by Bob and Brenda Ammons, Golden Pond, Kentucky
Over the years I have written many articles about Molly Shakespear, telling (I should say bragging) about what a perfect mule she is. I still think she is a very special mule, but it’s time to admit the perfect mule has hooves of clay.
Wranglers Campground at Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky is our home for nine months each year. I have written articles about the great trails to ride, and also it is a favorite area for wagons because of the miles of trails and abandoned roads the wagons can travel.
One day I was thinking (that usually means trouble) about how nice it would be to have a cart for Molly to pull on the wagon trails. I have recovered well from my stroke, but can’t ride all day like I use to, but I still want to.
I was sure Molly would handle this challenge like everything else and it would be easy to get her ready for the cart. I was so convinced that I went to Goshen Valley Buggy Shop in Elkton, Ky., and had him build me a cart. Now, this is where the mistakes start to pile up.
After the cart was ordered I went cheap…really cheap, on a set of nylon harness that didn’t fit Molly, and I had to modify it to even get it on her. When I finally got the harness on Molly my niece spent several days ground driving Molly, and she did pretty well. We then thought Molly was ready to hook to a cart, so I borrowed a forecart from a friend, who assured me the cart was indestructible. Well, maybe it was, but Molly, much to our surprise, didn’t like being hooked to it and proceeded to wreck the cart. After repairing the cart we decided the safest course of action was to take Molly to Toby (a local Amish family) and let him and his sons teach Molly to drive.
I couldn’t call Toby because he doesn’t use a phone, so I just showed up with Molly. When I pulled up with Molly in the trailer Toby came out and said, “Great, another mule and its haying time.” I think Molly understood what we were talking about because when I left without her I am sure I saw tears in her eyes.
Toby and his sons have a good reputation for training mules and horses to ride and drive. I knew I was leaving Molly Shakespear in good, but firm, hands. I was reasonably sure Molly would not be pampered as Brenda and I have a habit of doing. The first week of training had Molly hooked double with a draft horse, pulling a hay cutter. The second week of training Molly was hooked double with a horse that was the same size as her. After two weeks of hooking double Molly was set out on her own, as a single hook.
I was surprised one morning when my friend called and said, “I am behind an Amish buggy full of people and the horse is trotting on out.” After a couple of miles of following he said he was shocked when he got a good look and saw that it was Molly pulling the buggy. When the friend got a chance to pass the buggy he rived up his Dodge motor; Molly never made a bobble, and kept on clipping along.
We left Molly with Toby and family for another four weeks for fine tuning. After six long weeks without our girl, Brenda and I went to pick her up. When Molly saw us I think she would have hugged us if it had been possible. We ask one of the boys to put new shoes on her before we loaded her. Molly has had shoes all her life and always stands perfectly still when being shod. When the young man got started, Molly acted like she had never had shoes on before. She did short kicks at him, swished her tail in his face, and jerked her hoof away from him. Molly is nobody’s fool; she saw her chance to get even. The boy managed to get one shoe on before we had to get his dad to help. Toby put on the other three shoes while Molly stood still, almost with a smile on her face, saying…”Ha, we are even now for those six weeks of hot, hard work.” Now that Molly Shakespear is home she is like the dream mule that does it all. Our plan was to have one mule, one mouth to feed, that we could ride or drive. We have invested another $4,500 in Molly with the purchase of new harness, an easy in-easy out cart, and training. All of this seems like a fair price since there is not enough money to buy Molly. We love our mule!