Junk Heap Mule Browse and the Fair Ground

Today a guy asked me, “why do you like mules?” I told him, “because they eat and drink less than a horse and they’re tougher.” What I really wish I could have shown him was Cracker teasing a grass snack from between some junk tires and batteries.

Cracker snack: it’s hard to tell there’s anything worth eating in that pile of tires but Cracker, being a hearty mule….
….always seems to find something worth eating. Here, a mouthful of grass growing next to a pallet holding batteries, gear box oil and a fire extinguisher.

Not all Trash Food

But don’t get the idea Brick and Cracker are starving on the road, getting their meals from scrap heaps if they’re luck to eat at all. In addition to being tied out all night – where they get to eat as much grass as they like – they also get to eat while they’re walking up the road.

It’s taken the guys a while to figure this walking and eating thing. Grazing is easy while standing. Horses do it all the time in the pasture. But snapping off blades of grass at 3 1/2 miles per hour? That requires a new skill set.

It took Brick and Cracker about 2 months to figure out how to graze on the hoof without loosing speed. Sure, I could have let them slow down. But that would have made for even longer trip.

Cracker munching on a flowering vine at 3 1/2 miles per hour (outside Broken Bow, Nebraska)

In addition to grass, they also get grain when we can find it. Folks have been crazy generous with grass and grain. Without their generosity, the mules wouldn’t be as summer plump as they are.

Camp August 31, 2019

We are riding through the heart of the Nebraska Sand Hills. The mules and I camped at the Thomas County Fair Ground outside Thetford, Nebraska. A great old school facility with a roping arena, toilet block, cattle shoots and, most important, good browse for the mules.

Dawn in the Nebraska Sand Hills. Outside Dunning,
Thomas County Fair Ground (outside Thedford, Nebraska)
This is one of those old school fair ground you find in many central and western Nebraska towns. A real blessing to have when you’re traveling the land with mules and need a place to overnight.
My camp. More hobo camp than anything tonight. My gear is scattered all around because I’m repairing water bottles. And of course the duct tape, bottles, mule tape and 550 cord aren’t in the same place.
The time had come for repairs. I sewed this water bottle cover out of a pair of my wife Julia’s pants. The cranberry juice bottle only sprang a leak this week. Not bad after over 110 days of mule travel. I swapped it out for a smaller grape juice bottle.
The fix. Instead of a draw string, duct tape.
Brick in the grass. Summer is here. The seed heads are drying out. There’s still plenty of nutrition out there for the mules, though.

From the fairground, the mules and I head toward Mullen, Nebraska, about 27 miles away.


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