Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sister Suzy Wore Spurs

Nature got her revenge on man when she created a woman's wiles. And if that wasn't enough, the woman ramped it up with all kinds of un-mentionables. The other day, I saw that they got this company out now called Victoria's HUSH HUSH?... anyhow, just thinkin about how much better lookin you are on a mule. And spurs? Whoa up there, pard. You better be careful with the pictures from today's ride, Sister Suzy. When your hubby Doran sees you in spurs on a Mule, you might not outrun him.

Sister Suzy says she was glad she was riding my good Molly today. We lost the trail on our way back down from the Snow Canyon overlook, and had to come down off the top through some ledgy, washed out canyon. She said I took her daughters and her the hard way on purpose, which just is not true. I will admit I let her believe that no human had ever taken a horse down this particular canyon before, but only because I wanted her to feel like she accomplished something really spectacular after it was over, kinda like after a bungee jump when you proudly throw out your chest and strut around exclaiming, "Hooooaahh!" I don't know why she was all worried. It was just another day in the desert for the mules.

After the ride, we sauntered into Marv's Diner for a burger, spurs a-jingling across the tiled floor. All eyes glanced our way. Cowboy boots just seem strange in our newly cosmopolitanized town, and the diner full of bike helmets and spandex made us stand out. As we bellied up to the bar to make our order, some lady boldly left her seat and approached Sister Suzy and me. "Why do you wear spurs?" she questioned us--the tone of her voice implying that we were somehow being cruel to our mounts. Are you kiddin me lady? Its all about sex appeal. You ever seen a dude on a horse wearing a sweat band, jogging pants and tennis shoes? I can't speak for Sister Suzy, but riding a mule and wearing spurs is good for my love life...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Baptized in the East Fork of the Virgin

There are all kinds of baptism in this world. Some people argue that it is best by immersion, some by sprinkling. Some people get it by fire. Brother Mike and his tall Walking mule Maggie got it today in the cold winter waters of the East Fork of the Virgin; and it was nearly a full immersion. Tweren't very ceremonious, and Tweren't done by any Godly authority, but Brother Mike prayed over his molly Maggie as she went down into the water. He invoked all the proper Biblical Latin one would expect, including most of the profanity available in the modern mule-skinner's lexicon.

We got in the river at Mount Carmel Junction yesterday and rode into the heart of the canyon beyond the ATV boundaries where few people go and spent the night huddled in our sleeping bags around the fire as Jack Frost laid his white blanket on the world. Zion's thrones kept their watch as Jim Wallick, Brother Mike and I enjoyed her heavenly light show. Slowly, the Big Dipper rose over head, forming a temporary halo around her steepled heights. Molly's re-assuring cowbell clanked gently as mules stirred in the dark, and we retreated deeper into our bags from the cold--leaving just enough lip exposed to breath the sharp air. Morning took her sweet time coming.

It was Mule-camp with all the benefits, including bacon in a cast iron skillet for breakfast, and exploration on natures finest four-legged conveyance. Secret slot canyons, a bald eagle, and enough lion tracks to over-load the olfactory of any hound, graced our day. Like a scene from O' Brother, Where Art Thou, we all went down to the river and witnessed Mike's molly Maggie get her sins and transgressions washed away.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th: The Virgin at Black Rock

For a place with such a relatively short recorded history, no one really knows how the Virgin River got its name. The local joke posits that the Virgin River got her name because no one has ever seen her bottom. Some believe that the Virgin River was named "La Virgen" by Spanish Catholic Missionaries in honor of the Vigin Mary. Her muddy trickle should hardly be called "river" most of the time, but during times of flooding she is certainly worthy. Washington County has felt the Virgin's wrath at times, our history reflecting the occasional trauma of lost homes, fields, and bridges that connect one side of town to the other.

Originating in the cold, clear waters of Navajo Lake on Cedar Mountain, the muddy Virgin River enters the Virgin River Gorge just South of St George after it has gathered up additional water from Pine Valley Mountain, Zion National Park, Caanan Moutain, and a sizable portion of the Arizona Strip through the Fort Pearce drainage. From the Gorge, it meanders downhill past Mesquite, NV and eventually joins the Colorado in Lake Mead.

This mule-only trip was a daddy-daughter outing. We spent 5 hours in the saddle together on Friday the 13th. 11 year old Sunnie normally rides her Dash for Cash mare who foaled the fantastic John mule colt we named Doc. For all the talk about mules around here, she had never been on one. So today she rode Minnie Pearl. Smooth! Worried that she wouldn't know how to handle the little Molly, she started out a bit nervous as we left the trailer just off of the Black Rock Exit. Soon, she started taking the more technical routes on her own. Over the ledges, through the cactus fields, and across the Virgin we rode until we sat on top of the world. We had our lunch looking over the mighty Virgin and the Gorge she cut out of the mountain--amazed that we got to have it all to ourselves.

Friday the 13th was my lucky day. I got to spend it with you. Sunnie, did I ever tell you, you are better lookin on a mule!?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hard as a Rock

Zion National Park's southwest corner is home to an impressive petrified forest. A large field of colorful petrified logs and wood chips litter one of the plateaus beneath Zion's towering thrones. Except for the Chinle Trail which starts in the new subdivision, Anasazi Plateau, getting there is a moderately technical and convoluted ride into Zion's inner sanctum. It is a part of Zion National Park that sees very little traffic. Jim Wallick and Kent Sullivan rode with me today, their horses glaring at my Molly with supercilious disdain. This ride was one for the books: warm, and beautiful. It was all good, but that log we sat on for lunch was hard as a rock!

Of Mules and Men: the Integrative Training Method

I just got back from a funeral in my small hometown, Mona. It was a joyful occasion, a time to renew acquaintance and celebrate a well-lived life. Mona lost one of its venerable old patriarchs. The anguish of loss is sweet when there are no regrets, and Maurice drove a swather through life that cut a windrow of good in the lives of his neighbors. I haven't lived in Mona for 22 years, 11 months, and 25 days, but Maurice Kay and his family are part of my circle of life. Their mark is difficult to measure. Maurice raised an honorable family on his farm in Mona. He educated his kids with an Integrative ethic, where they learned by being part of their parent's livelihood. The resulting product is a posterity of men and women with backbone and vitality, who conduct life with dignity. I salute you, Kay Family. The world needs more of your kind.

I have watched an interesting shift in our culture and our child-raising ethics come roaring into life over the past 30 years. It seems like today, we build a Disneyland world for our kids, quite insulated from our own adult world, and use it to carefully coddle their upbringing--fearing that we might make them uncomfortable or that they may offend our adult activities if they venture out of their bubble.

Growing up in Mona instilled that Integrative Child Raising Method in my genes. Chantra and I instinctively started bringing our kids into our adult lives as soon as they were born. We included them in all of our activities and adventures. Rarely do I recall creating kid activities that were designed just for their sole entertainment. They have seen my business dealings, attended Rotary and other grown up community functions with me, and have been fully included in all of our explorations. They don't even get to cry their way out of church meetings. I don't know how much of it is in their genes, or how much of it is this inclusive parenting style, but to know my kids is to be impressed by their bearing.

I enjoy raising my mules using the Integrative Method. I take my babies almost every where I go and try to expose them to as many positive external experiences as I can. Mules are a fabulous conveyance for exploring the world and I want them confident when its time to start riding them. Using the Integrative Method, my kids are great Mule-training aids. Using the Integrative Method, my mules are great Kid-training aids. Of Mules and Men: its all about being a Dad. Papa Gooch, thanks for your example. Son? Follow my trail.
Senator at 1 year old

5-year-old Preston