Wednesday, November 6, 2013
It was 1950. My Explorer scouting buddy, Ted, was very athletic. He was working toward his “Bird Study” merit badge and asked if I would accompany him on a bird watching field trip. I agreed and we proceeded to one of many favored scouting venues in a beautiful wooded area in what is now Baton Rouge’s Tara subdivision.
Prior to its transformation into Tara this wooded area embraced a natural lake which was known as “Little Misery”. Sorry, but I don’t know the genesis of that name which certainly was NOT an apt label for such a beautiful lake because it was anything but “misery.” If anything it was “idyllic” and very Eden-like.
I think that Little Misery was the name of a cemetery, but I don’t think Tara was ever host to such an area. But I may be wrong.
Anyway on this particular field trip Ted and I spotted a mule grazing some 50 yards from where we stood. Ted said “I’m going to ride that mule” I said “Ted, you’re crazy. He’ll buck you into kingdom come.” Mules have a reputation for being stubborn and so did Ted. He too was stubborn and pledged to ride that mule. I said “Ted, you’ve seen bucking broncos and those guys use halters and reins and still they get thrown. What are you going to hold on to?” He said “I’ll grab him around the neck and hang on like hell.” I said “You’re crazy”, but Ted was determined.
So very slowly we made our way over to the mule which continued to graze. Ted said “Look, he’s not even scared of us.” I said “Even more reason to not do this.” My own apprehensiveness was growing by the minute. All I could think of was what would I do if Ted was seriously hurt. We were about a mile from any civilization. But Ted was undeterred. Slowly he approached the old mule. I kept a safe distance. He was now within 10 feet of him, then looked back at me and winked. I just shook my head and kept my distance. He then edged closer still until he was right next to him. Smiling, Ted again looked back at me. Then he gently patted the mule on the neck to gain his trust. This seemed to work. I began to breathe a little easier. Now he gingerly grasped the mule around the neck and pulled himself onto its back. The mule didn’t seem to mind and Ted punched the air victoriously. I breathed easier.
When I posted my “William Holden” story back in May of 2012, I was reminded of Ted’s little adventure. This is an excerpt from that post:
“On one particular day of the shoot, the scene for the day called for Richard Widmark to assemble his mounted agents atop a hill. At the base of the hill was a large pond. The mounted grisslies were told that their horses could not be permitted to drink any water because the scene that followed involved considerable running. One of the extras who had insisted that he could ride a horse (some wranglers and I had doubted his claim) was having some difficulty controlling his steed. The horse kept insisting on trotting downhill to the awaiting pond forcing Director Dmytryk to yell “Cut!.” On the 3rd take this extra’s horse began side-stepping down the hill, completely resisting his rider's efforts to restrain him. The horse got to the pond and was able to lap up several quarts of water. He and his rider were taken out of the scene. The horse was retained for future scenes; the rider was not.”
Back to our Ted story: Our mule began sidestepping toward the edge of the property which was enclosed with barbed wire. Ted said “Look, Jer, he’s taking me for a ride.” A ride indeed. When they got to the property line, the old mule pressed Ted against the barbed wire and began rubbing Ted’s leg back and forth against the wire. Ted yelled “SHIT” and managed to leap off of the mule. Ted was now on the ground rubbing his bleeding leg. His blue jeans were ripped open and he was in pain. I ran over to him while our mule slowly resumed its leisurely grazing. I refrained from the clichéd “I told you so” since Ted had graciously credited me with having been right.
I’ve heard that mules are smarter than horses. On that day I was convinced of it.