mix may have a twist or break somewhere that keeps them from reproducing. They are very smart and generally sturdy and healthy and do not fully deserve the reputation they have for being ornery, stubborn and generally difficult! In the southwest, most of the mules that are used for saddle animals are sired by male burros and the foals of saddle horse mares. Mules are very sure footed in rough terrain and make good riding animals if trained well.
Back in the spring when I was talking about the local flora, I mentioned the Globe Mallow, which has reddish orange blooms and added that my family called them "Louie blossoms" because the first mule that joined our herd liked to munch on them in the spring. Louie was a middle sized mule, about 14 hands (a hand is 4") high at the withers where saddle and draft animals are measured. The withers is the 'bump' just above where the forelegs join into the skeleton and analogous to the bump on the back of our necks! Louie was blackish brown and had a tan muzzle, very nearly the color of peanut butter! We had bought him from a rancher near the town of Mayer, AZ and so named him "Louie B. Mayer." My dad was Irish and had that quirky and sometimes very sarcastic sense of humor, so many of our animals had unusual names. This allusion may be too far back for some of you, but the original Louie B Mayer was a founding partner in the old MGM movie company so it was a silly pun to name a mule that! Here is a shot of me riding Louie, several years after he joined out herd in June, 1955, a few months before I acquired Tina, the mare I mentioned before in February 1956. I am guessing it's 1959 or 1960 here.
The photo was taken on top of Mingus Mountain at about 8,500' elevation. Mingus borders the upper end of the Verde Valley in Arizona on the western side. We were probably deer hunting as that's a .30-.30 rifle in the scabbard that I am touching. I was riding in a McClellan saddle, invented by a General McClellan who served (Union Army) during the War Between the States and later with the cavalry in the west. It is light and durable but not the most comfortable for long riding that I have used! And on a mule, since they have a very straight backbone, you need to use harness around both the front and back of the animal to keep the saddle in place.The front one is a breast collar, similar to those used with western saddles to stabilize them when roping and the back is called a breaching or in the vernacular, a "britchin'."
Later mules that came along before we acquired a large bunch of them in 1959-1961 were Lilly, Stella, Dynamite, Lizzie, Albert and Ruby. I think there were a few more even, as we did a lot of 'horse trading' and some came and went while others stayed with us quite awhile. I'm still a fan of a good mule and would love to be able to afford one so I could ride up some of the rugged mountains here. Hiking them is one tough job and I am only up to so much of it these days but really do love to explore and get up high to look around!
I had some other misadventures with Louie but will save them for another day. One was a graphic lesson in why the britchin' is essential! I still feel the results of that one with some arthritis in my neck and right shoulder! I was lucky I did not break my neck!!
Welcome to my World
Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!