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Stories from Bernie's current trip - a mule voyage from Canada to Mexico

How to Keep a Mule Shod - or Not
October 29, 2007


Barefoot in Montana
Bell Tower Community, Montana

“How do you keep mule Polly shod?”

It’s one of the questions I get most.

On the road, with my faithful mule standing by my side, it’s just a matter of pointing at her feet and saying:
A) “I don’t.” (if she’s barefoot)
B) “Easyboots.” (if she’s wearing her black boots)

In reality, though, it’s way more complicated, part of a hoof-care system I developed on my last 3,500 mile journey with mule Woody across America. So in the next few RiverEarth installment, we’ll talk barefoot trims, boots for barefoot horses/mules, and of course, my new book “Too Proud to Ride a Cow” (a copy of which you can still pre-order, and have shipped direct from the Lost Sea mule wagon).

Okay, let’s start with Polly’s boots.

Here’s the problem.

Mules have narrower hooves than horses. You could describe a horse’s hoof as “C” shaped whereas a mule’s hoof is “U” shaped.


Mule Polly’s hoof

That means the rubber hoof boots, because they’re designed for horses, tend to fall off a mule’s feet. (Sure, some of them come with garters. But I found these stretchy neoprene sleeves that wrap around the horse/mule’s pastern soon chafed when worn for 40 to 50 hours per week – no matter how much Gold Bond or vet wrap I applied.)

To adapt the Easyboot (my brand if choice), I made shims that screwed into the side of the boot.

Step 1) Round up a 2-degree rubber wedge pad (found at the local farrier’s supply). Lay it next to the boot’s flat side and trace out the boot shape. Make sure the fat part of the wedge pad is at the top. This makes the shim grip better, like the tapered collet on a drill chuck.
Step 2)Cut out the wedge. Drill holes to match the existing boot hardware.


Boot shim

Step 3)Using the screws and hardware found on your EasyBoot, screw the shims to the inside of the boot. You can use the existing hardware, though you’ll have to use longer machine screws. You can purchase them at your local hardware store. Remember to use stainless steel.


Boot with shims in place

That’s all there is to it.

Well, that’s not really true. Now that you’ve added the shims, your boots will be crazy-hard to get on your horse/mule’s feet. Which is exactly what you want, after all. You’re going for that tight, ride-from-Canada-to-Mexico fit.

That’s where the 3-pound hammer comes in.

We’ll talk about that next…

(Right, I was supposed to talk about the “Too Proud” book, the account of our last journey across America. For the tons of folks who’ve pre-ordered a copy, a hearty “Thank You!” Your copy will ship the first week of November – complete with a stamp to certify your book came off the Lost Sea wagon. For those of you who’d still like to order a copy, have a look at “Too Proud”.

Posted Monday October 29, 2007 by Bernie
Wagon Tire Repair ala Charlie Daniels
October 20, 2007

In the “Uneasy Rider”, Charlie Daniels sings,
“I was takin’ a trip out to LA
Toolin’ along in my Chevrolet
Tokin’ on a number and diggin’ on the radio…
Just as I crossed the Mississippi line
I heard that highway start to whine
And I knew that left rear tire was about to go”

Three lines later, Charlie’s tire has blown and he’s limping down the shoulder on his rim, headed for the Dew Drop Inn, where, eventually, he gets his tire repaired.


Charlie Daniels would’ve stopped here
Stoneville Saloon, self-proclaimed home of “Cheap Drinks – Lousy Food”
Alzada, MT

Okay, so Polly and I weren’t tooling along in a smoke filled Chevy when the rear tire blew. We were rolling down Battle Ax Road outside Deerfield Lake, South Dakota, when a slushy hiss announced my tire had blown. Again. For the fourth time.


Blowout #4: Rim-busting flat and patient mule

Now in Charlie’s case, he just holed up at a bar, drank a beer and hid his long hair from the mechanics while they fixed his flat. In my case, I’ve been trying to fix my flats with tire sealant from Canada to South Dakota.

With zero success.

The problem is that Fix-a-Flat, while it might re-assure you every time it rolls out from under your driver’s seat and whacks you in the heels, doesn’t work well in rubber mule wagon wheels.

At best, the milky, sticky stuff you squirt into a flat tire to rejuvenate it, lets you limp a few miles to a service station where they can properly fix your flat. At worst, you pump it into your mule wagon tire, limp 20 miles across the prairie, then have the stop-gap repair fail in a milky explosion in the middle of nowhere.

Which is exactly what happened, for the fourth time, on Battle Ax Road.

So why am I even mentioning this?

Because winter’s coming on.


Ice on the harness
Hill City, SD

Say what?

That’s right, with winter settling over the Great Plains, I’ve decided to take a break in the Lost Sea Expedition, head back to North Carolina for the “Too Proud to Ride a Cow” program tour, then return to Hill City, SD, where I left off the Expedition.


Preview “Too Proud to Ride a Cow”

What does that have to do with tires, you ask?

Well, despite the inconvenience of having a flat on average of every 150 miles, I’ve taken to the pace of my current journey. Polly and I have covered 600 miles of Lost Sea in 6 months. That averages out to 3 miles per day.

That’s intentional. I’m traveling slowly because I’m filming a documentary on the Lost Sea.

Though I’ve shared my journey with you on RiverEarth.com through photos and articles, I’ve actually spent the bulk of my time filming the Lost Sea in hi-def film. My goal? To film as thoroughly as I travel. That takes time. That means taking a break when you hear the figurative rear wheel whine. In this case, it was the onset of winter. Though holing up in a South Dakota cabin for 6 months sounds romantic, it would put a hold on filming for half a year. I’d rather visit with RiverEarth visitors at my upcoming series of North Carolina programs, school visits and book signings.


Boot-strap camera mount
Hulett, WY

After the “Too Proud” book tour wraps up, Polly and will head back to Hill City, South Dakota to resume our Lost Sea journey to Mexico.

And in the meantime?

Between now and Summer 2008, when Polly and I head back out on the Lost Sea, we’ll be catching you up on Lost Sea travel tips that we didn’t have time to cover earlier. Like how to keep Polly’s rubber shoes stuck on her hooves. And how to find your mule if it ever runs off in Hulett, Wyoming area (Yes, Polly pulled another runner, the trip’s fourth…).


Filming break
Alzada, MT

Charlie Daniels will understand if I head from Canada to Mexico – via North Carolina.

Stay tuned for detour updates…

Bernie
Mule Polly
Southern Pines, NC

Posted Saturday October 20, 2007 by Bernie


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