By RON HART
“There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.”
-- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar, Mark Twain
Spring has always been my favorite time of year. As the weather begins to warm up, so does the NCAA basketball tournament (my Tigers are in again), the Masters and Mule Day. Two of the three events get plenty of press, so let me tell you about my hometown’s annual Mule Day event.
Columbia, Tenn. has been celebrating the mule and our historic relationship with this hard-working and ornery animal every spring since 1840 — well before I was in a position to get kicked by one. And considering we are located next to Pulaski, where the Ku Klux Klan was founded, and near Carthage, where Al Gore was born, I always reasoned that Mule Day was not a bad historic event to celebrate by comparison.
Columbia is, after all, the “the Mule Capital of the World.” Not just the United States, the world! Take that Winfield, Ala.! So this is not a nickel-and-dime operation. Back before tractors, the engine, garden tillers and illegal aliens, mules were the working real deal, worthy of celebration.
The event has a mule-pulling contest, knife and coin show, square dancing, cowboy-mounted shooting contest and a lumberjack exhibition. There is also an amateur liar’s contest, which the many politicians who attend the event are barred from entering by their professional status.
Two experiences come to mind as I think back on Mule Days of my youth. One of the guys on our football team, a third-year junior, got thrown out of the festival once for heckling a mule. I wanted to see the rivalry continue as it was a very evenly matched intellectual contest.
A better memory is that I once dated a Mule Day Queen. It was, and is, a big deal to win that title in my hometown. It was not until a year later, away at college, when I was bragging about dating the Mule Day Queen at the SAE house that I realized the story did not travel well.
What I learned about mules in my upbringing has served me well in dealing with people since. I learned to never try to teach a mule to think or reason. It just does not work, and it just annoys the mule — all the while making you look stupid for even trying (see football player above).
You never want to get yourself in a position where you are matching wits with a far-inferior intellectual creature – for the same reason no one should strike up a conversation with Paris Hilton at a bar.
What you have to love about mules, and all animals, is that they always seem to enjoy the moment. Only man seems to worry about things. Animals know that the primary principle of life is to enjoy it. And they never seem to pass any judgment nor question much of others — an admirable trait.
Mule Day was even on the front page of The New York Times. Oddly enough, the article was not what I expected — a chance for the snooty NY Times to belittle Southern traditions. Rather, it was about the allocation of Homeland Security money to the event. I take issue with that. The terrorists who so value their camels would like nothing more than to attack our national mule stockpile. That many mules all gathered in one place would be too enticing to al-Qaida, and one odd guy in our town named Clyde.
Yep, al-Qaida terrorists could not move so freely in this Mule Day crowd. They would get that “you ain’t from around here are ya” stare. And, what with all the guns and knives around, wielded by local owner operators of same, the terrorists would have serious difficulty gaining the upper hand in an attack and could only fly a crop duster into a silo. Even with our U.S. government there to protect us, if the locals pull their guns on the terrorists, we are talking threat level BROWN.
This year’s Mule Day is the April 2nd weekend with Vols ex-coach Phil Fulmer as Grand Marshall. So get there before he eats all the hot dogs.
If you would like to see a true slice of Americana, attend! — al-Qaida-free since 1840!
Ron Hart is a columnist and investor. His E-mail: RevRon10@aol.com.