I wonder how many people take up the sport of longears and mournful bray from scratch. It seems like a lot of the mule skinners I know are following a rich tradition of farming, hunting, or packing that was passed to them in the old fashioned patriarchal way.
As Pater Familia I passionately hope my own progeny will have both the chance to enjoy the equine life and the desire to take it. I know the harsh reality is that they will probably end up living in a curb and guttered subdivision on a postage stamp lot someday. Unless you inherit money or land, it takes a lot of will power to make your home someplace where you can have equines. Just like I didn't inherit money or land, my kids won't either. If they carry on the tradition, they'll probably have to gut it out like I did.
When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get out of the small town where I came of age. I have now spent the rest of my life trying to get back to that magical place. "You can take the boy out of Mona, but you can't take Mona out of the boy," complained my realtor and Flying buddy Kevin Wilkenson as I held out, and held out for the acre we live on now. Here I sit, on the edge of town--not a single house between me and the grand canyon--watching a tsunami of development swallow me up. The edge is soon to be the middle, and long offered promises to keep our little valley a haven for us farmer types conveniently forgotten for whatever political and financial expedience tickles the fancy of our fearless leaders. Just two weeks ago they approved the highest density development St George has seen yet adjacent to the most agriculturally active ag zoned subdivision in town--98 low income homes in 30 acres. Maybe more on that later...
I grew up without mules. And my only exposure to the assinus brand of equines was the big stud jack my friend Johnny Wilson's grandpa owned for a short time. We mostly avoided him after he bucked Johnny off and broke his arm. He was rank. So Johnny and I stuck to riding his grandpa's calves.
I did inherit life at the foot of the most impressive of all of God's mountain creations. Its symmetrical three peaks, a living metaphor of the triune God always lifted our eyes heavenward. HE had to have carved her presidential profile on purpose! The trail to the top was its own allegorical narrative of life's climb--unbelievably difficult, but what rapture at the summit! We loved the challenge of climbing her steepled peaks. Just once, David, Gordon and I quit before the summit because we were hungry for marshmallows--running back off the mountain before obtaining the prize. Being so imprinted by her immense presence I still, 22 years after moving from her shadow, can hardly wait to see her profile from any of the vantage points we cross in our travels. Its a game for our family to see who can claim "I SEE MT NEBO!" first as we come up the interstate on our way north.
Old Ross Newton was the trail boss for an annual 3 day trail ride on Nebo that Mona's cowboys anticipated every year. Then it was Johnny's grandpa, Bob Wilson, who assumed that mantle. I got to go a couple of times as a kid which is probably part of what ruined me from ever being happy living as a horseless urbanite. We would cross her northern portal in Pole Canyon, camp at the Salamander ponds, then cross the backside via the sheep camp, and finally cross over the skyline for an exit out through Willow Creek. It was pretty heady stuff for a kid, those nights under the stars with the stock listening to a babbling brook and hearing the old men spin their yarns around the fire. It was one of the Kay boys that showed us blue darts and nearly burned his eyebrows off in the process. That same Kay boy saved Johnny and I from burning the mountain down that same night by blowing out the candles we left burning in the dry pine needles next to our sleeping bags.
I also inherited the farm ideal from my dad. He grew up on a real farm in Idaho where they grew sugar beets and potatoes. He settled our family in Mona which lies just west of Mt Nebo's footprint on an acre where we had to milk cows, goats, and tend a large garden. No longer was farming a way to make his living, but a way to raise kids. I'm sure those 5 a.m. butt kickings to get the chores done were torture, but I don't remember the pain. I just remember how tough and manly my hands were and how fresh warm milk tasted on my tongue when it was bitter cold out.
At 19 I left Mona's old fashioned charm and shelter with a belly full of ideals. It took me 20 full years to finally hand the small farm lifestyle to my up and coming kids. Ten years of education and ten years of business had to pass before things were in place for it. Sure they complain now, but I know my kids will be better equiped for any vocation life throws their way because of it. My lovely wife and I get to chuckle when we have to apply our own butt kickings for their enrichment. I didn't inherit land or money, I inherited something priceless.