"This old mule has a lot of kick left."
When I was a child, back in the 1950s, mules were still a receding presence on the southern landscape. On visits to country kinfolk, they stood in idle, flop-eared mourning around nearly abandoned barnyards–dark brown mules with bulbous white noses, white mules, even yellow ones. Like the guinea fowl that screeched from nearby coops or the mincing hens that high-stepped around the weedy corners of collapsing sheds, aging mules were kept on as pets mostly, ever since tractors and supermarkets filled the real needs of daily life. Once in a while you saw one in town, pulling an old man’s wagon with rubber automobile tires. Other than that, I don’t think I ever saw a mule at work. Outside of a petting zoo, I wonder if my children have seen a mule at all.