Emma’s Mule

We love getting hand written letters and sketches here at Lost Sea Expedition headquarters. We super-enjoy the pictures we get from young artists like Emma.

Mule Polly eyes her likeness.
Mule Polly eyes her likeness. The pencil sketch was recently sent to us by Emma, a young Arkansas artist. Emma’s mule won the staring contest.

This week, I drove 2 hours to show mule Polly, the mule I took on the Lost Sea Expedition, some artwork sent in by a brother and sister. Here’s how that went.

A few weeks ago, a letter showed up in our (Julia and my) letter box. It contained a beautiful drawing by young artist Benjamin Forbes of Arkansas. It was of a great blue heron, spear-shaped beak ready to skewer some unfortunate water critter. I love these birds. We have one behind our cabin that lands in the willow tree when we scare it up out of the creek on our morning walks. It lands with a mighty croak, like it’s saying “Ark!”  Just watches us.

A closeup look at Benjamin's heron.
A closeup look at Benjamin’s heron. It flew to us via the US Mail service.

Tucked in to the letter, next to Benjamin’s picture, was a very generous gift toward the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. Thanks Craig and Kristin!

Then, this week, another, handwritten letter in the letter box. Julia and I took it to the cabin. We admired it all afternoon. We do love our letters.

Then, that evening, we opened it.

Out tumbled a beautiful pencil sketch. It was of a mule, charming as Polly, staring out over a barn door. Fantastic!

Emma's mule
Emma’s mule. Man, how could you not want to pet her on the nose. And I just KNOW that’s a girl mule (technically called a mare mule by the old timers around here).

Then another flash of paper and I gasped. Emma, Craig and Kristin’s daughter, had sent in a generous-by-any-measure donation to the Lost Sea Expedition TV series.


I was so moved, I vowed the next day I would take Benjamin and Emma’s pictures on the road. Just to show Polly.

My mule Polly, who I did the Lost Sea Expedition with, lives in Asheboro, North Carolina, about two hours from Western North Carolina, where we live. She lives with my buddy Ronald Hudson. Every now and then, I swing by for a few days and trim Ronald’s mules’ hooves.  It’s a great time catch up with old friends, man and critter.

Mule Polly and Ronald Hudson at Benson Mule Days 2016.
Mule Polly and Ronald Hudson at Benson Mule Days 2016. Ronald has owned Polly at least three times. Though I own her now, she’s living with Ronald…..again……

I figured I’d take a few photos of Polly with Benjamin and Emma’s photos. A few more of my wagon that I sleep in while I’m on the road. Give Emma and Benjamin a glimpse in to my day to day life.

So here you go Emma and Benjamin. I’m nothing near the artist you guys are but I still figured you’d enjoy seeing where your photos went this week. Call it Bernie’s Great Hoof Trimming Adventure

Polly looks worried
Here I’m rasping Polly’s hooves to smooth them off after I removed the heavy stock with the nippers. I’ve been trimming Polly’s feet for 12-plus years and she STILL gives me that worried look….. (note, this photo was taken earlier this fall – hence the leaves on the trees).
To trim a mule's hooves, you pince off the excess material with sharp pincers. Here, I'm trimming down the heel.
To trim a mule’s hooves, you nip off the excess material with sharp pincers. Here, I’m trimming down the hoof halfway between the frog (the triangular, dark piece) and the toe. When that’s done,   you go back with the rasp to smooth the hoof (see above).
The wagon I sleep in when trimming mule hooves.
It usually takes me two days to trim the 15-plus mules I take care of. Half of that time is spent trimming mules. The other half is spent chasing mules and chatting with my buddy Ronald. Nights, I sleep in this wagon. This is the wagon Polly pulled most of the way across Newfoundland.
The tiny wagon stove
The wagon has a tiny wood stove that I built for cooking and heating. In cold weather, like this weekend when it dipped to 19 degrees, it sure is nice to have something take the edge off the chill. I’ve built two stoves for wagons. More about the one you’re looking at is here.  Another stove for another wagon I built is here.
Polly checks out Emma and Benjamin's artwork.
Polly checks out Emma and Benjamin’s artwork.
Bernie with pictures in wagon.
Inside my tiny wagon. When I saw this photo, I immediately wrote Benjamin, who drew the heron, to apologize. From the angle the photo was taken, it looks like I’m cooking the poor bird on my stove. Sorry Benjamin…
Mule Polly eyes the wagon.
Part of the magic of  wagon travel is opening your front door and coming face to ear with a mule.  In this case, it’s mule Polly. Here, she’s scoping out the wagon for bread, her favorite snack. You can see the tiny saucepan and lid I use for coffee, pasta and rice.
The stove pipe to my tiny stove. Man I love that smoke in the December morning air.
The stove pipe to my tiny stove. Man I love that smoke in the December morning air.

Thanks again, Emma, Benjamin, Kristin and Craig, for your generous gifts. Your painting and sketch will live in the cabin and your donation will live on for others to enjoy on Public Television.

For readers who’d like to contribute, we’d love what ever you can offer. Here’s the link to our giving page.

Hey, you can even write us the old fashion way – you know, with stamps. Send us pictures, sketches. Whatever. We’d love to hear from you!

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