Mules West

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Trouble in a Leather Sack

Let me state for the record that I am not a cowboy. I can not throw a rope. I can not brand a cow. I don’t own a 10 gallon hat. I do know that “trouble in a leather sack” means “cow” in the Sand Hills. Seth Adam told me so.

Roped: A real cowboy, Doug Adam, ropes a calf that needs doctoring. Yes, it’s not so pleasant for the calf. But the doctoring goes quickly and minutes after the… Continue reading

Stock Tank Oasis

The mules and I may be walking across the land of 12″ of annual rain but there’s an oasis underfoot. It’s pumped to the surface by windmills.

Stock tank oasis: look closely and you’ll see mule Cracker taking a drink at 4’oclock.

In these remote parts of eastern Wyoming, windmills are still the primary way to pump water in to stock tanks. Solar panels are coming on the scene. But by and large, if a cow wants in drink in… Continue reading

Serendipity Lodging

It was time to see my wife Julia. The mules and I have been on the road for 4 months, traveling from North Carolina toward Idaho.

Crossing the Middle Loup River between Norway and Seneca, Nebraska.

Julia and I decided the Sand Hills of Nebraska would be a great place for her to fly out and meet me. She booked a plane ticket and a rental car. She didn’t click on that “Add a Room to Your Ticket” option.

She… Continue reading

She Tracked me Down

I married Julia in February. By April I was gone. 4 months later she found me.

My route after the wedding (Google Maps)
February 23, 2019: getting married at the town dock in Oriental, North Carolina. Officiating is our dear friend Keith Smith of Standing behind me, my brother Christian.
April 6, 2019: starting our North Carolina to Idaho ride. As of this writing (August 8) mule Brick and Cracker and I have traveled over 1,400 miles. Yep,… Continue reading

Talking Trash with Trent Loos on “Rural Route”

About 2 weeks ago, the mules and I stayed with friend, sixth generation Nebraska rancher and broadcaster Trent Loos.

Trent Loos with mule Cracker (Hazard, Nebraska)

One morning, over coffee, we sat down at the microphone and talked about the things I noticed on my mule journey that most folks overlooked.
In particular, trash – road side trash.

Trash: Cracker’s hoof next to a cigarette butt and a Busch Light can. No, this photo was not staged. Yes, I picked… Continue reading

Sober and Seeking Mule

He leaned out his pickup window and said, “I’ve been sober 2 years now. I bought this pickup for $200 but I want a mule.”

But mule ownership had eluded him. He said, “the people in this town don’t want me to have a mule. I don’t know why.”

I told him I couldn’t understand either because I’d just slept in his town with my mules and it seemed to make everyone happy.

“You’ve got it lucky,” he said, “because… Continue reading

Shovel and Top Hat

The mules and I camp on a lot of people’s lawns. What to do about the manure? Out here in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, mule manure on a lawn is dispensed with a boot kick. Or, as I recently did, with an old shovel.

Shovel and top hat. No, I don’t carry a shovel around on my pack saddle. It was loaned to me so I could clean up after my mules. That’s my collapsible canvas water bucket hanging… Continue reading

Hyannis at Last

Three weeks ago I arrived in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. I set my sights on Hyannis, 350 miles to the west. Yesterday Brick and Cracker and strode in to the town I was aiming for.

Lookin’ heroic in Hyannis: actually, I’m not striking a pose. I’m wondering how the hell Brick (background) managed to nearly rip off my horn bag within moments of arriving in town.

Hyannis is deep in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The past week, I’ve been traveling… Continue reading

Anselmo Early Morning Start

Anelmo, Nebraska. It’s 5:30am. The mules are saddled and ready to hit the road. I got up at 4a. It takes me 1 1/2 hours to go from sleeping bag to saddle.

Mornings, I try to be on the road with the mules by dawn. If I’m traveling a quiet highway, I’m often in the saddle half an hour before dawn.

This can be relaxing. Riding through the still night air, often the only thing that interrupts the clip clop… Continue reading

The Rub: Shoulda Taken a Day Off

I shouldn’t have saddled Brick the day I saw the bump on her back. But I did and she carried her pack saddle 20 miles that day. When I unsaddled her, I saw the newly balded spot on her back. Shame on me.

The spot I rubbed on Brick’s back. It’s right behind her withers.

In an ideal world, I should have given Brick a few days vacation when I first saw the bump on her back. It had just… Continue reading

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