About Cracker

How rude of me. I never introduced you to my mules Brick and Cracker. With apologies to you and the mounts who have carried me so far, may I introduce mules Brick and Cracker.

Brick and Cracker: usually Brick (L) carries a pack saddle. On this occasion, we saddled her with a riding saddle so my wife Julia and I could take the 2 on a ride in the Sand Hills of Nebraska (Hyannis, Nebraska)

Let’s start with Cracker. We’ll get to Brick in the next post.


Cracker hamming it up
Cracker: the formal pose. Here being ridden by Julia when she visited me in Hyannis, Nebraska on my current mule ramble. He’s in great shape having just walked over 1,300 miles from North Carolina to Nebraska. He looked a different mule when he came in to our lives (photo below).

Cracker is the late night DJ with blood shot eyes and the smoke cured voice. He’s the DJ that starts his day with 4 drops of Visine and a glass of milk because he doesn’t smoke and he’s in it for the long run. He’s mellow off the air but perks up when the mic goes hot and the “On Air” turns green.

By that, I mean he’s chill when he’s not saddled. But throw some tack on him, swing in to the saddle and he roooooooolllllls up the road. He’s got the smoothest – and fastest gait – of any mule I’ve owned and ridden.

He’s the real Mule Man of the Mules West ramble.

It wasn’t always so.

Finding Cracker

I found Cracker living with 2 mare mules in a steep muddy pasture. Hen pecked, bottom of the pecking order. Last to get his nose in the round bale. First to be chased away. Ate fast so he could make the getaway. He lived with the ladies because the horse mules – the men mules – would kick his ass.

He lived that life of chomp and stomp long enough to get a hay belly and a pointy chest. Pointy like when you boil a chicken in a pot of water and when you peel off the breast meat all that’s left is that rubbery, shark fin looking thing.

Photo Number 1 of Cracker (Ronda, NC)

Cracker was the kid that built the crystal radio set and stayed up with that thing plastered to his ear as Orion’s belt arced over his bedroom window. He strained to catch the scratchy voices from way over the mountain. He listened to the women talking to those faraway men and fantasized what it would be to be the man in charge.

Then he grew up and the ladies pushed him around. He’s one of those men that cling on to the notion they’re stars or at least they’re still nursing that notion they had as kids back when they were skinny enough to squeeze in to pants that wouldn’t fit their daughters now.

I bought Cracker the first week of March 2019. On April 6, a month after buying him, I saddled him and Brick up and hit the road.

Trip preps; March 7, 2019. Julia is riding her Haflinger Pickle and leading mule Polly of Lost Sea Expedition fame. I’m riding Brick and giving Cracker a head hug. I alternate riding and packing Cracker and Brick. (Caldwell County, North Carolina)

Since leaving our home Cracker has walked walked through 9 states and over 1,600 miles.

He’s blossomed as the front man of the Mules West ramble. All he was waiting for was his own show and a shot at the spotlight. The spindly kid that dreamed of becoming a radio DJ made good on his dream. He’s even grown a chest.

Okay, so that’s me riffing on Cracker’s personality. Here’s what I know of his past and breeding.

Cracker’s Past

I bought cracker from Mike and Janet St John of Windy Hill Mule Farm in Ronda, North Carolina. When we went to look at him, Mike said he was the mule his wife Janet enjoyed riding the most. He was calm on trails but had a fast walk when needed. They got him from a guy outside Asheville, North Carolina.

Cracker was born around 2007 to what I’m guessing was a Tennessee walker mare. I say that because he has the breed’s smooth, shuffle gait. When he walks out, his butt drops down like a motor boat climbing on plane. His head pops up and off he shuffles with a gait smooth as a glider chair.

Another clue to the ‘Walker blood in his veins? The way he holds his tail when he takes a dump: screwed off to the side about 9 inches from where the tail attaches to his back. Not elegant. Like it’s broken. Nothing screams “Tennessee Walker” like that graceless manure delivery.

Riding Cracker for the first time at the St John’s (Ronda, North Carolina)

Road Life With Cracker

Cracker’s my lead mule. Though I often ride Brick and pack Cracker, I’ve ridden him most of the way from North Carolina to where I am now in Douglas, Wyoming. By nature, he’s a bit more chill than Brick.

When the coal train rumbles by with a horn blast, Cracker keeps chugging in a straight line When the coal trucks back east roar by within feet of our stirrups, Cracker doesn’t jump in to the path of oncoming traffic. Brick? She doesn’t take the pressure quite as well.

Not that he never goes berserk. There was the time he threw me off so hard in Tennessee, the wreck cracked my helmet….

Cracker’s crash: In his defense, it wasn’t his fault. A piece of barbed wire got caught up between Brick’s front legs. The full account – including why I wear a helmet when I ride – is here.

Cracker is the front man of our troupe. The point man. The clink in the night that tells me he’s standing watch.

He’s the big-headed, pot bellied kid that grew up to lead others, well, if not in to battle, then up the long and dusty road.

Cracker Bio

  • Age: 12
  • Nickname: Cracker John, Cracker Jack, Crab Man, The Guest Mule (because any of our guests can ride him)
  • Ex name: Jethro
  • Departure Weight: 829 lb
  • Microchip ID #: 977200009417869 
  • Current Weight: probably 50 pounds more
  • Hoof boot size: 00
  • Favorite snacks: white bread, carrots, salted pretzels
  • Vices: erections in public, bashing you with his over-sized head, stealing bread, stepping on toes


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[…] other day, months after I should have done it, I introduced you to my mule Cracker. Today, I’m going to introduce you to […]

Christian Harberts
4 years ago

Oh my, what a fine list of vices!

Kids, yer mom’s calling, y’all run along now… (Cracker! Dude, get a grip!)


4 years ago

Miss that Cracker John! Miss Brick too….but most of all I miss you! Can’t wait to read what you have to say about mule Brick.

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