Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Jake Clark's Mule Days
June 21, 2005

Jake Clark's 8th annual Mule Days Rodeo and Auction was held this past Father's Day weekend in Ralston, Wyoming. This is a fun event that Mrs. Soapweed and I had the pleasure of attending this year for our first time. We left the Nebraska Sandhills early last Friday morning, and headed straight west down Highway 20. We had breakfast in Harrison, then passed on through Lusk, Casper, Shoshoni and on to Meeteetse. There we drove west up a beautiful mountain valley to check out the historic Pitchfork Ranch. It is a nice looking well-kept place, and appears to still be an efficient working cattle ranch. Back in Meeteetse, we had opportunity to go through the local museum, where we especially enjoyed checking out the many famous black and white photographs that Charles Belden made during his years of living on the Pitchfork Ranch.

We had reservations to stay in Cody for the night, and the next morning we went another 17 miles on to Ralston, where the mule festivities were being held. Local ladies served a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, link sausage and pancakes. An all-mule parade was held at 11 a.m., with about a hundred and fifty riders on saddle mules taking part. One mule drawn wagon was also featured. Promptly at 1 p.m. a rodeo got underway. No horses were involved, but riders on mules were entered in team roping, barrel racing, pole bending, and team branding. Bull riding and wild cow milking also livened up the day's activities. Several heats of saddle mule racing were held, and it is absolutely amazing how fast a mule can run. A steak supper and foot-stomping dance rounded out the evening, with "Hurrican Mesa" supplying the music.

After another night's stay in Cody, we were back at Ralston by 7 a.m. on Sunday for cowboy church. Quite a few attended the inspiring service conducted by a local minister. At 9 a.m. the preview of sale mules began in the arena, with opportunity to compare and decide which ones were the best. The sale started at 1 p.m. One hundred and ten saddle mules were put on the block, and also ten very nice yearling futurity mules that were chosen out of twenty-five in competition. A.J. Neumann, DVM, from Iowa was the judge for that event.

The sale was done up right. We were impressed with the professionalism exhibited by Jake Clark, auctioneer Jerry King (from North Carolina), and the whole crew. It was a fun sale that lasted over six hours. When the dust settled, according to my arithmetic, 93 mules sold for an average of $3791 per head. I did get in on a little bit of arm exercise, and bid on four different mules. Being 500 miles from home with no trailer somewhat curtailed my involvement, and we didn't end up buying anything.

One three year old dun horse mule consigned by Jeff Tift, of Cody, Wyoming, especially caught my eye. This good looking nice colored mule stood 15.2 and weighed 1100#. He was registered with the North American Saddle Mule Association, and was by the Grand Champion jack, Diamond Creek Major. His dam was a quarter horse mare, Molly Brown Bee, who had Leo, Clabber Bars and Sugar Bars in her pedigree. Jeff had bought the mule as a yearling and had him going very nicely. He had used the mule to gather horses, move cattle, and had roped both cattle and horses on him, besides occasionally packing him. He was "soft in the mouth and ribs, and he neck reins and side passes." The mule was a great long-eared speciman that anyone would be proud to ride. My final bid was $5500, and someone else's bid of $5600 bought the mule. Oh well, I didn't have to figure out how to get him home. Confused

The top seller brought $14,750. A lot of pizzazz on the part of the some of the riders made for an entertaining event. Tom Pannell, from Tennessee, stood on the saddle of his nice looking grey mule and played a tune on his banjo. Then he crawled under the mule and came out between the two hind legs. His efforts paid off, as that mule was the second high seller at $11,000.

Late that afternoon we headed for home, and spent the night in Lovell. Monday we got an early start and enjoyed the scenic route over the top of the Big Horns, coming out at Dayton where we had breakfast. We travelled down the interstate through Sheridan and Gillette and got off at Rapid City. The remainder of our route home passed through Caputa, Scenic, Sharps Corner, Kyle, Allen, Martin and Merriman. All in all, we had a wonderful time and met a lot of very nice people. It was a trip to remember.

Next day, I found three bulls in one pasture that were hurt enough that they "can't romance the cows." We decided to go gather them in the coolness of the evening. Mrs. Soapweed, our son, and I loaded our horses on a 24' trailer to haul the seven miles to the neighbor's ranch where the three bulls were located, along with five other bulls and 200 cows, in a four section pasture. We parked the trailer in a fence corner, forming a "V" with the endgate opened near the corner. We rode out and persuaded the bulls to walk a mile to the trailer. They loaded without incident, and we congratulated ourselves that the project went along so smoothly. The thought did cross my mind, and I wondered aloud if we could have pulled it off as easily with the three best mules from the Wyoming sale. Just guessing, probably not. It would have been a fun challenge, though, to have tried.






Copyright © 2005 Steve Moreland
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