Merry Christmas from RiverEarth – Southern Pines, NC

The Red Hat and Flashing Antler Club: Jack, Joanie and Bill

I never realized how enormous Jack and Bill’s ears were until I snapped a pair of flashing red velvet reindeer antlers behind them. It was a pretty good fake rake, a six-pointer with a thirteen inch spread if I’d been scoring them through a rifle scope. But that’s not what impressed me.

No, what struck me was that even with those enormous Yule appendages, Jack and Bill plodded on like good sports in their new life. “Gosh! What a great pair of mules!” I thought.

Then it hit me. What about poor Woody and Maggie?

For weeks now, as I’ve worked Jack and Bill to the training wagon, my old travel mates have stayed behind in their paddock. This agreed with Maggie as it means more food for her. But it was beginning to weigh on Woodrow. Every time I pulled the big mule team out, Woody gave me the old “That used to be me.” look.

Then Mel invited me to the barn Christmas party.

“Hey, we’re going to build a fire and grill weenies.” she said. “And after we cook marshmallows, I want you to pull the kids around in your wagon.”

“Perfect!” I thought. “I’ve got just the idea.”

We made our fire and charred our marshmallows and after I pulled my first load of passengers, I tied Woody and Maggie to the back of the wagon.

Maggie and Woody back among friends.

Kaily immediately jumped on Maggie. That long dormant “Regal Bearer of the Expedition Supplies” look came back over Maggie and momentarily she forgot about the hay she was missing out on.

And Woody? Well, nobody wanted to get on him because most of them had seen him dump me in Mel’s barnyard earlier. So he just walked behind the wagon snapping at the hay bales folks were sitting on.

Lap after lap we turned around Foxtrack, the kids doing most of the driving.

Kaily and Caroline drive us home.

Then, after everyone went home and I was left alone with my animals, I discovered the perfect Christmas gift I could give them. Or any other animal for that matter.


So from now on, Jack and Bill have company on their training rides. As they walk through the Sand Hills preparing for the Dakotas, there’ll be a pinto pony and a red mule tagging behind their wagon.

“Hey, we finally have a job!”

And with that, I wish each and every one of you a lovely Christmas.

And for those of you with pets, when they give you the old red mule “Man, I remember when…” look, give them a scratch behind the ears. Or better yet, spend some time with them outdoors.



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