• Print

Molly, A Love Story

Written by F. Thomas Breningstall
Category: Humor
Hits: 6026
breningstall_anvil"You shoe mules?" the caller asked.

"What you got?" I said.

"I got this old mule. Our farrier moved and he gave me your name. She stands good, always has."

"Okay, I'll look at her."

As I pull into the farmyard I see the man, his wife, and a good-looking mule standing out by a neat and well-kept two story red barn. The man waves me over. I back up to wide Dutch doors, held open with polished brass hasps.

As I climb from the cab, the man hands the lead rope to his wife and she puts the mule in the barn, tying it to a chrome ring attached to a hand-hewn post just inside the doorway.

The man is clean and neat--polished boots, pressed bib overalls (first time I've seen pressed seams on bibs), red-and-black checked shirt, and a straw hat. Under his waxed handlebar mustache is a big friendly smile.

His wife wears a full-length blue-flowered cotton dress. From her stout work shoes to her pony tail, she has the uncluttered look of a noble country wife. I'd say both are in their mid 40s.

The barn is swept clean. The afternoon sun tumbles through an open mow door, casting a radiant halo on the calm mule, its coat sparkling clean. What a delightful first impression!

The man says his name is Jim and that's his wife tying up the mule. She nods with a slight smile and moves away. "She's kind of shy," he explains, looking after his wife.

I mosey over to the mule and ask, "What's her name?"

"Molly," Jim replies.

I think to myself, "Molly. Gee, I'll bet there are hundreds of female mules named Molly - like collie dogs named Lassie."

Jim pats me on the back. "She's a good old mule. We've had lots of fun, and work too. I'll sit over here and watch you. Mind if I ask some questions?"

"Ask all the questions you like, as long as you don't mind if I make up the answers," I joke, as I pick up the mule's near front foot to trim.

"How come the mule's hoof and the horse's hoof look different?" Jim asks.

"It has to do with the mule being a hybrid. The cross of the horse and the ass. The shape and form of her hoof is between that of the horse and that of the ass - wide open heels, a large prominent frog, thick, strong hoof walls, long, narrow hoof shape, and an upright stance. This gives her a short, easy stride."

"We had this old Quarter Horse," Jim says. "Seems like she needed shoes all the time. Her feet just fell apart - cracked, chipped, you know what I mean? This mule doesn't have those problems. Is that common?"

"Yes, it is. In some horses the hoof wall is too thin and weak to support the horse's weight, but you'll never see a thin hoof wall on a mule. Many mules never even need shoes. That depends, of course, on the mule's work and health."

"How can I tell when my mule needs her hooves worked on?" Jim asks.

"It's best not to guess. Get your mule on a schedule so the farrier comes out every six to eight weeks. The feet will stay healthy and the mule will stay happy, and you'll never have to worry if hoof care is needed. I like to see people pick up and clean the feet every day. Then you can see if there's a problem like thrush, broken hoof wall, or a loose shoe." I stop to catch my breath before adding, "Now, mind if I ask you some questions about Molly?"

"Oh, sure, she's my favorite topic," Jim says.

"How long she been around?"

"Gee, let's see. Ah, 15 years last spring," Jim smiles.

"She looks like she could work all day and not break a sweat."

"Let me tell you," a look of past joys spreads across his weathered face. He jerks his thumb in the direction of the fields. "She works with me out there in them fields cockcrow to dusk, with never a complaint."

"I see Molly looks fit, but she's still young," I say as I move to the next foot.

"I'll thank you for Molly," Jim says. I can hear the pride in his voice. "But we all work hard, eat right, and get good rest. It feels good to be in shape and work hard. City folks would die if they worked like we do. They call sitting at a desk all day work. Boy, I couldn't do that."

"Me either."

While I work and we talk, the mule stands like a champion, handing me each foot in turn. I compliment Jim on her training and disposition as I nail on the last shoe and put the foot down.

I stand up and give the mule several pats on her neck. "Good girl, you're one of the best mules I've ever worked on. Good girl, Molly."

Jim bolts from the old chair, calling out, "Molly, Molly." He doubles over, clutching his stomach in uncontrollable laughter. "Molly ain't no mule. Molly's my wife! The dang mule's name is Cindy."

F. Thomas Breningstall is an AFA and MHA certified full-time farrier living in Fowlerville, Michigan. His column "Hoof & Hammer" appears regularly in RURAL HERITAGE draft-animal magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

First published in Rural Heritage draft-animal magazine, reprinted here with permission.