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Hartselle Enquirer

Young mules hard to break

By Clif Knight

My parents and four of their seven children lived in rural Etowah County during World War II (1940-1945). During that time my father worked on a dairy farm, driving a truck and delivering milk to customers in Gadsden.

During the previous seven years, he and my mother struggled to make a living for their growing family as sharecroppers. They moved from farm to farm looking to improve their income and jumped quickly to take a city job that would provide them with a steady income. Owning their own farm remained a goal for the family, however.

Thanks to a strong wartime economy, they were able to save enough money to purchase a 50-acre farm in 1944 and move back to Clay County. The transition called for the family to grow a crop for one of daddy’s brothers while preparations were made to occupy our own house and begin farming our own land.

One of the biggest challenges the family faced was to break a pair of young mules and get them comfortable pulling a wagon and other farm implements. The mules we bought were mean spirited and new to work on a farm. One was black, fast-gaited and weighed 1,000 pounds and the other one was fast-gaited, brown and weighed about 850 pounds.

The first time they were hitched to a wagon, they dragged a brand-new wagon over the remains of two caved-in storm pits and left a badly damaged wagon in their wake. They also broke and ran the first time they were hitched to a hay rake, bending it out of shape. Then, they pulled a runaway wagon into the side of a barn and were left dangling on the tongue six feet above ground.

In the winter months that followed, they pulled a wagon at running speed to our farm four miles away and worked all day ahead of a turning plow, ripping Bermuda sod from fields, which were left out of production for several years. They returned the favor by running the entire length of the return trip home.

In another test of their endurance, they were hitched to a subsoil plow and worked nonstop until they had covered a two-acre field.

For the most part, both mules went on to become sure-footed, reliable workers in the field, as long as you kept flying objects and abandoned storm pits out of their line of vision.

 

 

 

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