The Bold and the Brayful
A column by Fenway Bartholomule
My friend Marnie Jones—I call her FarmWife—is lucky, happy, and totally fulfilled. I am particularly qualified to say so, I think. This because, first of all, I am her very best friend in the whole wide world with possible exception to her dear husband, and second of all because I am a mule. As you surely know, mules are insightful, sensitive, and observant. I am capable of plumbing the depths of FarmWife's spirit and touching the deep recesses of her most private feelings. I can understand, for instance, when she is feeling like feeding some delicious hay. Something about her carriage as she walks to the feed shed . . . something about the nobility of purpose with which she boldly strides towards the delectable bales. I can also understand when she is feeling lively—when she asks me to canter, for instance, and shouts "wooohoo!" into the wind at my frolicsome eagerness. She's easy to read.
I know FarmWife and love her, and one of the things I love most is her mulish optimism. She is always willing to assume the best about someone. Take her old Volvo, for instance—It has been dead in the driveway for three weeks, but she refuses to give up. She thinks it just needs a few weeks of rest and then it will be back in action, making hay runs and delivering children to their playdates once more. I, for one, think we should trade it in on a harness and carriage. I will travel any distance for a bale of hay, and something tells me that the delivery-via-station wagon option is permanently unavailable.
FarmWife is going to be 31 this week—in human years, which makes her younger than my 15 mule years. It's old enough to be a grownup about things, though, and nearly two years ago FarmWife decided that the way to be grownup about her favorite hobby (riding) was to admit that her fancy dressage horse, with his expensive boarding stable and high-maintenance attitude, was not working for her budget, her skill level, or her family. What she wanted was a friend, a trusted family mount who could carry her down the trail whilst she sang a happy tune. She sold Mr. Fancypants and ended up with me.
FarmWife didn't know what she was getting when she bought me from the man next door. I had lived in the neighbors' field for long enough that she knew a few facts: that I was handsome, for instance, and that I played well with others. That I had incredible feet, a lovely temperament, a great respect for fences of any description, and sensitive skin with a tendency towards insect-induced hives. Otherwise, she thought I was basically a horse with long ears.
I am not. I am half horse, half ass, and proud of it. My donkey father gave me a tremendous capacity for Assessing the Situation. This is my favorite hobby, after eating, rolling, and braying, and I have passed more happy hours in careful Assessment than you can imagine. Stand, feet planted. Gaze, with eagle-eyed scrutiny. Inhale. Analyze. Ponder. My horse mother, on the other hand, gave me great athleticism, which comes in very handy when I am asked to carry FarmWife up precipitous slopes, for instance, or over tremendous obstacles. I am intrepid. I am just shy of 14.1 hands tall, and she is a gangly 5 foot 10. Her mass is not to be trifled with, but I manage to carry her with nimble grace. This is part of the magic of mules.
FarmWife has never spent a single second regretting the change from sport-horse to half-horse, and her warmblood dreams have been permanently replaced with visions of mules dancing in her head. She wants me, only me, and when I'm old she wants another mule just like me. I will mentor him, when that time comes, and teach him how to snuffle her cheek just so and press his closed eyes against her chest in a tender embrace of complete trust.
I am good for FarmWife. When she gets distracted, lost in matters of little paychecks and big bills, or tall weeds and small vegetables, I remind her that she has all that she really needs. Her health. Her home. Her family. Her mule. When she needs to get her mind off of fussing children and dead Volvos, I take her out. I carry her to the scenic vistas of our beautiful corner of the world, down the meandering trails by which we discover new places. There's no worry in the world that the steady rhythm of a loved mule's hoofbeats can't drown out.
I am good for FarmWife, and I am good in general. I babysit our little goats, who can't weigh more than my tail on a rainy day, and make sure they get their share of the hay pile. I look after the chickens, herding them under the gate with tender care when they dare to commit the crime of laying in the goat shed. I give muleback rides to the city children who come to see me, letting their love for me carry them through an otherwise dark time of urban petlessness.
Knowing, as I do, how FarmWife's life was changed for the better by my arrival, and how her husband and their three daughters have benefited from my kind and majestic presence on Bent Barrow Farm, I decided in December to extend the hoof of friendship beyond the borders of our one green acre. I established my own website, www.BraysOfOurLives.com, as a place where all of the citizens of the world could access and learn from my Muleness. I've made many online friends, and one thing they've taught me is that The Muleness is not unique to me, nor even to mules. I've now met horses, donkeys, ponies, and even humans with it. It is many things. Perserverence. Good sense. Honesty. Patience. Intelligence. Strength. Beauty. Stamina. Determination. Perception. It can be inborn, or it can be cultivated. Find it in yourself, and you will lead a life worth living. I'm helping FarmWife find it now.