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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Sep 15, 2011 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0


Mules matter

News: Sep 15, 2011
by Betsy Marston


Some people say that the most thrilling thing about any Western Independence Day parade comes toward the end, when the old-time stagecoaches and horse-and-buggy outfits take over. But there's always the possibility that the animals will get spooked, run amok and end up stomping on people. That almost happened in Cody, Wyo., July 3, after buggy-driver John Wright took a corner a little too sharply and was flung to the ground. His mules took off, dragging Wright for nearly 50 yards while he held on tight to the reins, trying to halt the runaways. Wes Livingston, one of the "outriders" on horseback who's hired to protect parade watchers from out-of-control animals, saw what was happening and acted fast, ramming "his 1,100-pound horse head-on between the two mules," reports the Cody Enterprise. The impact caused Livingston's horse to rear, yet he was still able to grab the reins of one mule and yell for help. Joe Robison, a spectator and a former outrider, ran up and grabbed the reins of the other mule. The men's quick action kept the team from running into the by-now very frightened crowd, where kids were screaming and crying. Luckily, no people and no animals were badly hurt; the mule team even managed to win third place in the team hitch division.



Snow in the high country just hasn't gone away, and in some places like the old mining town of Gothic, outside Crested Butte, Colo., an avalanche won't melt in time to open a road over a pass this summer. And in Montana's Glacier National Park, a brutal winter has left snow hanging on so long that the concessioner of two chalets has had to experiment "with an exotic and untested animal to haul supplies: human beings." Mules usually haul supplies to both the Granite Park and Sperry chalets, but since early July, Greg Fortin, owner of Glacier Adventure Guides, has been filling backpacks with up to 80 pounds of supplies and sending porters up the steep, rocky mountain trails, mainly to Granite Park Chalet, with some even making the trek twice a day. Without human beasts of burden, says The Flathead Beacon, tourists wouldn't get their special treats -- not to mention meals or clean sheets.

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