Friday, February 6, 2009
Ernest and Hemingway
At ground level, they all look the same to me -- horse or mule. As far as I can tell, the only difference is the length of their ears. Well, there is another important difference. The trail teats they leave me. Blue and Sadie probably disagree, but I prefer horse biscuits to mule droppings any day.
Dangerous tells me that I need to look at them from his perspective -- a little higher up sitting in the saddle. According to him, he isn't smart enough or man enough to own or ride a mule, and what Fremont Bob really needs is another good horse. Since I only know Ernest and Hemingway, Bob's two riding mules, I can only assess what Dangerous tells me based on my experience with them.
Since Hemingway got his growth, it is a bit difficult to tell them apart. Color and size don't distinguish them much any more. Both are solid black with few distinguishing marks. At a distance, they are similar in size with unruly hair. When you get up close, Ernest is considerably bigger. I guess he is 17 hands tall, and, depending on the time of year, looks like he swallowed a 55 gallon barrel. You don't have time to sort out Ernest from Hemingway if they catch you alone in Fremont Bob's pasture. While Blue and Sadie have them figured out, I stay next to Dangerous when crossing the pasture to avoid becoming part of mother earth. They will hunt you down if you don't belong and make short work of an unsuspecting sheep dog striking with their front hooves.
I wouldn't call them willful or stubborn, but maybe difficult best describes them. According to Dangerous, "they are too damn smart for their own good." He tells me that most horses usually accept their lot in life and try to get along. They usually forgive rider mistakes and don't dwell on perceived injustices. But, that's not always the case with mules. Ernest and Hemingway may not be experts in American jurisprudence, but they are well versed in mule law which states, "don't get mad get even." Since they can live up to 40 years, that's a long time to watch your back waiting for them to take revenge.
Fremont Bob is a patient and kind mule man. But, even so, there are times when his patience runs a bit thin. Many a morning Dangerous, Utah Jack, and I have loaded Dottie and Little Guy thinking Fremont will show up any minute. He doesn't own a watch or working clock, but that usually doesn't explain his tardiness. Hemingway didn't want to be caught, and once caught wouldn't stay loaded in the trailer. If you ever stop to visit Bob, take a look at the crater Hemingway has dug where Fremont Bob usually saddles him.
On the trail, Ernest and Hemingway are sure footed and have great gaits. They easily keep up with Dottie Dangerous' Walking Horse. About anyone can ride Ernest, but don't open a potato chip bag, unwrap a sandwich, or anything else that crinkles when opened. Ernest can really cover the ground, and it has to be his idea to stop not yours. Hemingway has a sweet disposition, but a mind of his own. I have got to watch when his steering goes out. He will take Fremont Bob wherever he pleases without a second thought about who is suppose to be in charge.
Don't get me wrong, horses can be difficult at times too. I have been around the whole time Dangerous has been working with Dottie. Ole Dangerous about gave up on her during the first two years. Fremont Bob told him at the time that he should tie her next to the road with a sign around her neck offering a free horse. Well, he didn't give up, and five years later she is a pretty good trail pony. Fortunately, for Dangerous she isn't as smart as Ernest or Hemingway, or that sign may have gone around her neck.
Well, that's my take on two of my back country pals -- Ernest and Hemingway. By the way, can you tell them apart? Take a minute and check the pictures closely. Is that Fremont Bob or a Hollywood movie star wearing the dark glasses? Nice look Bob! Love to hear from you.