Have you ever been called “stubborn”? I really don’t know where the word comes from, except that it might be related to the word “stub” or “stubble,” which can describe the short blunt end of a piece of wood. And if it happens to be sticking out of the ground, it’s easy to stumble over—much like folks who are set in their ways.
I think, as I get older, I’ve pretty much decided on what I want in my life and what I don’t. I’ve also realized that I don’t have to change my ways to make someone else happy. Such is the way of mules: you can yell at a mule all day long and it’s only just going to look at you and do what it wants. Perhaps the saying “stubborn as a mule” is well deserved and accurate. So, why would anyone love a mule? Maybe it’s because of their strength to persist when faced with adversity. Maybe it’s because of their sense of independence. Or maybe it’s just loyalty.
We have a neighbor who is passionately in love with mules. He’s an older man whose greatest joy in life is working with his mules and taking care of them. I’m sure you know the depth of love people can have for their pets; well, these mules are more than pets. They’re like family to this old farmer.
A few years back, we had a drought, and hay was getting pretty scarce. The farmer said he was concerned about his livestock and asked us about grazing his three mules on another farm we owned at the time. Katrina and I said, “Certainly! Feel free to turn them out on the farm and let them have all the tall grass and pasture they want.” He told us that one of his mules, Molly, had been having health problems that seemed to come and go. He wasn’t too worried about her since the vet had seen her, but said he’d be around to check on her anyway.
We said we’d also keep an eye on her whenever we went to the farm.
Well, the mules seemed to prosper on those rich pastures as summer passed into fall and the weather turned cold. We had a rainy spell around that time, and the long dirt road that dead-ended at our farm was getting close to impassable. We figured we’d better head out there while we could still get over the road. We parked at our cattle gate, opened it, and began walking. Strange—no animals were there to greet us. We concluded that with all the hills and valleys separated by stands of woods, they were probably off exploring. Yet it didn’t seem like their normal behavior.
Finally, on a distant hilltop we spied two mules. When we got closer, we could see the third one lying down, covered with mud. It was Molly! Katrina ran up to her as Molly raised her head. Recognizing Katrina, Molly nudged my wife’s hand, motioning for Katrina to just hold her. The scene was spellbinding: this mule just wanting to be held, to be touched, to be loved, as her two companions stood loyally in a silent vigil over her. I watched as Molly and Katrina locked gazes and spoke to each other’s hearts.
Because we had no cell phone reception in that area, we rushed home to contact our neighbor about Molly’s condition. The night was dark, cold, and wet. Molly must have known she was reaching out to my wife for final comfort. Her two companions never left her side, loyal to the end and standing over her all that time. I guess you could call that stubborn as a mule!
How many times do we have the opportunity to just be there for someone, just to hold their hand, to look into their eyes, to blend our hearts with theirs, and to never leave them in their final hour? Those mules … hmm, if we could only be as stubborn as mules in our love for one another …
Reflections from Turtle Lake,