Kubasa the Wonder-Mule
This story involves a man, a few "friends" and a mule (half horse, half donkey, half attitude). As was more customary in the early 80's there was, or at least must have been, a little alcohol involved. It seems my city indoor-office-oriented father was enjoying the new-found freedom associated with living on an acreage for the first time since childhood, and thus started associating with certain "rawhide" cowboy type friends. These characters came complete with cowboy hat, boots, vest, neckerchief and Skoal ring in the back pocket. They also had the obligatory sprinkle of mischievousness found in all cowboys, hidden somewhere in their makeup. Their cunning senses detected a certain affinity for the bottle with my father, and a tendency to let his normally keen sense of judgement dullen slightly with each swig.
On one such occasion when his senses were sufficiently diminished by the group of overly persuasive rednecks and their swill, he was swayed into believing whole-heartedly that a harmless little excursion to the local auction mart would be a grand idea, one that would even be embraced by his loving wife. It appeared that the auctioneer was also a bit of a shyster, and if he couldn't spot a sucker right away he would surely notice the bobber twitching. Well a little touch of giggle juice for good measure, and it was proposed that it would add excitement to the adventure if one waved at the auctioneer occasionally, and with all these bargains to be had any successful bid would be welcome.
Into the ring came a beautiful, prancing, two year old solidly built mule ... or so it was advertised by said shyster. The bidding started, the waving began. Then more bidding, swigging and waving and soon city-boy owned the newly-dubbed "Kubasa".
The whole household was awakened at the grand old time of 3 a.m., to much whooping and hollering from successful shoppers. Kubasa was turned free in the pen while new cowboy friends departed for their next adventure. My father stumbled in to bed to a slightly less than warm reception.
It's funny how a great idea diminishes down to worse than bad after the glow wears off, and that certainly was the case here. Upon closer inspection the following morning, our new family member "Kubasa" appeared not to be a cuddly two year old baby. He had scars on him that were probably fifteen years old, and he stared into your eyes with a ferocity never before seen in these parts. I had heard that mules had a holy cross on their backs, and true to form upon closer inspection it proved to be present as advertised, but there was nothing god-like about him. Approaching the pen provoked an instant attack complete with flailing front feet, and a quick spin around to fire the rear ones. An urgent phone call to the expert horsemen explaining that the "bargain" label may have been slightly exaggerated was in order, which sent roars of laughter through the receiver. Sensing an extension of last night's adventure, the yard was soon flooded with pickup trucks, cowboys and their customary lubrication.
"Any animal can be easily cured of kicking" claimed one overly knowledgeable hat-rack. He proceeded to tie a truck tire to a large lead shank, about the right distance to touch Kubasa's heel. The mule stood by patiently studying the goings-on, and one had the feeling that this wasn't his first time around the horn. After knots were secure, with cowboys sitting comfortably on fence and chewing snuff, Kubasa stared at the tire and turned around. As if a starter's gun had gone off, the mule started kicking the tire, which became suspended in the air, first at the end of the rope, then back down to an awaiting hoof, then back up. It was like watching a kid playing with one of those paddles that has a ball attached with an elastic band, up, down, up, down it went. About ten minutes into the show, the pros were amazed and bewildered by the stamina of this creature, and then the rope broke after yet another mighty wallop. The tire soared through the air as if guided by some unseen force and headed towards the fully occupied fence, sending hats, snuff, flasks and Levis scrambling for safety. Kubasa 1, Cowboys 0.
A little more courage was called for, so a sufficient amount was summoned from the barkeep and consumed. One nameless cowboy, named Ken, proposed a wager with another hombre sans nom, Murphy, that if Ken rode Kubasa bareback that Murphy would be required to trim the mule's feet (methinks akin to putting contact lenses in a cat). It seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time to them. One look at the mule and you knew he was up for the challenge. One had the impression that this also was highway he paved long before their time.
Kubasa stood still, patiently waiting for Ken to secure the bareback rigging just so. With a fresh shot of courage and explicit instructions to Murph to NEVER let go of the lead shank, Ken was aboard and Mission Control hit the launch button. One cowboy was on board, one was getting drug around like he was tied to Gravedigger the monster truck, and three or four were in hysterics on the fence. Of course with the explicit instructions to never let go of the lead shank, and Murph being a cowboy, he promptly let go to a roar of cheers. Well old Kubasa bucked like a true champion, and Ken promptly proclaimed to the world that Murph's parents were never married, even insinuated that he was the offspring of a mother that possessed certain canine attributes. Fear and good judgement prevented Ken from an exit strategy out in the open where he'd become mule fodder, so it was several minutes before he was finally unloaded indignantly over the fence adjacent to the aforementioned tire. Kubasa was gathering a fan club. Kubasa 2, Cowboys 0.
It was now Murph's turn to prove his trustworthiness and hold up his end of the bargain. Kubasa stepped forth and humbly presented himself to the halter, as much as to say "let the games begin". Murph insisted on appointing a neutral party from the fence to hold the lead shank, thereby eliminating the possibility of revenge on Ken's part. With a swig of courage a new participant was in the ring. The mule stood patiently, too patiently it seemed, as the ferrier's tools were brought forth. With lead held firmly in helper's hand, Murph gingerly reached behind Kubasa's front hoof to lift it, fence-sitters sitting with hands on cheeks and jaws open. Then as quick as any Ninja, and with moves as difficult to perform let alone articulate, the mule struck the top of Murph's head with the hoof, removing and permanently disfiguring his hat and knocking him to the dirt. He then wheeled around freeing himself from the lead, in a move impossible to recreate outside of a lab without the benefit of slow motion replay. Kubasa 3, Cowboys 0.
The next day an older and wiser group of cowboys backed the stock trailer up to the corral. A totally cooperative mule stood politely to be haltered, and gentle as a lamb loaded into the trailer for the familiar trip back to the auction mart. The auctioneer chuckled as he saw the group of bruised, bandaged and limping cowboys take their seats.
"Here we have a gentle, strong two year old mule ... do I have $200?" he lied, as he had done so many times before with this familiar animal, "going once, going twice sold to the gentleman over there!", neglecting to add "that is about to get an education."
And now all these years later, I have no doubt that somewhere this two year old mule is still going through auction rings, totally comfortable with his role as teacher to so many unsuspecting cowboys.
Ode to Kubasa
And now on any mule we find
Two feet before, two feet behind.
We stand behind before we find
What the feet behind be for.