Monday, January 02, 2012


One of my big categories of bookmarks is “animals” which includes an assortment of websites, blogs and listservs. There’s a LOT of action of many kinds: vids, biology, environmental studies, people who work alongside dogs, and so on. Boria Sax keeps trying to get people to talk about mythology and stories. HSUS always has someone on board to make a pitch for their goal of a perfected and vegetarian world where the money rolls into their coffers. Through all of these venues twines and twirls a kind of philosophical kudzu that says not only are all prosperous white men evil, but also among all the animals, humans are the most evil and express this by confining chickens in close quarters and eating cows.

This seems to come from having no contact with animals. Our housing is so inappropriate and our incomes so tight that only the poor people can afford dogs, because in that situation they fend for themselves -- just like the people. Religiously, we’ve given up on the existence of angels, so we need dogs to assume their characteristics -- except for the wings, of course. Or sometimes, when people hesitate to have babies, the dogs and cats occupy that cradle niche. Whatever the forces and circumstances causing these strange theories, they overcome almost all points of view and even interfere in ranching, causing Oprah to stigmatize beef, which badly damaged sales.

Yogi Bera once said that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.” -- via Taleb Nassim, the “Black Swan” guy. My mountain man friend, Paul, sent along a story that is an excellent illustration. I post it here as a public service and a pleasure.


I've probably told you all my Red Cloud stories including this one, but a recounting will fit in with your current observations.

David wasn't one of the original land partners at the Garden [a commune based in the forested Northwest], but he was an early arrival. He hailed from Utah where he'd had an organic grocery store or something like that. David was always a go-getter sort of guy. From sun up to sun down he was busy with one project or another and was pretty good at encouraging others to join him. For a long time we changed his name to Manual, for manual labor. He would have spelled it Manwell.

When the animal liberationists started showing up, he easily fell in with them, asserting that manpower was all we needed to get anything done. Red Cloud and Kyrat the horse were visible lightning bolts for those folks that didn't understand that these animals weren't necessarily beasts of burden kept only to do our bidding. They liked to work rather than stand around watching the world go by. Red Cloud was especially enthusiastic. All I had to do to demonstrate that was to produce his harness and lay it out on the ground. He'd come running and willingly step right up to be suited up. I think it made him feel like a superman mule or something. He loved to show off his strength and challenge himself.

Red Cloud came already sort of trained to harness and riding. Anything I learned about it came from him because I had no prior experience other than a bit of riding. The first logging contract I got with him was interesting because he not only taught us how it was done, but also trained up the horse who became his work mate.

We didn't have much luck teaming them together for the most part. The differences between horses and mules became evident right off the bat. When the mule would be hooked to a drag and get hung up on a tree, he'd look back and assess the problem, figuring out what it was going to take to get loose and generally succeeding. When the horse got hung up, he'd just wait patiently for a human to come figure out things for him and free him.

Anyway, back to David/Manual... after observing the animals obvious relish for hard work and not having much luck in motivating human powered labor, he undertook to move some house logs with Red Cloud. He'd watched me long enough to figure out how to hook up the harness, but he was rough with Red Cloud. I don't recall what set it off, but he got frustrated with something the mule did and hit him with a 2x4. Not a good way to get a mule's cooperation.

Red Cloud was a patient teacher though. He waited until David wasn't paying attention and bent over hooking up the traces. Red Cloud looked back, took careful aim and let him have it with both feet. Heh, I laughed my ass off with the mule after I assured David wasn't seriously hurt and told him it was payback for the 2x4 incident. David took it pretty well and decided to watch how I got the animals cooperation rather than forcing them to do something they didn't want to do. Even then it was a long time before he turned his back on Red Cloud after that.

Red Cloud's educational legacy lives on. David went on to become a millionaire potato farmer here and made a name for himself raising and training Halflinger draft horses on his organic farm.

We didn't have much for dependable rigs in those days, A 36 dodge pickup that I can't recall the name of and Gus. the two ton truck from the 40's. Oh, and my trusty International travelall, but I needed that for getting back and forth to work.

I meant to tell you about the van we collectively leased. Named it Blue Star, it was big enough to haul us all around in comfort when we left the place. which was a much better option than riding everyone in the back of Gus.

That van was always getting stuck somewhere on the property and Red Cloud and Kyrat were all the time having to harness up and yard it back out. Looked funny to have to pull around a brand new fancy van with a mule/horse team. That's probably why Red Cloud always thought himself supreme.


Remembered the name of that old dodge pickup while reading your blog post. Aggie. Odd that only the really old rigs earned names for themselves, except Blue Star. I think it only got named because we felt sorry for it. My travelall was Faith. It got it’s name for getting us from a tree planting contract somewhere around Libby, all the way to Kalispell with no gas. At least that’s what the gas gauge said.

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