"Another of Windy's Tall Tales"


  “You know it used to was even hotter than it is right now, don’t you?” Windy looked up from his lunch. Oh boy, professorial mood. We’re gonna get it. “I used ta pack mules, a-course. Well, I packed ‘em ‘til the accident, anyway.”

  “Accident, Windy?” Dang it, Dud, you’ve done it now.

  “Nobody can say I don’t love them little mules, but that accident took all the packin’ enthusiasticals right outa me.

  “Over in Death Valley it was. Summer. Hotter’n … well, you know. I was takin’ the pack mules out each day with the lunches all packed on ‘em fer these dudes. Kinda fun.

  “Jest why these here folks want to go a pick-a-nickin’ on a hot day I couldn’t say. To each his own said the old maid as she kissed the cow, I guess. Mules is the best manmade varmint in history, ya know? But even mules got theirselves a limit on hotness.

  “Them mules. My mules … oh I was so very happy with them mules. But what’s done is water under the road and chickens swimmin’ upstream, ain’t it?

  “Well, that day we had a party that was partial to popcorn. Loved the stuff. I put two big cans on each mule in bag loads. One on each side.

“And we wasn’t but maybe … oh, like 20 minutes on the trail when the accident happened. (sob) I still can’t rememorate it today without goin’ all gooshy inside, either. 
         “What happened was somethin’ we never figgered on. Nossir! Why, the heat was just a-hottenen down on them pack mules and their packs got all hot, and them cans of popcorn got all hot and then the popcorn went to poppin’!

 “Pardner, you never seen such a goldarn wreck in your life! Them mules heard that popcorn a-poppin’ and figgered somebody was shootin’ at ‘em. Yessir. And they went to buckin’ around out there, and when they did, the lids come off all 16 cans of popcorn and it looked like the Fourth of July, with big ol’ fountains of that popcorn cas-cradin’ down ‘round them mules.

  “And when the popcorn hit the ground, the mules looked at it, thought it was snow and froze to death! A terrible tragedy, and I ain’t packed popcorn since that day.”


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Newspaper columnist Slim Randles, who writes the weekly Home Country column, took home two New Mexico Book Awards in 2011. His advice book for young people, “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right,” took first place in the self-help category, and “Sweetgrass Mornings” won in the biography/memoirs category. Randles lives and works in Albuquerque. Home Country reaches 3 million hometown newspaper readers each week

Slim Randles learned mule packing from Gene Burkhart and Slim Nivens. He learned mustanging and wild burro catching from Hap Pierce. He learned horse shoeing from Rocky Earick. He learned horse training from Dick Johnson and Joe Cabral. He learned humility from the mules of the eastern High Sierra. Randles lives in Albuquerque.

Randles has written newspaper stories, magazine articles and book, both fiction and nonfiction. His column appeared in New Mexico Magazine for many years and was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and the Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country,” which appears in several hundred newspapers across the country.


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