For reasons I
do not fully understand, my trophy wife cries a lot
at Christmas. First a little background: Last
December, half my aged mule team laid down on the
frozen ground for the last time, so we shelved our
Christmas Eve family tradition of singing carols
with the mule team pulling the hay wagon. (“An Army
of One” may work for the military, but a mule team
of one just can’t pull my hay wagon.) A couple weeks
ago a mule team popped up on Craig’s List. The owner
explained they were older Fjord cross mules which
had been used as a feed team several years back,
“They may be a little rusty for driving, but they
are real easy to be around.” I believed him.
I named them Martha and Abigail after America’s
first, first ladies and last Sunday, I harnessed and
ground drove them. They snorted, stomped and were
generally unpleasant—reminding me of two other first
ladies. I solicited the aid of my trophy wife to run
the lines while I led the team. After a while we
swapped and Druann led the team with me on the
lines. They did blow up once and my crew of one shed
a few tears, but I judged the afternoon a driving
success. Druann strongly suggested, demanded
actually, I not hitch to the wagon until our kids
arrived for Christmas and could saddle up as
outriders. She is not much for mule wrecks. I acted
like I didn’t hear her.
Wednesday morning, Dan stopped by my clinic when a
brilliant idea burst into my mind; Dan would be a
perfect outrider for three reasons. One, he is an
athlete—not that he has spent many hours in the
saddle, but if there was one guy agile enough to
jump from his horse onto a runaway team it would be
Dan. Two, he is a Christian so he isn’t afraid of
dying. Three, and most important, he was available
Friday morning. We set a time.
The harnessing went smoother on Friday, and in
thirty minutes I was ground driving Martha and
Abigail around the pasture. For two hours the team
was geeing, hawing and most importantly, whoaing.
When Dan pulled in, I saddled my big black horse,
Dudley, and explained how to jam him in front of the
team if things got wild. Dan nodded in agreement.
With Martha and Abigail still tied fast, Dan helped
me hitch them to the wagon before taking his spot on
Dudley in front of the team. I unsnapped their leads
and very slowly crawled up into the wagon seat and
took the reins. I gave Dan a nod and made a small
tug on the left line to step the team away from the
hitch rail. (At no time did I make any reference to
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer or Vixen, and I sure as heck
didn’t shout “to the top of the porch, to the top of
the wall!”) And then…
Items now on the “Needing Repair before Druann Gets
1. Fifty feet of barb wire fence along driveway.
2. Vinyl rail on yard fence.
3. Harness hip strap, quarter strap and britchen.
4. Straighten wagon tongue from new “U” shape.
5. Replace foot rest broken by excessive rudder
pressure from mule skinner.
Items now on the “Points to Ponder” list:
1. There is an old saying, “The empty wagon makes
the most noise.” It is the truth.
2. Brakes on the wagon would be nice, but to work
the tires must actually be on the ground, something
which was intermittent, at best.
3. “Holy crap, whoa! Holy crap, whoa!” is not a
popular Christmas carol, but for 45 seconds it’s all
I could sing.
4. For a stranger to the saddle, Dan can really
ride. He was only a half-step shy of colliding with
all of us when we shot through the first gate.
When the deafening noise stopped, the wagon tongue
was wedged in the yard fence; Abigail was still
harnessed, but was lying on her back, and although
Martha was standing upright, she had turned around
inside her harness. I had four hours to clean up the
evidence before Druann got home; there was no sense
I thought I had pulled off the mother of all
deceptions, when Saturday morning while staggering
towards the shower the trophy wife barked, “Hold it.
What are all those bruises on your back?” I froze,
and looked in the mirror. My lumbar spine carried
the tell-tale signs of thrashing which matched the
wagon back rest. My mind raced like a runaway mule
team…I had to think of something fast.
I dropped to my knee in the Tebow position and
confessed, “I am having an affair. Those are marks
of passion from two other females.” (It was close to
“Yeah, right,” Druann shot back as she rolled her
eyes. “You’ve been driving the hay wagon haven’t
you?” Then she started crying again.
Demonstrating the stubbornness of a mule, I have a
backup plan for Christmas Eve. Don’t bother watching
the sky for Santa, the real action will be street
level and it will zoom past in the twinkle of an
eye. Merry Christmas from the Conservative Cow
Doctor his trophy wife, and family.