Thank you to Brad Evans for sharing this passage, taken from Harry Crews' autobiography A Childhood:
The most intense love affair I've ever known was between two mules we owned the year I finally left the farm for good. Doc, a big iron-gray horse mule, and Otha, a little red mare mule about 300 pounds lighter than Doc, were matched mules. They had been broken together, trained to move in their harness with precision and smoothness.
Matched mules are nearly always the same weight because if they are not and they are asked to pull something really heavy, the bigger mule lunges into his harness, bellying down behind his collar and simply snatches the smaller mule back against the doubletree, an iron bar to which their trace chains are ultimately fastened, and, in effect, this loses all the pulling power of the lighter mule. It becomes a seesaw, with one mule lunging and then the other. The bigger mule isn't pulling with butagainst the one he's in a double harness with.
Not so with Doc and Otha. Doc waited. He compensated. The two of them would, slow as breathing, tighten their traces together, leaning into their collars. When I've seen Doc turn - even in the middle of the worst kind of pull - and look at his fine little mare mule beside him giving all she had to give, I knew he was thinking how best to help her, how best to take whatever part of the load he could off her. I always knew he thought about
her a lot . . .
We always had to take both Doc and Otha to the field even if we planned to work only one of them. We had to hitch the one not being worked so that they would never be out of sight of one another. If we took one out of the lot without the other, or for any reason made it so they could not see each other, they would literally rip themselves apart in an effort to get back together: knock down fences, go through barbed wire, cut their heads and chests slamming through stables.
I never doubted the love between Doc and Otha.
We'll see you at the Cox Capitol Theatre.
JW + JW