Bronze's Expedition Log

Expedition Log

Mule Packing Trial

It’s been a pretty productive week for ol’ Bronze.  I attended a equine handling clinic taught by Dee Howe last weekend, which gave me more hands-on practice at recognizing and easing pain.  She also let me practice loading some uncooperative horses into her trailer, which will no doubt be a valuable training for when Bootsie and I come across a ford or rickety bridge.

I finished my tomahawk sheath, adding a thick belt loop so it can hang around my waist.  On the advice of the verbose Bob McLeish, my Senior Technical Advisor, I also made some very rudimentary center-seam moccasins using this moccasin pattern.  These will be more comfortable for walking around camp, or if I have to get up in the middle of the night to untangle a mule or defeat large bear in hand to hand combat.  The leather I used isn’t the highest quality and, it being my first time, the stitching could be more precise–I’m sure they could be more comfy.  Hopefully a little wear will conform them to my feet.

The most encouraging development of the week is my packing trial with Bootsie.  Granted we only went a little over a mile, but I didn’t want to take chances with our first go.  Though it should have come as no surprise given the price and pedigree of my fine steed, it was with some trepidation that I rigged the sawbuck saddle on her back for the first time.  Happily, she barely batted an eye at the whole ungainly apparatus–breechings, breast-collar and all.  I loaded a 50lb sack of feed in each pannier and hung them from each side of we went without complaint.  Everything with the mule has been such a steep learning curve for me I was relieved to not get any resistance or confusion with this area.

In a way, I think she liked having the packs on.  I perceived a certain calmness or settling of her spirit.  Perhaps it wasn’t enjoyable, but rather she just submitted further to the task I was asking of her.  I’ve heard that some mules prefer to be working and look forward to the day’s march or plowing.  Perhaps feeling the saddle on her back reminded her of her glorious youth driving a covered wagon from Arkansas to Idaho.  Perhaps she felt like she had a purpose again…

There remain many facets of the packing experience that I have to figure out, but at least getting the saddle on and walking around a bit isn’t one of them.  I’m going to practice throwing the diamond hitch tonight with a miniature mock up of the mule and saddle. I thought these diamond hitch instructions were pretty useful if you want to learn.

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