So last week mule Polly and I are traveling across eastern North Carolina in my just-built mule wagon. Getting ready for our Canadian Maritime Adventure.
If you recall, the wagon is actually two parts. Part One: the forecart, on which I sit, is a two wheeled cart outfitted with a trailer hitch. Part Two: the wagon, is a two-wheeled trailer that serves as living quarters, cook shack and writer’s haus. Hook both parts together and you have a lightweight, fair dinkum, over the road traveling machine. Mule Polly, at 800 pounds, can drag it around all day and still break into a trot come sun down.
So anyway, we’re cruising along the mosquito infested drainage ditches of Pamlico County. Something about those canals draining the land years ago so it could be cultivated in unsustainable ways. And all I hear above the latest crop of mosquitoes is this squeak that sounds more metallic than biological.
Sure enough, the trailer hitch on my wagon is graunching against the forecart. Short explanation: the up and down motion of a Polly’s gait was dry-grinding the 2” hitch ball into the trailer hitch. I stopped. I looked at the hitch.
I saw a small pile of steel shavings collected around the hitch ball.
Damn. The trailer hitch ball was grinding its way through the trailer hitch. Given enough miles, it could wear the hitch out, forcing me to abandon my trailer on the road. Nothing more depressing than an abandoned trailer on the side of the road, right?
What was needed was some lubrication. Too bad I left my grease gun and anti-seize lubricant (“good to 700 degrees Fahrenheit” the label had read) in Oriental.
Then I remembered Tim.
On the second day of my trip, I’d visited my buddy Tim and his family in nearby Florence. I’d picketed Polly overnight in their backyard. The next morning, I’d bragged Polly up. Suggested to Tim that maybe it would be cool to harness Polly up. Hitch her to the wagon and go visit neighbor Ted for some fresh eggs. Ted. Ted’s the Egg Man. I met him years ago. Bought eggs from him back then and figured it would be cool to do the same in the Circle Will be Unbroken kind of way.
So I harness Polly and tie her to a tree in Tim’s back yard. I run my mouth another 10 minutes to Tim about how great this mule is. And when I turn to put her in the shafts (that’s wagon speak for hook her to the wagon) she’s…. gone.
Damn it! Double damn it! How the hell did that happen? Okay, I know exactly how it happened. After sailing around the world and crisscrossing the USA by mule – endeavors that call for lots of knot tying – I screwed up my bowline knot. Happens when I juggle mule restraint and gamming with friends.So I trudge up Tim’s driveway to search out the Egg Man.
Experiences shows that Polly generally runs away in the direction she traveled from, often to equine company. And the Egg Man, whose house we drove by the day before, owns a donkey and horses. Where Polly would end up was a foregone conclusion. Funny how, though my mind can process this higher order logic, a mule proof knot escapes me….
Halfway up the driveway, I meet the Egg Man. He’s leading Polly – her harness all twisted to the side like she got it hooked on something and kept on running.
“I figured this was your mule,” he informed me as he handed me my charge. The lines, the braided ropes I use to steer her, were wrapped around her back legs. She high-stepped over them like a first time lady of the night irritated by too-tight garters.
There had been reports of a harnessed mule running by the nearby corner store. Then the Egg Man found one in his back yard. Yep, if there was a fully-rigged mule streaking across Pamlico County chances were good it was mine.
What does any of that have to do with a squeaky ball hitch?
While staying at Tim’s, he gave me a jar of home made peanut butter. Says he bought a bag of peanuts. Roasted them. Ground the suckers up and plopped them into a jar.
Voila. Peanut butter.
It’s into this concoction that I dipped when the mechanical metal squeak droned out the thirsty buzz of skeeter wings. Yep, just ladled a spoon-full of goober goodness onto my forecart’s hitch. It worked. In a flash, the sound of metal on metal was replaced by the hollow clip clop of mule hooves and the buzz of tiny wings.
The cure worked until I ran into a yellow dog in Aurora. Named Toscano. Licked that lubrication right off my hitch. I know it was Aurora because that’s where I ran into the story of the man that killed the circus gorilla while pinning it in its cage. But that, amigos, is a story for another day. Here’s one of what happened last time I visited Aurora by mule.
Where this story happened:
During this week’s 90 mile shakedown cruise from Oriental, NC to Lowland and back, my old Canon started loosing its mind. The lens blades stuck. The flash stopped working. That speck in the sky wasn’t a plane. It’s not dirt on your screen. It’s crud deep down near my camera’s mind’s eye.
Seeing the photos reminded me of the soon-to-be-deceased. Right before they die, they go through death throes and say some funky things. Or maybe it’s just jibberish. Either way, it’s off just enough to get your attention.
There was something endearing – and spooky – in the warped final result. Here, in a crippled hindsight sort of way, are glimpses of a wagon voyage through Pamlico and Beaufort Counties, North Carolina.
Where this story happened:
It’s been a long week here aboard the mule wagon – hence the short post. In the past 8 days, Polly and I have traveled over 90 miles through eastern North Carolina. From Oriental to Lowland, up to Aurora and back to Oriental. Call it the shake down trip for the upcoming Canadian Maritime Voyage.
Good thing is I’ve spent so many nights aboard the new wagon, it’s starting to feel like home. The evening ritual goes like this.
Feed Polly. Light the wood stove. Cook a mix of foraged and lardered food – from Pamlico County eggs to store bought split peas. Then it’s glass-of-wine-time, pipe time and before turning in, time to step into the night air to check on Polly.
Then comes my favorite part of the evening. Blowing out the lantern. Then the candle. Finally, banking down the stove for the night. With the wagon’s three fires put to rest, it’s time to climb into bed.
With any luck, at 2a, the whole wagon won’t start rocking. That would be mule Polly indulging in her favorite bedtime ritual. Scratching her hindquarters on the wagon door. Then again, after pulling my wagon all over the county, she’s probably entitled to it.
(Map note: the map shows you were Polly and I stayed in Lowland, NC.)
Where this story happened: