by Ruth Reynolds
The old molly mule jumped off the webpage, pulled my heartstrings straight to herself, and held me there. It was hard to imagine an old mule in a state of such horrible neglect could be helped anywhere but out of this world and the miseries she had undoubtedly suffered. I came to know such determinations are best left to those with much more experience.
I learned of Ginny’s having be rescued from neglect when this e-mail crossed my screen on December 21, 2009:
“There are several mules in a IHR in Indiana if anyone is interested. They are actually taking offers.. This poor mule was brought in looking like this but I'm sure shes much better now.”
These weblinks were listed: http://www.ihrsouth.com/Available/Ginny/Ginny.htm, http://www.ihrsouthwest.com/available/Jenny/Jenny.htm, http://www.ihrpike.com/Available/Ollie/Ollie.htm
Ginny when she was taken in at Indiana Horse Rescue in the fall of 2009
Despite knowing my circumstance would not permit my personally taking on one of the animals in need, I found myself compelled to contact Indiana Horse Rescue (IHR) about Ginny and then to present her specific case to the discussion group from whence the e-mail had come to me. It turned out Ginny is a very sweet, old mule with 8 teeth. By December 21, 2009, she had gained a good bit of weight in the care of IHR, indicating she had the health and will to survive her ordeals.
Discussion in an online group about the three mules in need at various facilities overseen by Indiana Horse Rescue quickly shifted from “how can people do this to an animal,” to “how can we improve the circumstance for these mules.”
A member from Wyoming, Lee Blake, shared the story again of a relay transport event, “The Great Cotton Train of 2008,” in which a donkey in need was rehomed from California to Missouri by subscribers to the mule discussion group. Lee’s sharing that story was what it took to get the momentum rolling.
Ginny after her rescue
Several discussion group members applied to the IHR to adopt the mules in need. Others offered funds to help with the transportation expenses. A transportation relay plan to get the three mules to their adoptive homes developed quickly. Debbie Dokter offered a home to Ginny and Josie, (formerly Jenny). Ollie, would grow up with other mules with Anthony and Cathy McAllister. At the end of a three weeks’ wait for applications to be approved and for the winter weather to break, a modern Mule Train departed with the mules from Indiana on January 15, 2010.
The 2010 Winter Mule Train Departs
The paperwork necessary to legally move the mules through five states included proof of ownership, an interstate health certificate, and current negative Coggins Test result for each. The three mules were gathered together from several IHR farms and eventually a veterinarian in the Evansville, Ind., area who would work on mules was found. The twentyfour hour Coggins reports came through while the mules waited at a private farm.
Ollie settled in quickly with a long-yearling molly in his new home with the McAllisters. With days of play and lessons from his pasture mate ahead of him, Ollie had landed in a good place.
The McAllisters headed out for Sikeston, Mo., with the two mollie mules in an enclosed trailer for this coldest leg of their journey to Texas. They rendezvoused with Cindy and Curt Price, of Cuba, Mo., at Lamberts Cafe in Sikeston where the mules were blanketed and transferred to the Price’s trailer for the next leg of their journey. After breakfast for people and snacks and water for the mules the two couples headed separate directions.
The Prices met Ann Wright, of Conway, Ark., and her father, Ron, at the Arkansas Visitor Center west of Memphis on I-40. The mules were transferred to Wright's trailer and continued their journey to Benton, Arkansas. Sheron Hollis and her husband, Robert, of New Boston, Texas, met Ann and Ron for the first time in Benton and visited awhile as the mules ate more soaked beet pulp snacks.
Josie and Ginny waiting for blankets before loading in Sikeston, Mo.
When it was time to load up for the fourth leg of their journey, Ginny applied her brakes. The team loaded Josie into the front position this time and eventually Ginny followed her new buddy. Sheron and Robert headed out from Benton to the Bar-50 ranch in Bismarck, Arkansas.
At the Bar 50 Ranch the mules were unloaded, bedded down in covered stalls for the night, and fed after a good roll. As a cold rain set in over the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas, Sheron and Robert prepared their camp for the night.
At dawn Ginny’s vocalizations let everyone know it was time for breakfast when she saw Sheron appear near the barn. These mules had everyone hopping to accommodate their comforts as smart mules will try to do.
After breakfast, Sheron and Robert broke camp, loaded up the mules and headed out for Texas. With Robert at the wheel, Sheron busied herself with updates to the mule discussion group from her laptop.
The sixth leg of their trip ended at the farm of Donna and Jackie Bryant in Bivins, Texas, where Ginny and Josie were unblanketed and turned out in a lot to soak up some midday sunshine. Between rolling and investigating their surroundings the two mollies took turns warding off the attentions of one curious hound. The mules spent Sunday night under the stars over Texas. They were almost home.
Ginny with Sheron and Josie with Robert and one snoopy hound dog At Bivins, Texas
Monday morning, Ginny, anxious for whatever the day presented, was a sharp contrast to the evasive Josie who expressed to everyone she liked it just dandy in Bivins and there was no need to transport her further. She followed her buddy eventually and loaded on Donna Bryant’s trailer for the last and longest leg of the trip.
Donna arrived at the home of Debbie Dokter in Comfort, Texas, with Ginny and Josie on January 18, 2010. The women unloaded the mollies from the trailer for the last time. Ginny, to Donna’s relief, stepped off the trailer with vigor. With their feet on solid ground, both mules rolled and investigated their surroundings.
Debbie & Donna, were joined by Internet discussion group members, Lois and John Carroll who had driven in from west Texas to meet the two mules and friends. With the mules settled in for the night, the friends enjoyed a meal prepared by Debbie and a lovely visit.
The three mules’ journey, initiated by Indiana Horse Rescue’s taking them in and posting information about them on their website had resulted in getting all three into new homes. Nine people shared in escorting the mules through five states and more than 1300 miles.
A global community of 880 mule lovers followed the adoptions and the journey anxiously on the Internet. United in purpose --to see these mules make their ways to forever homes, unlikely to be the victims of neglect or abuse again--old friends reunited and new friendships were born throughout the mules’ journey from Indiana to Texas.
Josie (left) and Ginny (right) munching on coastal hay at their new home in Texas
When I solicited comments from the escorts as to why they chose involvement with these mules, the comments boiled down to, “Why did they do this,” some will ask? Why do any of us help others ever? Why do some seem to help others never? The answer to that question is as individual as the participants. The common thread in their reasons was that they all love mules and believe they should be in places where they are understood and appreciated.
Additionally amongst the comments from those who participated this common thread became evident, “I participated because THIS time things came together so I could.“ What has become apparent to me is that what appears insurmountable is not when forces join together…for the love of mules.
About the author: Ruth Reynolds lives in Tennessee with her husband, four Bernese Mountain Dogs, four horses and one party animal disguised as a mule.