Sunday, March 18, 2007

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Mules

A mule is an mixed species animal obtained by cross breeding one variety of horse with one of several varieties of donkey or jackass. The cross is usually between a female horse (mare) and a male donkey (jack). Less commonly, the cross may also be between a male horse (sire or stud) and a female donkey (Jenny). In this case the resultant offspring is called a 'hinny' or 'she mule' and is usually much smaller than a mule.

Mules can be very beautiful and, they can also be ugly as hell. All mules have personality, be it playful, sullen or lazy. But, the one big thing all mules are noted for is their stubbornness - and, the origin of the expression 'stubborn as a mule."

Mules are noted for their patient endurance, and for their ability to carry heavy loads. In past years of animal powered farming, mules were often preferred for field work over horses for this reason. The breeding and sale of mules was a thriving business all over the country, and most particularly in the American south and West. Former President Harry S Truman was a mule trader in his early career for example. In the northeast, draft horses were sometimes more common.

But, normally, usually, a mule is very patient and placid. Mules are not easily moved to drastic action unless severely provoked or excited. Sometimes though, mules may be stampeded through a sort of contagious group excitement caused by something unknown, and puzzling to their masters. Sometimes a mule's master may cause excitement or a stampede amongst mules through some deliberate action on his part.

If provoked or pushed beyond endurance, a mule can be dangerous. Being intelligent animals - far more intelligent it seems than horses - mules might go along sullenly for days while brooding and plotting some sort of revenge over the target of its displeasure.

The mildest form of a mule's revenge might be a deliberate misbehavior, or destruction of property or crops. Worse, the animal might wait for a chance to bite or kick its master, sneakily and taking them by surprise. And, worst of all, the mule might even plot and carry out an attack which could kill its master. There are many recorded cases of such murders by mules on record.

Mules might be compared to America's mixed race electorate. We are patient, long suffering, carry heavy loads and mostly do what we are told. We can, and often are stampeded into some kind of crazy, drastic action through deliberate provocation by our masters - in our case by our elected officials. But, being patient, long suffering plotters ourselves, the electorate, like mules may sullenly lay in wait for the opportunity to take revenge.

The revenge may be mild if the offense is not too great, or we may even murder our masters, perhaps not in the literal sense, but by arbitrarily ending their political dominance and power. I think the mules of America have taken just about all they have the patience for.

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