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Of Kids and Mule
August 10, 2012

One recent morning I woke to find Polly gone. Yep, while I was under the influence of some knock-out-grade REM sleep, she slipped her picket and took a self-guided tour of Barr’d Harbour, Newfoundland.

Who caught her? A young girl.

Seems Polly fell under the spell of the young gal’s potato chips. Followed her into the family’s yard where the two of them inspected the rabbit hutch. Then joined the girl and her mom for a bit of socializing on the bridge – what we call a deck or patio back in North Carolina. When I showed up, Polly was well into her umpteenth banana.

Funny how an 800 pound animal that can escape an adult and a steel chain can be caught by a kid with a potato chip. Chalk one up to youth power.

It’s a scene that’s played out over and over here in Newfoundland. Kids catching Polly, holding Polly and feeding her from boats. Here are a few kid / mule encounters you’ll enjoy.

The young lady who found – and caught – Polly in Barr’d Harbour. You can see the lass still has the mule’s full attention. Why doesn’t my equine listen to me that way…?
Remember those awkward class photos where everyone is looking somewhere else? One girl is looking at her shoes. One boy is looking at the girl. The teacher is looking at the clock. Only Billy, the kid who always showed up on time, is looking at the camera. And his eyes are closed. This shot has a bit of that distracted quality about it. (Shoal Cove, NL)
Polly and I were inspecting the beach launched boats of Sally’s Cove, on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. How their flared bows let them take to the waters. How the wood turn tables allowed the boats to be pivoted before launch. I thought Polly was interested, too. She worked her way to one of the boat’s bows. Excellent. A travel mate who shared my enthusiasm for stinky work boats. Wrong. Seems a young fellow in the bow had a treat for her. Silly me…. (Sally’s Cove, NL)
Okay, I’ll show you a long shot of that work boat. Nice, eh? (Sally’s Cove, NL)
Shadow of a mule and its kids (Main Brook, NL)
Staring contest: Most kids on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula haven’t seen a horse before. Let alone a mule. For some, like this young fellow, it took a mighty long stare for the scene to sink in. (Main Brook, NL)

Thanks all you young Newfoundlanders for catching, holding, feeding, petting and amusing Polly in the moments when my attention has lapsed!

(Map note: map shows mule Polly and my approximate location as of early August, 2012. We later took a few days off in Bishop’s Fall to re-organize for the second half of our Newfoundland journey.)

Posted Friday August 10, 2012 by Bernie
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Never Lie to Your Mule
August 1, 2012

In recent weeks, mule Polly and I have been following an abandoned rail bed across Newfoundland. In the quarter century since the rails have been taken up, Mother Nature, Father Time and four-wheelers have taken their toll. For the most part, the gravel path is clear.

There are obstructions, though. Like the dam Polly and I ran across last week. The dam itself was gated off. So you couldn’t walk across it to reach the other side. Rather, we had to descend a steep trail, ford the tail water, then make our way up a washed-out path to regain the rail bed.

Here, in a pen and paper letter to a friend, is how that traverse went. To set things up, I’ve included a few photos.

The dam base. A gate prevents passers by from walking across the top of the structure. Hence the rough detour.
The base of the trail – and exposed culvert – to be climbed to regain the rail bed

Here goes, straight from the written page.

“ … so I get to the sketchy grade below the dam. Polly saw the washed out bit. Stopped to marvel at the exposed culvert, its corrugations sticking out like the ribs on a giant, half buried snake skeleton. She looked at me. Gave me the, “you don’t think I’m pulling your cart up this washout” look.

I took out my pipe. Packed it slowly with fresh tobacco. Thinking of a response.

She had a point. In Deer Lake, I’d given in to temptation. There were only so many ways to augment my rice, tea, oats and oil diet with dandelions. Bumble bee flowers they call them in these parts. The menu rotation was winding down. Dandelion flowers, dandelion leaves – raw, boiled, steamed in salad and in pasta. There was Dandelion à la Mule for forging solidarity with Polly . Dandelion à la Screech for when I was feeling jumpy. Dandelion à la Oil for when I was feeling constipated. I’d all but smoked the damn things trying to add some variety to my diet.

Lucky thing I wasn’t low on tobacco….

So in Deer Lake I’d gone a bit overboard with provisioning. If that’s what you call 5 pounds of oats, 2 pounds of peanuts, 6 heads of broccoli, 2 cabbages and a sixer of Black Horse beer. Hauled all, of course, by mule Polly. Despite my best attempt, she saw me add the load to her cart. Doing the silent air match calculation of by how much her load had just increased. What to charge me when her shipping charge came due.

Now we were at the base of this steep washed out grade. It looked like she was going to hand me the freight bill. It’s why I smoke a pipe. Lets me buy precious time as I match wits with my mule – a simpleton trying to outsmart a simple animal.

I put a match to my pipe. Said, “ Why, Polly. Just last week, a Newfoundland pony passed through this stretch. Pony half your size. Pulling a load twice as heavy as yours. Driven by an ungrateful fat bastard who insisted on riding in the cart while sipping from his bottle of Lamb’s. Not walking beside it like me. And that little punk island pony snatched her load up that stretch in front of you like it was just a wallet in her back pocket.”

It worked. Polly pulled that grade like her arse was on fire and her tail was catching (to borrow the Charlie Daniels phrase).

That evening, I fessed up to her. Of the evil white lie I’d used to motivate her. She took it like a team player. Take one for Team Mule.

Later that night, I woke to mysterious crunching sounds. Followed by drier scrunching tones. Hmmm….. I rolled over in my tipi and let it pass. A fellow at my level of management doesn’t micromanage. You don’t climb the mule travel corporate ladder by doing the control freak thing. After all, with faithful employees like mule Polly on security detail, upper management could rest easy.

The next morning, I woke to find all my precious groceries looted. All the rolled oats were gone. Five damn pounds! Same for the cabbage, apples and carrots.

Hanging back in the scenery was Polly. Carbohydrate induced gleam in her eye. Slobbery green chewed to hell plastic bag hanging out of her mouth. Where she’d mouthed the bagged broccoli to pulp and sucked the contents out like a lamprey sucking the guts out of a salmon.

Mule bliss.

Worse yet, she’d invited one of those red head, bat house crazy squirrels to join the fray. Little Red tore into my 32 ounce trove of peanuts. The ones I’d rationed out for the next month. Ounce a day. Cleaned out the whole lot and, because squirrels don’t carry business cards but like to leave their mark, left squirrel droppings all over my cart seat.

I twisted the head off a Black Horse beer for breakfast. Lit my pipe.

That should teach a fellow. Never lie to your mule.

Hope all’s well.

Bernie”

“Har, har, har….!” Mule Polly basking in the bliss of her payback. You’d swear she was laughing at me.
Posted Wednesday August 1, 2012 by Bernie
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