Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

Mules And More Mules

Mules and more Mules

Today’s guest post was written by Mary Lou McKillip.

Mules and more Mules

I enjoy talking with old timers who have a story to tell about yester- years. I once had the pleasure of talking with an old gentleman who told me the mule stories below. He had a crinkle of mischief that seemed to flow from his eyes. He grinned from ear to ear while telling me these tales of humor.

He said “My Dad always had mules to plow his fields.” He told me his Dad had a pair of black mules about the same in stature. One mule wouldn’t work without the other one. One day his Dad only needed one mule to plow. He harnessed Joe hooked him to the singletree and left Bob in the stable. Joe plowed one round then balked. He wouldn’t pull the plow no matter what his Dad said or did. His father got Bob out of the stable tied him near the field where he was plowing with Joe, then Joe happily finished his chore of plowing the field.

His Dad also had an ole mule named Fred. Now ole Fred was like his Dad he was getting old. Fred would work hard but when he got tired he would lay down and stretch out to rest. His Dad always allowed Fred this privilege. One day Fred was stretched out resting and a Buzzard was circling in the sky. First thing his Dad knew that Buzzard flew down lit under Fred’s tail and took a big bite. Boy, old Fred was up draggin that plow behind him fast. He went round and round finally the old Buzzard fell from under Fred’s tail. When it came for Fred to leave the old farm and plow in Heaven, he propped up against a maple tree and died.

One of his Dad’s mules was named Kate. She was humble, did everything his Dad commanded. She had no faults to hear his Father tell it. His Dad had a wooden homemade sled he hauled his plows on. He would take Kate and plow folk’s gardens in the neigborhood. After plowing for folks he would tie the reigns to the sled and say to Kate, “It’s time to go home gal.” Kate would go home to the barn on her own.

The man’s Dad died with a big corn and potato patch already out. The storyteller along with his brother and sister harvested the crop. Wouldn’t you know, gentle Kate had a different side. Guess what? Do you think Kate helped the process along like she did with their Father? Heck no, they would have to catch her to put the bridle on while she was trying to bite them. When they finally got her hooked to the plow to get the potatoes up, she wouldn’t pull the plow. His brother hollered, “Hit her in the tail with a tatter, she’ll move it then”. The story teller said, “Getty up Kate.” She turned her head slowly to look at him then shook her head no.

Kate was determined no youngins of her master was going to take her masters place and boss her around. When she was in the pasture, she would pretend she was going to let them catch her. When they got close to her she’d turn and run, curling up her lips whining at them as if she was laughing at them. The siblings had to get their old aging mother to hobble out to the pasture and catch Kate. Kate was as gentle as a lamb being lead to the slaughter when their mother caught her.

When it was gathering corn time his brother made the mistake of tying the reigns to the sled. He didn’t say gal it time to go home but Kate headed for the barn, sled, corn and all. Boy that family had one more time with Kate but they did eventually get the crop harvested.

Finally they decided to sell Kate. The folks that bought Kate said she was gentle and worked for them like she did for their father.

Would you venture a guess to say Kate didn’t like the offspring of her master? Or would you have doubts as to who was the boss on that old farm………………


I hope you enjoyed Mary Lou’s mule tales as much as I did.




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  • Reply
    Roger Brothers
    February 28, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    You sure that’s a mule in the photo? Looks like a horse!

    One of my gg grandfathers was Frank McWaters. He was a teamster for the 17th Alabama Infantry during the war to prevent Atlanta.

    According to the stories he told the family his mules were very intelligent and had a finely tuned instinct for self preservations. They had learned that anytime the drums started the long roll and the bugles started blowing assembly there would soon be a battle and minie balls and shells would be flying. They would immediately excercise the better part of their valor and beat it for the rear.

    At one point according to Frank the Yankees had them pinned against a river where there was no bridge or ford (this sounds like the battle of Resaca Georgia and the 17th was there)

    Frank was worried that he and his team would be captured but when the drums and bugles started up the mules hit the river a swam to the other side taking their wagon and Frank with them!

    • Reply
      February 28, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      Roger-yep its a horse! Only picture I had 🙂 Thanks for sharing your gg grandfather’s story-its a good one!

  • Reply
    October 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I was just sent a CD of my grandfather telling kids’ bedtime stories. My uncle and cousin thought to get him on tape telling his stories while he was battling lung cancer 20 or so years ago. He lost his battle with the cancer, but my sons now 5 months, 3 years and 5 years old enjoy hearing his voice and listening to the stories. Granddaddy starts one of his stories by saying “this is a secret only known by Middle Georgia redneck farmers about Black Nose mules who will only work in pairs, Red Nose mules that are big and only good for sawmill work where they skid the logs out of the swamps and little Blue Nose mules who work by themselves and work cirles around all the other mules out there. Mister you need to get you a Blue Nose mule.”

  • Reply
    February 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I did enjoy the mule stories! Especially Ole Kate!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    February 13, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Great mule stories today. I remember some mules my father had. One was named Bell. I never thought much of mules, didn’t think they were pretty like horses, but since I’ve been grown, I’ve seen some that are nice looking creatures.
    My favorite on our farm was Charlie a great big old white horse who plowed well, I suppose. I was about four years old and I’d run down the path when I saw Daddy bringing Charlie home. Daddy would swing me up on Charlie’s back and I felt on top of the world. That began my love affair with horses which has never ended.

  • Reply
    Robert Loftis
    February 12, 2012 at 1:00 am

    I guess thats where the saying:youre as stubborn as a mule::comes from Huh?

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    February 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    My daddy could bray like a mule and get mules and/or donkeys to talk back to him… Momma and us kids used to tease him and say we didn’t know whichever one was the biggest jackass…the mules or my daddy. Love mule stories. Thank Mary Lou for sharing these stories.

  • Reply
    Nancy Mullen
    February 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Loved the mule stories! Even got to ride a mule once..easiest ride ever. I heard stories from my Grandpa about working with mules. It seems every mule was different…but what else would you expect.

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    February 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I always enjoy reading Mary Lou’s stories. She has such a wonderful sense of humor and is a keeper of the Southern Appalachian stories. Fantastic story!

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I really enjoyed those mule stories from Mary Lou. Never had
    any experience with mules, but my
    daddy use to plow with his brother’s horse named Alice. I
    enjoyed riding in the old corn
    sled she pulled back to the crib
    loaded with corn.
    And Ed Ammons mentioned a ‘snake
    feeder’, that’s what we always
    called that helicopter looking
    thing that hung out around the
    cat tails growing in our brim

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    February 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    This brought back alot of memories..Tell Mary Lou thanks for the story and thank you for posting..Susie

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I googled Snake Feeder and got darning needle, devil’s darning needle, dragonfly, mosquito hawk & sewing needle. When I was little, if you saw a snake feeder, you knew to be careful because there was a snake in the area. Betcha Pap has heard them called snake feeders.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Hello Tipper, I always enjoy your articles and enjoy Mary Lou’s storries. the one about the mule is really good, I also like he Coon Dawg stories, some are on

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I did enjoy the mule tales, and I can add a short one. do not ever try to plat the tail of a mule into a braid because he will kick you right in the tummy, as he did me.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Tipper, I hope this Mules story brought back memories of others grandparents or tale they heard about Mules.One my dad told me some times a mule would work for you years just to kick your brains out. He loved all his mules and they worked hard for him .

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Ed-no I haven’t heard snake feeder for dragon fly. I guess that is similar to the snake doctor reference Tim and Bradley made.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Have you noticed that most all the mules we remember had only one syllable in their name?
    All except one of Grandpa and Papa’s (Dinah) had just the single.
    I don’t know if that was a reflection on the mule smarts or the man smarts.
    Also, since most mules were female, why were they given male names?
    Something to cogitate on.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Ed, my Granny used to have this saying. If she was proud of something she would say, “Lord I wouldn’t take a blue nose mule for that!” I never knew what a blue nose mule looked like. Also, when we were little boys playing in the creek and saw a dragonfly (for some reason there seemed to be more of them down at the creek) we would call them “Snake Doctors.”

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Great story! Sometimes on my way to my home, I stop to visit with the donkeys that a farmer keeps. They aren’t work animals, but a rescue. They like to eat carrots when I visit.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 11, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Great stories. Animals really do have a personality of their own.
    My Granddaddy had a horse to plow with and he named her Bonnie. Just so happens my mothers (his daughter in law) name was Bonnie also. Guess it was a stubborn horse.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

    This brings back memories of how smart mules are. Once when in my earl twenties Dad borrowed a mule from an older neighbor of ours to plow out our “Taters”. I made one trip down the row turned the mule around and said git up, nothing happened, I tried again, again nothing. I tried for approx five minutes and suddenly she took off, plowed back down the row, turned around and again just stood there for another five minutes. I finally realized that our neighbor who was in his seventies had to rest at the end of each row and no amount of begging, pleading or threatening could get the mule out of her trained way of plowing. I finally got the “Taters” plowed out but it was on the mules terms, not mine. I had a real life example of where the term “stubborn as a mule” came from.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 11, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I loved Mary Lou’s Mule stories. Only problem was it didn’t last through a cup of coffee. Guess I need a smaller cup?
    My daddy talked about having a blue mule. That was before I can remember. Can somebody tell me what he meant by blue? a mule?
    Tipper-From yesterday, have you ever hear a dragonfly called a Snake Feeder?

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    February 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Pop (Hubby’s father) kept a mule for plowing and skidding when we were first married.
    Hubby bought him a garden tiller,to make things easier, and Pop refused to even try to use it. After he passed aaway, Granny tried to harness the mule to break garden, and that mule ‘sulled up’. It was fine unless we tried to harness it to work. Granny sold it soon after that.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    February 11, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Loved hearing about old Fred and Streaky.
    I’ve heard or read many a tale about our “domesticated” animals, more often with the slant being that they’ve domesticated us.
    There was this old coon hound that…

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 11, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I enjoyed the mule stories! I remember my daddy’s mules, my favorite of which was named “Pet.” I learned to ride a mule on Pet’s back, and when World War II came and my brother went into service, I had to learn to operate the corn planter and cultivator plow (although I was a girl!) because Daddy needed more help in the fields. It was always Pet I hitched to the planter and plow, because she would “mind” me as she did my father. Not so with Tom. He allowed me to feed him, but didn’t like a teenaged girl hooking him up to work.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I Love the stories, animals are so funny sometimes.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 5:54 am

    However sad I was to see that poor old Fred died under the maple tree, I couldn’t help laughing out loud when the buzzard bit him and he started plowing! As for Kate, my guess is that she always remained loyal to her master while she was in the family. She would work for her new boss in order not to disappoint her master who had probably taught her to be a hard-working mule.
    In Cyprus, donkeys were used to carry things from one village to another. However heavy their load was, they never complained-not even when the owner, often an old woman, would also sit on their backs.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2012 at 5:26 am

    This is my kind of story Tipper! I worked with this older gentleman once and he told a mule tale about a mule he had for years and years. Seems that when he first married he bought a red mule and he was very frisky. He would take reunning spells. The old man said that his wife walked out into the yard and saw the mule one morning and said, “Well looks like you got a STREAKY!” So from then on his name was Streaky.
    Now this man told me that all the old timers had a belief that if a mule or horse ever stopped and looked back at you it meant that it had done all it could do and you shouldn’t work it anymore. Well, don’t know if that’s so but Streaky did that one morning. This man loved Streaky so much that he said, “Streaky that’s it, you ain’t never gonna hit another *[email protected]# lick as long as you live. Streaky retired that morning and was unhooked fron the harness and played in the pasture for for the rest of his life.
    The old man said he put up a sign on the fence post that said, “This mule is not for hire!”

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