Mules West

I Hope Their Legs Keep Working

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, Gray, Kentucky

Russ and Shannon

The mules were tied to the chain link fence on the side of the highway. They were eating away their hour-long lunch break.
I heard the putt putt of a 4-wheeler.
Many people I’ve met on this trip that ride 4-wheelers are out of shape. Big. Many look like they can’t use their legs any more. Not all. But many.
I turned. Expected what to see.
These 2 looked like their legs still worked.
“You’re in Gray,”… Continue reading

Whose Lights are the Miners Keeping On?

Bernie Harberts, billboard, miner

Whose lights do miners keep on – the home owner’s or the funeral home’s? (Pineville, KY)

The mules and I are riding deep in to Kentucky coal mining territory. The billboards advertise line boring, hydraulic hoses and prep plants. Retired coal miners and their families talk to me of black lung, cancer and OCPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

When I saw this billboard, I had to wonder. Whose lights are the miners keeping on – America’s or the funeral home’s?


Keep Out Bang Bang

Bernie Harberts, general store

Keep Out: A Charles Manson-esque warning. These chilling words channel the famous “Death to Pigs” vibe as written in blood by the Manson family. (Lily, KY)

Traveling the land with my mules, I must have faith that I’ll encounter man’s better nature. Then I see a sign threatening as a revolver to the belly and it reminds me of man’s darker side. Of how thin the veneer is in some places. This sign I came across outside Lily, Kentucky, makes… Continue reading

Where is Home?

Where is home? Where, indeed, is home when you sleep in a tent one night. Or your sleeping bag cast out under stars. Or the horse trailer of someone you met 2 hours ago on the side of the road. Or someone’s spare bedroom. Where is home to the man who is traveling the land with his mules?

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, adventure, fence

Traveling the land with mules. Brick, Cracker and me at the start of our journey.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, adventure, fence

The first glimpse many folks get of… Continue reading

Greetings from Science Hill, Kentucky

Bernie Harberts, mule, top hat

Welcome to Science Hill, Kentucky

Greetings from Science Hill, Kentucky. Mules Brick and Cracker have really pounded out the miles this week – 60 in the last three days alone. Now they’re entitled to a few days of rest. Thanks Terry and Debora Simning for letting them cool their heels in your hay pasture for a few days. Though it’s stocked with Kentucky’s finest blend of bluegrass, fescue and clover, Brick is also enjoying the poison ivy. Mules will be… Continue reading

Hay Field Breakfast

Bernie Harberts, mule, map

Hay field breakfast. On these cool mornings, I like to start my mornings with hot oatmeal. And my top hat. No, Brick isn’t begging for breakfast. It’s an optical trick of the lens.

Mules Brick and Cracker and I spend most of our days clip clopping up some Tennessee highway shoulder. Tractor trailers roar past. Cars honk. Drivers wave. I spend all my energy guiding my small troupe safely to the next destination. We are riding West.

Riding the shoulders… Continue reading

Spring in Lily, Kentucky

It’s fitting that I ran in to “real” spring (as opposed to signs of spring) in Lily, Kentucky.
After riding mules Brick and Cracker 20 miles up Highway 25, I was loosing the light fast and starting to wonder where the mules and I were going to spend the night.
I spied a lady trimming a vine in her yard. Pulled the mules in to ask if there was a patch of grass where I could tie them up for… Continue reading

Why My Wife Isn't Mule Rambling With Me – This Time

Bernie Harberts, sandwich

Just married: me and my wife Julia on our honeymoon ride. I’m riding mule Brick. She’s riding her haflinger Pickle. Brick and I are riding toward Idaho. Julia and Pickle stayed at home. (Love Valley, NC)

“Where’s your wife?” folks ask me when I tell them I’m married.
I tell them that my wife Julia stayed at home.
I explain that I’m riding toward her brother’s home in Idaho. That she’ll come visit me when I get there.
But that’s… Continue reading

Crackers Ponders the Week Ahead

Bernie Harberts, mule, sunrise

Dawn. Cracker ponders the week ahead. Or is he just contemplating his next bite? (Outside Russellville, TN)

A new week. A new direction. Once a man makes peace with the vagaries of life on the road with mules, he ceases to make hard and fast plans. Where to go this week? Up the road another stretch. The main thing is keeping the mules healthy. There is no other plan. Have a great week wherever it takes you.


Tennessee Morning Dew

Bernie Harberts, sandwich

Tennessee morning dew. Here, in Gary Brewer’s hay pasture. (outside Russellville, TN)

The last nights have been dewy. Evenings, I stack my saddle, pack saddle and gear in to a pile and cover it with a poncho. By morning, the poncho’s creases have captured tiny lakes of water. My tent is soaked.
But the grass loves it. And the mules count on eating on the hoof. Without the grass, we can’t travel the land. Grain is too heavy to… Continue reading

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