Old timers used to say, “Anybody who’s ever tried to put a braid in a mule’s tale knows a thing or two more about the subject than someone who hasn’t.
The crafty, irascible mules are among the unsung heroes of the Old West. They’ve been credited with locating rich lodes of gold and silver; and they were crucial to the success of the U.S. Army’s campaign during the Apache Wars.
Oscar Hutton was employed by the Army as a packer at Old Camp Grant in the 1870’s and he considered himself numero ono when it came to understanding mules. He was understandably upset one day when one hauled off and kicked him in the jaw. He never recovered from the shock and died soon after. His friends said he didn’t actually pass on to his great reward from the lightning hooves of a bronco mule but from the humiliation of being outsmarted by the animal.
Joe Felmer was an Army scout at the same military post. He’d been married to an Apache woman at one time and considered himself able to match wits with the best of the wily warriors.
Recently some pesky Apaches had been sneaking down into his pasture and stealing his mules. He was determined to get even and came up with a plan. He bought a surplus Army mule at an auction that was so useless and lazy that nobody else bid on him. In fact the mule was so miserable and scarred up they’d named him Lazarus.
Joe planned to put Lazarus in his pasture and watch for an Apache to jump on his back and ride away. “That lazy mule won’t move for anyone and that Apache is going to be a sitting target.” What a plan!
Sure enough the next day 3 Apaches ran out of the brush and jumped on Lazarus’ back. The one in front slipped a horse hair bridle on him in an instant. The other two were furiously kicking him in the side with their heels. Sure enough Old Lazarus stood still.
Felmer grabbed his rifle and started to take aim. Just then the Apache on the rump ripped off his sash and drew it up under the mule’s tail and began sawing back and forth. Lazarus’ ears perked up, his eyes lit up and he was off and running like a Kentucky racehorse. The last seen of Old Lazarus he was hightailing it across the desert with three Apache holding on for dear life.