It was early spring in the year 2007…
We grinned at one another as we made the turn down our lane. It was a familiar drive, one we had experienced every weekend since the purchase of our property in 2006.
There was always a shared sigh of relief that once again we had made the 140 miles of winding hills in the darkness successfully dodging the multitude of deer. In the backseat, our dogs were getting restless as they began to recognize the earthy aroma of the farm. A place they considered heaven – away from the confines of the small fenced yard at home. As George got out to open the tangled barbed wire of the old stretch gate I could see his breath in the frigid night air.
It was early April and the night was glistening with frost as the headlights lit our way down the long mazy path that leads to our cabin, nestled deep in the woods. In pitch darkness he was unlocking the cabin door when he caught the sight of movement behind the cabin, then the sound of the BBQ grill crashing to the ground. I watched as my husband – who faces anything – jumped as the shadow of a large creature leaped into the darkness. He got the cabin door open and flipped on the outdoor floodlights. After taking a quick inventory of the damage he came back to the car to get me and carry in the weekend supplies. Once we were inside he began building the fire to take the chill off the old cabin. Once the flames took off he told me he had seen something in the dark.
He is a master at downplaying anything he thinks might frighten me. Stored in the back of his mind was the thought that if I became afraid of what creatures lurk in the woods, his weekends in paradise would soon come to an end. He told me it must have just been a deer. Aware that there are many harmless creatures in the night, I didn’t think too much more about it.
As the fire warmed the cabin, I began to unpack our food and get settled in for another weekend of pure serenity. It was Friday and we were ready for some much-needed rest.
The morning woke us with the promise of warmth as the rays of sun beamed in the bedroom window. He stoked the fire while I got the coffee started. Together we stepped onto the front porch to survey our little kingdom. With the steam from our coffee warming our faces on this frosty morning, we notice over in the farthest field there is a large dark animal.
I ran inside and grabbed the binoculars to get a better look – was this a mule?
Excited by our newest visitor, we quickly bundled up, fetched an apple and started our hike in his direction.
Now that this mule was the answer to the strange creature lurking in the darkness behind our cabin, it was safe to discuss that it must have been him that knocked over the grill, and not a deer.
He was a curious but timid old mule, the closer we got – the further he went. But if we stood still and ignored him, he would approach us. Never trusting in us to get close enough to take the apple from my hand or to get a loving scratch behind the ears.
This routine of “playing hard to get” continued, each time we would get a little closer than the last, but never actually able to reach out and touch him. He would stand just out of arms reach, breaking eye contact and trotting off as we would make any advance toward him.
We could see he was long in the tooth and his neck was thick, both signs of an aging mule.
At sundown, as the coyotes would begin to howl, I couldn’t help worry about him – out there all alone. His only shelter was a loafing shed (3 sided building with southern exposure) to help shield the cold north winds. We could tell from his droppings that there were times he was happy to have that shelter.
It brought delight to my days knowing he would find the scattered flakes of hay and the apples & carrots we would set out on the old hickory stump. We would continue to leave these treats for him over the next 4 years of his life.
He became a welcome fixture on the hills of our farm.
We may never know how he found his way into our pasture in the early spring of 2007 – But he lived out his days here.
We honored his memory with the name of our farm “Lost Mule Ridge” and later in 2015 with the name of our home “Lost Mule Lodge”.
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I regret that I was never able to get a clear photo of our mule, the photo above is a stock photo.
All photos, thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.