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.

8 Responses to The Stay Put Mule Rain Blues

  • 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,


    • Deal. I’ll send you a thunderstorm, deluge, shower and a raining-like-cats-and-dogs downpour in exchange for 5 days of blue sky. Plus, for all my French friends, I’ll throw in a toad strangler for free. Deal? Good. I’m shipping them out today. Let me know how it goes. Bernie

  • 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?

    • Howdy James. Great idea but here’s the catch. Brick, the other mule, carries “only” 110 pounds, as opposed to Cracker’s +-200 when I ride him. Without me on his back, Cracker only carries +- 40 pounds (18 lb saddle plus saddle, pad, breaching, horn bag, breast plate etc). That’s a lot less than 110 pounds. So it looks like I’ve got a bit of walking ahead of me. The good news is that Cracker’s already growing hair back on the hot spot. Plus, I really enjoy walking as long as the road shoulder is wide (which, alas, it isn’t the next miles from La Plata to Trenton, MO).
      Great hearing from James!
      I look forward to keeping you posted.

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

    • Dear Greg and Laurie. So good to hear from you. Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful hospitality, from meals and laundry to setting me up with lodgings up the road. That made all the difference through the rains.
      The mules and I had a wonderful run to Trenton. Cracker’s back is holding up really well. They’ll get a few days off here in Trenton and then it’s Westward Ho.
      Big howdy to La Plata for me!
      Bernie /

  • 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

    • Howdy Priscilla.
      Hey great hearing from you! I’m heading toward Hailey, Idaho which is just north of Burley. Sounds like a beautiful part of the country. I’ve never been there. Tell your family to keep an eye out for us toward fall!
      Say hi to your brother in law back in Laredo for me. I had a great time there, including a fine visit with Charlie Tracy.
      Bernie / currently Trenton, MO

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