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Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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Here come the mules....

Here come the mules

“So, what’s the big deal about mules?” asked my grandson, as he skated in circles balancing himself on the heels of his wheeled tennis shoes, a new skill he is just now beginning to master.

We are trying to get ready to go to Columbia, Tennessee, for the annual Mule Day parade. Not that I’m crazy about mules, or anything else equine, but it’s something different to do, and a chance to get away from the omnipresent computer games that consume a child’s mind these days.

We are running late, again. We always seem to run late. It is further than we remembered and we don’t know our way around town. The streets are closed for the parade and the police flag us away. Finally, we follow a group of motorcycle riders that seem to know where they are going and end up about a block from the parade route.

At first my grandson ignores the endless procession of mules and wagons, still more interested in endless stretches of sidewalk where he can test his balance by doing wheelies in his tennis shoes. But eventually curiosity gets the best of him and he turns his attention to the reason we are here.

We push him through a crack between people in the crowd, up to the front where a kid can see. Later on, I sneak through to the front myself and set on the curb where I snap pictures and ponder his question, "What is the big deal is about mules?"

Mules are a big deal to the people that own them and apparently to a lot of other people too. About 125,000 people, from all over the south turn out for the parade and festival. Tennessee folks like things plain and simple and what could be less pretentious than mules?

Columbia is widely known in these parts for its celebration of everything associated with mules. In early times, the story goes, Columbia was a commercial center for the mule market trade. The mule, produced by cross-breeding a horse and donkey, has traits from both animals but cannot reproduce, which creates a constant market for mules by those who appreciate this animal. This mule market eventually evolved through the years into a week-long celebration.

Mules are as varied in type as horses, but show the donkey side of their breeding with their long expressive ears, donkey tails, and quirky traits.  Mules are often believed to be stubborn, but those in the know believe they are actually highly intelligent. They sometimes arouse the ire of their owners, who say to handle them they must first learn to out think them.

Mules have a strong sense of self-preservation and refuse to endanger themselves by continuing to work when tired, sometimes a source of great aggravation to owners. Mules are especially known for their great strength and endurance, which made them popular with pioneers and farmers in the early days before machinery took over agriculture and wheelies took over sidewalks.

My grandson is getting into the spirit at last and adjusts his baseball cap to watch as the mules clop by. There are all types of mules, from miniature animals bred for their tiny size, to huge magnificent animals with fancy tack and flamboyant riders in dusters. The wagons that are pulled by the animals are decorated in their parade finery.

I don’t know how impressed my grandson is, but usually kids like almost anything that is outside of their usual routine of life. Amusement parks and computers are okay to a point, but kids need to see and do different things and to have a variety of experiences, especially in this time of electronic everything. At least that’s my theory.

However, my grandson is back to doing wheelies by now, whizzing across the asphalt, hands in his pockets and toes pointed upwards, carefully avoiding the deposits left in the road after the parade was gone.

“How do you like the mules?” I asked hopefully.

“They’re okay”, he responded, “Can we get pizza now?”

I guess kids nowadays just can't understand a form of transportation that doesn't do wheelies.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss

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