The Bold and the Brayful
a column by Fenway Bartholomule
Introducing Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon, Assistant Mule of Bent Barrow Farm
I've some earfully splendid news for you today, my friends, but first let's have the back story.
Bent Barrow Farm is a fat, backwards L: the foot of the L, if you will, is home to a two story 1900 farmhouse, a sprawling green yard for the dogs and children, and a perennial garden bed. Also a terrifyingly big, terrifyingly pink rhododendron which I've never liked. Also some fruit trees, which I like rather a lot (fruits, leaves, and all . . . one reason why I am not often loosed in the dogs' and children's yard). Also a mailbox and a woodshed.
The hinge of the L, if you will, is home to a chicken coop, duck hut, garden, greenhouse, and wood shop. My little barn (measuring 16x32 feet) hangs off the east side of the shop. Beyond my barn, my gravel paddock wends around a abundantly fruitful raspberry patch (also rich with delicious foliage) and past a sandbox and jungle gym.
The tall arm of my L is all “pasture”, to use the term loosely. It's not big, but it's comfortable. Twin maples shade the north end, and in the summer a hammock hangs between them. The Samish River, still just a lazy marsh at this latitude, borders the field. My pasture is alive with birds.
This entire parcel measures 1.25 acres, which brings me to my original purpose: I wanted to say that it is a good farm, but not a big one. One mule, two dogs, two cats, two goats, seventeen chickens, four ducks, and five humans were already rather a lot for this green acre. That's why FarmWife had to plan carefully when she proposed the addition of another equine.
“We could get a draft team,” she said. “Two Belgian mules to plow the garden.” (Our garden is just barely big enough for a Belgian mule to turn around in, FYI.)
“We could get five riding mules,” she said. “One for each of us.” (I don't even think we'd have room for their manure piles!)
“We could get a mini,” she said.
All this was a careful strategy, designed to paint her final recommendation in a more positive light. “A mini mule,” she said, “would take up hardly any space. She would eat hardly any hay. She would be so manageable for the children. We could train her to drive.”
And so, my friends, FarmWife's scheming and the generosity of a stranger from Eastern Washington have collided and brought us the gift of Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon, a seven year old dun molly mule and the delight of my heart. She is beautiful. She is strong. She is kind. She is intelligent. She wields cuteness like a disabling weapon, melting the hearts of all who set sight upon her. She smells like flowers. Her bray is like the trilling of a songbird. Her eyes are liquid pools of soulful love.
The humans love Arrietty too, and say she is everything they ever hoped for and more. (They also say, very kindly, that I am still the First Mule of Bent Barrow Farm and Eternal Lord of the Hoofbeasts).
Last weekend, Arrietty and I took FarmWife down to the local chapel to teach a youth group about mules. We walked her there at the end of our lead ropes, not wanting to be in violation of any leash laws (do loose humans need rabies certificates?). We stood calmly in the eye of a storm of youth, toddlers to teens, as they squealed and stroked and darted and giggled. “He's so shiny,” they ooohed. “She's so fuzzy,” they aaahed. “They're so cute.”
I think it's safe to say that we delighted those children, and it's not a stretch to say that they delighted us, too. We are good citizens, Arrietty and I, and are proud to bring the Muleness to America's youth.