My Mule, Georgia Peach by Nancy BrownSince I was a kid and took my first trip to Death Valley at age seven, I have loved "long ears." Until the l970's the wild burros were everywhere in Death Valley along the West Side Road, near the springs, in the sagebrush areas and the washes. Their ancestors had wandered off from the prospectors during the mining boom. Over the years their numbers in the national park have dwindled due to removal programs when they have threatened the indigenous Big Horn Sheep. Anyway, you might say that I was imprinted at a young age by the fuzzy wild burros. At that time they would come into camp and I loved their funny appearance. After many years of backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, I decided that leading a mule or burro to carry the load might be a good idea. This was before I ever even thought about having or, much less, riding a horse. I was 55 at the time.
Roger and I started looking at burros - a pair in Santa Rosa, miniature donkeys on Marsh Creek Road, and wild burros at the Ridgecrest Wild Horse and Burro facility. Then, one day we ran into Marilyn Russell at Hawkins where we went to check the bulletin board. We asked her for advice and she said. "Take my old horse, Centur. You can pack him in the mountains." That was a Friday and by Sunday, Centur was living in our barn. Roger had given up horses, but he was willing to help me with trying this out and teaching me which end to feed. I started taking lessons with Jean Schreiber, figuring that I ought to know how to handle this critter in order to be safe. To make a long story short, that was about 8 years and many trail miles ago, and Roger and I are hooked.
Enter the mule. In April of 2004, we were visiting friends in Arizona with our horses. My horse, Rocky, was lame at the time and I borrowed Georgia Peach, the 8 year old molly mule for sale by our friend Don. I rode her for three weeks and was hooked. She is sure footed, sensible (most of the time) and just my size at 14 hands. I was most impressed by how she went downhill - slowly and carefully. I learned very quickly, however, that mules are very bonded to their pasture buddies - more so than horses. That's why they are so good at following each other in pack strings and carrying people in and out of the Grand Canyon, nose to tail.
Georgia Peach (named after Don's grandmother) has a story of her own. Shorty, a member of the Arizona Desert Riders and a friend of Don's found her wandering in the Arizona desert with a large tumor on her ear. He took her home, paid for surgery, and located the owners who hadn't been able to care for her so they had let her go!! Good hearted Shorty sold her to Don and after each of them had ridden her, determined that she was previously trained, Don sold her to me. She apparently had good breeding and she has had many compliments from mule people. When I returned with her to Arizona a year later, they were both sorry they had sold her. Their loss, my gain. A great mule, and the price was right! In addition, so far, she hasn't needed expensive shoes. Every time the shoer looks at her he says, "Great feet, she doesn't need a thing." I am still learning about mules, but it's a good feeling to know I have finally found my! fuzzy long-eared friend. When we first got her, she was pretty quiet and Roger called her my "brayless burro," but now that she is more confident with us and her new surroundings, she calls us at mealtime, snacktime, and, recently, when we cut back on her food, she hollered that we hadn't given her enough breakfast - everytime we opened the back door that day! Living with a mule makes us laugh every day!