Travel by Mule

Johnny the Chicken Slat Man

It happened in Globe.
The man walked up to mule Brick who was tied to a poplar tree and said, “I thought she was loose.”

“She’s not,” I said, “but thanks for checking.”

Bernie Harberts, mule, chicken slat, johnny, man

The man, the tree and Brick. (Globe, NC)

The man looked tired.
Me: “What do you do for a living?”
Him: “I build chicken slats.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Him: “It’s what chickens lay eggs on and the chickens will always keep laying.”
Me: “Where’s your job?”
Him:… Continue reading

Ryan Crick and Opening a Bottle of Strawberry Wine

Tonight the mules and I are the guest of Ryan Crick of Crick Enterprises in Greeneville, TN. Ryan fixes heavy diesel things – think tractor trailers and dump trucks.

Bernie Harberts, ryan crick, mule, fence

The Crick Enterprises garage. I just rode off the highway to ask if it’s okay to spend the night there. The guys are waiting while I find Ryan Crick, the owner, to ask permission. Ryan said that would be fine. He had some grass that needed mowing anyway. Thanks Ryan! This… Continue reading

Through the Ice

A young mother stopped the mules and me this week and asked, “why do you travel with a top hat on your pack mule?”

Bernie Harberts, bamboo, trailer

The top hat that rides atop my pack saddle.

She asked, “Is it in memory of someone? Is it like putting an empty pair of boots in an empty saddle when somebody dies?”
She was giving it way more symbolism than I did.
“No”, I said. “It’s the top hat I got married in.”
“Oh”, she… Continue reading

Monday Mule Commuting Blues

Bernie Harberts, mule, road, sign

Even mules have to make commuting decisions. At least – for the moment – traffic is light (outside Limestone Cove, TN).

Good Monday morning. It’s off to the races time – me, you and mules Brick and Cracker. If it makes you feel any better, this is what my commute looks like. Only today it’s raining and my mules don’t have heated seats and windshield wipers. Yuck. Today we’re riding from Limestone Cove toward Erwin. If you see us on… Continue reading

From Saddle Bag Rice to Strawberry Wine

“Lord god, what do you do for food?”, folks ask when they meet me and the mules. My wife Julia sent me off with a bag of food: rice, coffee, pecans, ramen noodles and a few other staples. I’ve been eating rainbow trout, smoked potatoes and drinking strawberry wine. Okay, and a little rice.
How the hell does that work?

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride

Mule Brick and the gear I’m packing.

In horse and mule travel, it’s the weight, not the miles, that kill.… Continue reading

Top Hat Tennessee

Little did I know within a day and a half of leaving laurel digger Richard Gragg’s, I would shiver in my bivy and saunter with a top hat and 2 mules in to Tennessee.

Bernie Harberts, Richard Graff

Richard Gragg: laurel digger, mountain man and arrow head hunter extraordinaire. By laurel digger, I mean he digs mountain laurels and sells them commercially. I spent the night at Richard’s in Gragg, NC. The experience warrants its own post. Thanks for the trout, mule digs and… Continue reading

Richard Gragg Laurel Digger

Traveling the land with my mules, I’m fascinated what people do for a living. I’ve met oil men, lobster fisherman and chicken sexers. This week I met my first laurel digger. Meet Richard Gragg.

Richard lives in Gragg, NC, between Globe and Grandfather mountain. I spent the night at Richard’s last night and he explained what he does for a living this time of year. Here are a few photos of my visit.

Bernie Harberts, tater tunnel

Richard Gragg: laurel digger (and saw miller… Continue reading

Girl in a Green Dress

Shot the gap and steered the mules toward Globe through the green choking landscape that swallows house trailers before they rot. Saw a girl in a green dress feeding a goat. Asked if I could to take her photo and she said that was okay.
“Do you know the goat’s name?”, I asked.
“No”, is all she said.

Bernie Harberts, bamboo, trailer

Western North Carolina jungle land. The bamboo runs rampant over old homesteads. Look closely and you can see…

Bernie Harberts, bamboo, trailer

… a trailer carcass.… Continue reading

Riding the Tater Tunnel Trail

In the good old days before refrigeration, ice cream and the device you’re reading this on, folks used to store their canned goods and root vegetables in root cellars. Around here in western North Carolina, folks call them tater tunnels, because that’s were potatoes were stored. I counted 5 on the roads that lead from Colletsville to Gragg. No doubt I passed many more that were hidden. Call it the tater tunnel day.

Bernie Harberts, tater tunnel

How we started the day in Globe.… Continue reading

Flooded Top Hat and the Cowboy Wedding Bride

We’re off! Today mules Cracker, Brick and I set off headed West. Here are a few photos of how our journey started.

Bernie Harberts, mule, brick, cracker

We hit the road at 10:30a this morning. I was riding out our front gate. Just when Brick and Cracker and I needed a photographer….our mail lady Robin drove by. She was headed to the dump. My lucky day. Thanks for the sending-off photo Robin!

Bernie Harberts, mule, brick, cracker

After 7 miles, I gave Cracker and Brick a break in a willow… Continue reading
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