Memorial Day weekend saw the finale of the 43rd Annual Mule Days festival in verdant Bishop, California, and wouldn't you know, Chicken Corner was in attendance, on Saturday and Sunday.
If I never appreciated mules before, in all their variety and strange beauty, let me say: I am in awe of these creatures now. Half horse, half donkey, sterile, but stronger than their ancestors and, many say, much smarter too, they are extraordinary beasts. With big ears.
The festival featured mule handling demonstrations, one by a police-horse trainer who showed the audience how to train a mule to get into a horse trailer, in such a way as to avoid getting kicked in the head by a frightened animal. Across the grounds were hundreds of mules and a scattering of horses and donkeys.
Though the event was essentially a trade show for mountain packers, who lead tours into the Sierras, there was entertainment: mule races, chariot events, packing paces, stagecoaches. On Saturday night an entertainer by the name of Uncle Kracker headlined. We went out to dinner instead.
I bought a shirt in town, and the woman who worked in the shop said Bishop has the LADWP to thank for its loveliness -- in the fact that Bishop is a town and not a big city. She said that because the DWP owns so much property in the Bishop area, development happens slowly, since the water is needed elsewhere. (Here's the DWP's version of the story.) They say you can lead a mule to water, but you can't build a condo complex.
Mule Photo: By RJ Smith