The Hill, straight ahead...While you have been reading a remarkable tale of beautiful horses, mules, donkeys, and the people--of all ages, shapes, and sizes--who love them, there is always That Hill. You know, the one that tests people, their confidence in themselves, the animals and people with them, and so on. In Life, there is always THAT Hill.
That Hill, on our journey, was the literal hill towards the end of a good 6 or so hours of our wagon train through unspoiled forest, breathtaking slopes, sudden and stunning bends around creeks and waterfalls. We were in awe of it all. Mr. Jim, his wife, Kira and I spent the day talking, laughing, and ooohing and ahhing at the caravan we were on. It was a wonderful cornucopia of equines, old time horse lovers, and filming.
And then we got to The Hill. We were warned by several of our caravan companions that the last steep hill would be a tough one. By then, our animals had been pulling us around for several hours. To be fair, Kate and Hank, Mr. Jim’s mules were rather small--not draft mules at all. And, there were four of us atop that wagon, whereas most wagons only pulled one, maybe two, occupants.
Sure enough, half way up that hill, they mulled, balked, then stalled out. They absolutely would not budge. I think Mr. Jim was embarrassed by this, but what could he do? Those scouts I mentioned that were attending the wagon train were there to help, and help they did--two burly fellows and their horses quickly pulled ahead, attached some leads to the mules, and led them to catch up with the rest of the train ahead of us.
We weren’t the only wagoneers with issues--I could be happy we weren’t three wagons up, when another team with two black mules had to deal with one of their animals suddenly rearing up as we traversed the hill. We still don’t know why the sudden attitude change in the animal, one of us guessed that the some part of the driving gear was irritating the mule…but it‘s still a mystery.
But we all made it up safely. No one was made to feel bad, silly, or a failure. None of the animals were reprimanded(and most good teamsters know that most problems lie in human miscalculation, never with the animal). I think about the worst it got was when the scouts dragged our wagon straight up to the Wagon Boss, Mr. Thomas.
See, Mr. Jim’s mules were sold to him by Mr. Thomas, the original owner. Hank and Kate were trained up by Mr. Thomas until they were about five (or was it eight?) months old. Mr. Jim had them ever since and I think the scouts thought it funny to bring the “wayward” mules back up to see their original owner. As Kira astutely observed while the scouts brought us forward: “I feel like we’re going to the principle’s office.”
Mr. Thomas had a mock grim look on his face, shaking his head at the poor performing mules. Mr. Jim joked back: “I want my money back” on the two long-ears. Overall, though, everything boiled down to a few good laughs by old friends who probably have seen harder times in life than the climbing of that hill that day.
I say this for those kind, sweet emails I have gotten lately by people who, shockingly, say they not only read the strange little stories I scribble here, but think they are an inspiration. These same people who wish to know how they, too, can live their dreams, that they have given up theirs for various reasons…
You have broken my heart.
I don’t have any great secrets, just blind faith and dumb luck, mostly--equal parts hope and foolishness. I think this boils down to an illogical, but proven trust that I can get out of most fixes, as I have been through several crazier scenarios than finding myself behind the business end of a mule--not least of which is the failure of MY OWN dream--a full time life in performing arts.
But that doesn’t mean happiness doesn’t exist, and other beautiful hopes cannot be attained. Can one find peace and contentment in pastures with horses, with great friends, and making new experiences, as well as new friends? I will take that on as my dream any darn day of the week…and so I have.
One simply needs to look up at THAT Hill, pack their courage and hope into a back pocket, and climb. It also helps to have friends pull you up, and joke about it later. And mostly, never should one feel like a failure, even if things don’t work out quite the way they wish. That, my friends, is the secret to my dreaming.