The Stay Put Mule Rain Blues

I rode in to La Plata, Missouri, ahead of the storm. The plan was to buy sardines and ramen and then ride out the other side toward Idaho. But the rumblng clouds shattered and poured down on me in pieces. It’s rained over an inch and I’ve eaten most of the sardines and some of the ramen and the damn wet stuff keeps falling. And I’m still in La Plata.

A mucky slog. The mules and I have walked in to a record wet mid-West summer. This is how Brick, Cracker and I made the final miles in to La Plata.

When it’s rainy monsooning like this, it’s just best to stay put. Be patient. Put your gotta-get-there-by-next-week ambitions on hold. Traveling up the highway with mules in the rain is just too dangerous.

Read the sign: sometimes you just have to stop. Here, I’m lifting the back of Cracker’s saddle to let cool air underneath. He’s got a hot spot on his back I’m trying to cool down before we proceed. Lately I’ve been walking, instead of riding, to minimize the weight on his back.

There’s more to this rain than making for miserable travel. The constant rain softens the skin on the mules’ backs, increasing the risk of saddle sores. It also softens their feet. This leads to increased wear. Yes, I use hoof boots on my mules. But the rain softens their heels. If you’re not careful, the hoof boots can cause heel sores. So far, we’ve been lucky. No heel or saddle sores.

Brick’s front foot this week. This is how it looks after traveling almost 900 miles from North Carolina to Missouri. Both of my mules are traveling barefoot. Instead of steel shoes, I rely on Renegade hoof boots. To minimize heel chafe, I don’t use the hoof boots in the rain.
Our wake. (Matchbox Lane, outside La PLata, MO)

So we’re waiting in La Plata for the rain to end.

Great big thanks to Greg Love for letting mules Brick and Cracker camp in his pasture. Camping in wet clover beats the bejesus out of leading 2 mules up a stormy highway.

Drying out: here, I’m drying out my gear in Greg’s pasture. The red heap is my tent before I got it pitched.

Folks in La Plata have been super understanding about my delay. Here are some photos of my favorite home in town.

My favorite house in La Plata. Look closely at the column on the right.
What do 16 cinder blocks plus one wood column equal? This! I love it.

The man on the radio is forecasting 2 to 3 more inches of the wet stuff in the next 2 days. Brick and Cracker are pondering water wings.

More thanks:

Thanks to the Santa Fe Cafe for sheltering me from the rain. There’s only so much time a man can stay hunkered down inside his tent. I’d stop by the Cafe any time for more coffee, apple pie and grilled chicken salad. Whatever the weather.

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Priscilla Ethridge
Priscilla Ethridge
4 years ago

My Bro – in – law seen you in Laredo MO. and was telling me about you and your mules where in Idaho are you going I was born in Burley Idaho and have allot of family still living there.It is beautiful there. Wish I could travel like that love horses and mules.Enjoy your travel. BE SAFE Priscilla from S.W.Missouri

Greg & Laurie Love
Greg & Laurie Love
4 years ago

Bernie, we loved our time with you. Will continue to follow your adventure and hope our paths cross again some day.

James Mull
James Mull
5 years ago

Can you ride the other mule? If the one has a hot spot, may be best to switch them out. Walking the rest of the way will not be to enjoyable. How are you getting home? ride back?

Christian Harberts
5 years ago

Howdy cowboy! I propose a trade – a week of heat wave for a bit of wet… Going to get (and stay) brutally hot in France in two days. Water tables are OK for now (not in South of France, and Corsica is burning to the ground, literally) but the more time passes, the more I like rain…

Cheers from very far away,

C

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