Hello good diary snooping people! Boy. Do I have a story for you, and unfortunately, it is not a particularly funny one. And it has nothing to do with salt.. but.. we're past needing the salt diaries to be about actual salt by now, right?
Its the long story version about how I rolled up in my driveway this last Friday at 3:00 in the morning with two mules, two kids, my dad, five chickens and my dog.
ya. a for real life traveling circus event. that is my life.
But to tell you this story I must start waaaay back in the beginning:
That's baby me, in all my cowgirl glory.. taking myself super seriously on my first trusty steed, Cookie. My little legs couldn't even reach the stirrups that were all the way up.
Cookie was a tiny, little mule that was at least 400 years old by the time I started riding her. After I outgrew her I graduated to a very slightly taller, 200 years younger mule, Buster.. and if you think I was taking myself pretty seriously with Cookie, well just check out this proud moment with our first 7th place ribbon:
It was at this point that people started calling me "mule girl". I was the only kid in all of the Mesa County 4H program who entered horse shows with this half ass. But that never seemed to phase me... nor did coming in 7th place. I just thought that we we were two peas in a pod of awesome sauce.
I rode Buster for a few years before upgrading to Ash and that was when I became the only "horse person" in my family of mule lovers. While I was always riding my heart horse, I was always mixed up in the mule mishaps and learned a thing or two about them along the way.
Fast forward 20 some years later.. when I was planning my trip to pick up my new baby horse puppy, Buttercup, I posted ads to transport other horses to help cover the cost of my trip (as you oldie diary readers already know all about). When someone inquired about me bringing their mule up for them I knew my dad would be tickled since he was making the trip with me.
This is a photo of Jasper sent to me by the lady who I was hauling him up for. We were essentially hired to pick him up in Pendleton, Oregon and drop him of in Palmer, Alaska. Simple, right?
no. because he is a mule.
After we were already on our way to pick him up in Oregon we were told that he is "sometimes hard to catch"
Once we got to the cattle ranch where he was living.. the lady who was selling him started telling us about his history.. he was already tied up when we got there and dripping with sweat and trembling..
We are about to drive 4 thousand miles north with this thousand pound animal, who hasn't even gotten in the trailer yet and he's already freaking out? awesome.
The lady went on to tell us that he had been abused/beaten by a previous owner and is particularly afraid of men, but also everyone. She said that on occasion, or every time she is leading him he often usually decides to very suddenly bolt..
So.. my dad tries to lead him around the corral a bit and see if he warms up. nope. instantly bolts and gives my dad a gnarly rope burn on his hand.. you know. in the first 4 fucking seconds of interacting with this mule who we are supposed to be spending the next 9 days loading and unloading out of the trailer multiple times per day.
We talk it over and decide, what the hell.. there's no shenanigan we haven't already been in with a mule at least twice before anyway. So we think we can handle it.
He was nervous as hell but he loaded in the trailer.
We were super careful about loading and unloading him and we did everything we could to get him to warm up to us. I gave him treats and grain and pets on every stop of the trip and believe it or not, we actually never had a problem with him again after that first interaction.
I think the woman who had him was just too rough on him. Maybe she didn't straight up beat him, but especially after a mule has been mistreated, they need really special love and care to build up trust again. Once he felt a little bit safe with us, he actually became a super sweetie pie and we fell in love with him. And since it just so happened that my dad was on the slow and steady possible hunt for a trusty steed, we actually offered to buy him from the gal we were transporting him for.
Jasper, trusting my dad enough to walk him through the sign forest in the Yukon Territory. #majorprogress
She declined the offer and when we met her at the fairgrounds in Palmer to drop him off, it was actually a really difficult goodbye. I had to load him in her trailer because he didn't trust her yet and she seemed afraid to try [insert a bunch of red flag emojis again here..] After he was loaded I patted his neck and I remember saying sorry to him. Sorry that, after all we had been through, and after just getting something going we already had to say goodbye. We asked her to please let us know if it didn't work out. On April 14th of this year we parted ways but my dad and I both suspected it would not be the last time we would see our pal, Jasper.
Last week, less than 3 months later, I get a message from the lady who had him explaining that they could not afford to feed their mules with rising hay costs and she wanted me to be the first to know she was selling them.
When we dropped him off to her in April, the only issue he had going on (physically) was that he was really overdue for a hoof trim.. When I asked her if he had been trimmed yet, she said she hadn't worked with him on picking up his feet yet.. like. at all..
now. this is the first, real major red flag.
She said that she and her husband hadn't handled him at all.. yikes.
You guys. Hard swallow.
When we arrived to her property, we first saw her other red mule that she was also selling. Every one of his ribs were showing, he had an abscess on his chest (most likely pigeon fever), is covered in horse fly bites, was scarred behind his armpits and was in dire need of a trim.
This photo was actually taken at our house the next day.. but you get it..
The woman didn't even know of his abscess and was like "whelp, we better go take a look at Jasper, then.." I asked her if I should be worried and all she said was that he had been in some barbed wire.
He was off in another pen, tied already because she said it took her a very long time to catch him up. As I approached I couldn't believe I was looking at the same mule I had just seen 3 months ago.
I know :(
Despite his condition and the short time apart, it felt like seeing an old friend. I knew right away that he remembered me and though he was nervous, he let me put my hands on him and I somehow didn't cry and put on my serious negotiating pants..
Because there was no way in hell I was leaving either of these mules for one more second in these conditions.
And thank the heavens I have such a supportive husband who loves me despite my animal collecting tendencies.
The red mule is Gus, which.. more to come on his dumb ass later, but after a couple rodeo scenes we had him loaded and tied in the trailer. Jasper politely followed, I believe, happy to get the fuck out of that terrible place.
And off we were on the 6 hour drive back home. But not before I stopped to pick up a couple hens from someone in Wasilla.. you know.. since those eagles been snackin' on my chickens..
We got them settled in and the only one who is not completely super stoked is Buttercup.. little spoiled princess baby. They have been picking on her pretty hard. I'm hopeful that after they feel confident there is no short supply of food they might go easier on her but we might need to separate them in the meantime.
It is going to be a long journey to get them both back to proper health. The farrier is coming tomorrow morning, cross your fingers they let her clip those long hooves. I've been rubbing their legs down and/or picking up their feet a few times per day since they got here Friday morning.
This is a photo I took of the three of them today.. I'm so glad we picked them up so they can join our crew of super spoiled fur babies. I promised them I would never let that kind of neglect ever happen to them ever again. and yes. I talk to them in plain English all the time.. and yes, mules live for fucking ever and I realize the level of promise I am making.
I don't know what will happen with Gus. He's not going anywhere until he is healthy and can be handled safely.. and honestly, I think Casey is kind of falling for him. Jasper, on the other hand, is not going anywhere ever. He's here to stay.
Fewf. It's been a hell of a week y'all. and believe it or not, this was only some of it.
Casey actually did some writing about this ordeal as well... Would you diary readers be interested in his side of the story?? I think that would be fun.
For 13% off of your next salty order use discount code:
This code expires July 24th 2022 at 11:24 pm Alaska time. We're busy, but never to busy to pack up some orders. Load us up bitches!! We got a lotta hay to buy these days [insert sweating and laughing emoji here].
Who knew I'd ever end up with a mule.
Cheers to you, Papa. Cheers to you, Dad. Cheers to you, Jasper - you deserve better and I am glad we found our way to each other, though I wish it were sooner.