mule wrangling -- 3/17/21
Today's selection -- from Grand Canyon Women by Betty Leavengood. Mule wrangling in the Grand Canyon.
"For more than a century, wranglers (folks who work with mules and horses) have guided dudes (city folk pretending they are cowboys) into the Grand Canyon. Mule rides are a favorite pastime for canyon visitors, and most agree that exploring trails while atop a mule is the most exciting way to see the canyon. Not only have they been brought face to face with the canyon's exquisite beauty, the 'dudes' have had a true Western experience.
"Mules are crafty animals, known for being sure-footed and stubborn, yet safe. In the more than one hundred years that mule wranglers have been taking dudes into the Grand Canyon, they've never lost a dude! That's because mules have a special set of breeding requirements. A male donkey is called a jack, and a female donkey is a jenny. In horses, the male is a stallion, and the female, a mare. Breed a jack with a mare and you have a mule. The result of this breeding is an animal with the shape and sure-footedness of a large donkey and the disposition of a horse, making it an ideal animal for trips along steep, narrow ledges like those found in the canyon.
"Mules were the work animal of early prospectors like John Hance and William Bass, who used them to haul ore from their mines in the canyon. Both men soon learned that putting a dude on the back of a mule was more profitable than ore, and by the mid-1880s both men offered trips into the canyon.
"In the early years, women rode into the canyon wearing long skirts and proper hats, but none was counted among the ranks of the wranglers. That is until William Bass's daughter Edith came along. She rode her own mule down to Shinumo Camp at age three and a half, and by age thirteen she could wrangle a mule better than most cowboys. Edith's outgoing personality and skill with mules made her a natural with dudes, and she can rightly be called the Grand Canyon's first woman wrangler. Edith married Bert Lauzon in 1916 and lived at the canyon until her untimely death in 1924 after gallstone surgery.
"Wrangling was incredibly hard work, and it remains so even today. No modern devices substitute for the personal touch of the wranglers. Today at the Grand Canyon, a mule wrangler's day begins much the way it always has: with a cold splash of water on the face at 4:00 A.M. and a quick, hearty breakfast. The wrangler is in the stables before the sun crests the horizon. Stalls are swept clean, and fresh hay replaces the matted, day-old pile. The wranglers haul grain for the mules' breakfasts and then brush, comb, and check the animals head to heel for cuts, bruises, or other injuries that may not have been apparent the night before. All are then saddled, cinched, and led off to the corral to await the day's dudes."