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Mule Plus Farmer Equals a Successful Southern Farmer

Updated on June 25, 2017
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

(See caption below)
(See caption below) | Source

"Hello. I am a mule. I am not a flashy animal, but I feel as I am important or maybe just as important as any tractor ever rolled into the field. I hope that you get to know me and my fore-mules who helped the early farmers in early America. Thank you and Hee-Haw."

Mule, Farming Bonus:

as you have hopefully read through this hub, if you were not born to a farmer or lived on farm, you noticed a few strategically-written words such as: "Breaking plow" and "Making a crop."

Breaking plow simply meant that this plow was the heaviest of farm implements that the farmer used to "break" loose the new ground that was used to cultivate a new farm to be harvested in the fall.

Making a crop is one of those Southern farming traditions that one can just understand as enduring.

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

where and how the mechanics of a man and a mule began to plow his own fields in order to sow that field and harvest that field and therefore continue to provide for his family. This is of course a very simple guess as to how that a mule became to be one of not the most-needed entity in the early South when farmers claimed their lands and the link between men and mules began in what was called later farming.

What many later philosophers and deep thinkers would refer to the common mule as a lowly beast is not a very enduring degree of accuracy in what would help to invent farming in the infancy of early America. But somehow the mule, a proverbial beast of burden, stood then as now as years began to stack up and more and more farmers began to use mules for their only means of farming.

Sure, in the most-primitive days in our land, oxen were used to till the land and later reap the benefits of the seed that some hard-working, nameless farmer probably used for the first time. One can also see how the pride those first farmers, probably English settlers, felt when they stood and surveyed their very first corn or cotton crop.

 Boy plowing potato field with a mule and bull tongue plow on steep slope on J. W. Melton farm on Andersonville Tennessee road.
Boy plowing potato field with a mule and bull tongue plow on steep slope on J. W. Melton farm on Andersonville Tennessee road. | Source

It Wasn't Long

mule power was considered the dominant source of power in the fields that grew huge amounts of cotton, corn, and other agricultural items. One could also stand on the statement (and no one disagree) that the mule was "America's first tractor," and helped farmers in more ways than just farming.

Mules could not only used to pull the breaking plows to loosen the hard soil, but be hitched to a wooden wagon in order to haul various things to and from the fields including hauling the harvested crops in the fall for farmers to sell their agricultural items for their livelihood. And while horse-lovers would argue that the horse was called upon to ride when the children were young, more than a few mules were used for that activity.

Cultivating cotton demonstration in Eastover, South Carolina, USA on May 17, 1932.
Cultivating cotton demonstration in Eastover, South Carolina, USA on May 17, 1932. | Source

Any Farmer Worth His Salt

was always particular in how he treated his mules. Now to introduce a term of prosperity, if a farmer owned a team of mules, the better. The equation was so easy: the more mules a farmer used equaled the more land that a farmer could plow for growing needed-crops.

The farmer fed his mules and other livestock first, before the family's breakfast time came every early morning. And if, God forbid, during the day when a mule or team of mules were to suffer some accident such as a gopher hole, it meant stopping the work immediately and sending for a veterinarian if one was available and if that wasn't possible, the wise farmer depended on the older, wiser men and women in the community to help with "doctoring" the injured mule.

The degree of importance placed upon a mule was high in the early days of farming. And even with tractors now being used in the fields, some farmers were so dependent on mules, they would rather work from sunrise to sunset than let a costly tractor give them a few hours of daylight to rest at their home. Mules were that important.

Human pulled plows as in  some women pulled plows in  farming.
Human pulled plows as in some women pulled plows in farming. | Source


this piece is in no way written to indicate that the mule was (more) important than the farmers who were not financially able to start a farm with their trusty mules. Some early records have shown that "some" farmers, in order to put out a crop, would take turns of letting his wife (or older son) pull the breaking plow as best he or she could, to break the fertile ground and when the older son or wife tired, the farmer would take his turn pulling the plow.

To the reader the above (and this entire piece) might strike one as sad, but not so. Early farmers as well as the enduring tradition of farming whose almost-endless chain of history of hard work and devotion to their craft and family, is still visible even in 2017 even with the mechanics used in the farming process.

© 2017 Kenneth Avery


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 9 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear RoadMonkey,

      Sorry to be so late---got a lot of irons in the fire.

      Thank YOU so very much for your sweet comments on this TRUE hub about my young life. And I am now so proud of having went through these now-precious days.

      And listen. YOU will always be a Great Friend, Follower and Writer.

      Write me anytime.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 10 months ago

      I love reading these types of oral history. A mule would be much safer than a tractor on the slope of a hill, less likely to overturn!