The Mule and the Horse

by Hc_07

(A Minnesota, Chick Evens, Grandpa Story, 1958-59)

Figuratively speaking, my grandpa, he had already -from the day one, that is, from the first day he saw me at birth-taken the restraining lines, the bridle, you know the harness that goes around a horses head and put it on mine, or thought he did. You might even say he had his foot in the stirrup, to get into the drivers seat-allegorically speaking, ahead of time. At least that is how I feel about the whole thing.

Say what you will, but things are as they are, or was, back in those far-off days of yesteryear, I hold no grudges-save I had to live through it, but so did he. I mean, you can’t change yesterday, and if your grandpa is dead, that takes care of tomorrow, and so all you got is today to figure out what went wrong, and why, way back when. And for those readers reading this, perhaps it might be a speck of wisdom in all of this for them. But anyway, there I was, holding in some resentment, worse than a kick in the behind (in my later years when he was still living, I was tired of his shenanigans, and told him once to quit it, which he did, that is unhitching the bridle). But let me tell you the story in my own metaphorical way.

I never could figure old Grandpa Anton out, and I suppose he couldn’t figure me out. But I come to the conclusion now being sixty-one years old-a big leap from when I was ten to twelve, if I say-so myself. But it goes something like this:

We’d go on downtown together many of times to the market in those far-off years, we’d walk the few miles usually, down Jackson Street, in St Paul, Minnesota, and he’d not say one word to me unless he was hungry for near-insulting this or that, or even me in his clandestine way. And I’d find out what it was all about when we got to the market and he’d tell me,

“I got to git some dem fresh chicken’s to-da…” and he’d ask when the proprietor wringed their necks,

“Oh, I’d say about two hours ago Anton,” he’d tell my grandpa.

“Oh vine, vine, put it in da sack an’ I take it, da-way it is…” the Old Russian Bear told the market merchant. Then grandpa would holler, as if I had never had a name, “Come-on, wes gots to head on-down dat dare street…!”

Well, what I’m getting at is this, he thought I was a horse, and all you needed to do was point and holler and I’d follow. He rode me you might say-figuratively state, like a horse. Yes, oh yes he could be demanding at time, and cuss up a storm, and he had his own little black book of cuss words, that only made sense to him.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandpa, even looked up to him, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t, or couldn’t, figure out why I was the way I was, or why he was the way he was, and he was to me, and I was to him, and we both were to each other-I hate to say this, both Mules, not horses.

Now let me explain this part of my growing up years. I closed my mouth and never talked back to grandpa-that wasn’t the thing to do, not matter what, that was near the unpardonable sin, not because he’d hit me, he never did, but because my mother was strict and it was not to be made into a duel at sundown, and that is what she didn’t want, plus you respected your elders. But I’m sure the mule in me, which is different than a horse was activated, because I know, I rode many a horses’ in my day, and I’ve had to deal with a few mules in my day, and they are like night and day.

You don’t ride a mule like you ride a horse and expect to get the same out of mule you did a horse-the same performance that is. That said, usually you can just ride a horse, a mule you have to learn how to ride, and the rules that go along with it. Many a times when I rode a horse all I had to do was jerk the lines, and pull him back to make a turn, or hit him a bit on the side or kick him, or pat him a bit on the mane, or even holler at him into his ear, and I got my way. A mule is a world apart from a horse. He isn’t going to do what you want him to do, just because you think you’re in charge. The mule knows different, they got sense. But a mule is a chap nonetheless, when I say chap-which is an old figurative way of speaking, I mean he’s a good sort of fellow, or can be, if indeed you are considerate and civil to him, thus, he returns the favor. The mule kind of knows, something the horse can never figure out, that is if you really love or like him, or if it is pretense on your behalf-perhaps it all comes under respect for the mule.

That is why you don’t holler or pet or even whip a mule, he can figure you out, figure out if you do like him or don’t like him from the first, and when you do those antagonistic things, he confirms it. He knows you’re trying to fool him into doing something, something he doesn’t mind doing anyhow, freely, if only you’d show him some regard. He has a memory, and he remembers insults, like an elephant remembers the mouse. So all grandpa needed to do, was to handle me the way he handled my brother Mike, perhaps saying to the eleven or twelve year old boy-I was, ‘I’d like you to do this…’ or ‘I’d like you to do that’ simple as baking a pie, doing it that way you don’t raise such a dust, or commotion, and all those hidden feelings inside the boy, the ones he put inside there and couldn’t figure out why would never have been there. You see after he put it there, he could sense it; sense there was so much stubbornness, unresponsiveness at times inside that boy. Had old Grandpa let go of the lines he had, thought he had, and used level-headedness; willingness would have prevailed on the mule’s side of the fence.

So I say, utter what you will but there are alternatives, and one must look at them and make the right decision before the boy grows-up, lest he wants to live with less power, had he make the right one, right decision, he could have felt the power of being a hero to the boy, instead of being a hunting tyrant for control, and unfortunately, grandpa could never feel the willingness the boy wanted to give.

No: 458 /9-2-2009••

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