by Pettus Read
Whenever I take a visit to see Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie, I never know what subject matter will arise during our discussion time. With Aunt Sadie it usually involves family, how good I look and food. The latter topic is always one of my favorites since her discussion also includes samples. However, with Uncle Sid, the sky is the limit and the topics can be very unusual.
On one particular day recently, I made one of those visits down to Uncle Sid's and Aunt Sadie's farm. The day had been a beautiful fall day as late September days can be around these parts and I could see Uncle Sid standing near the gate of his back barn lot. In the lot was his old mule Rowdy who is about the oldest farm animal found in these parts. The two have always been inseparable and it was sort of strange to see her in the barn lot and not in her usual pasture out front near the rock fence.
As I parked my car beneath one of the huge maple trees near the house, I could see Uncle Sid had a look of disgust on his wrinkled face which is never a good sign if you are planning a visit. He saw me pull in and immediately came around the house in my direction. I could tell by the look on his face that something big had happened and I was about to find out just what it was.
"Boy (he has always called me that), you will never guess what happened this morning on my very own farm," he said still walking to my car. "Folks have just about gone too far went it comes to telling me how to take care of my animals."
I knew Uncle Sid prided himself in the way he took care of his livestock. Only the best feed, hay and pasture was provided by Uncle Sid for his four-legged friends and if someone had questioned his methods of caring for them, I'm sure they must have gotten an ear full of explanation.
"What's happened Uncle Sid?" I asked.
"Some highfalutin woman came up here this morning telling me Ole Rowdy needed better care and should be taken away from me," the old man said almost in tears. "She said an animal as mean as Rowdy had to have been mistreated sometime and I wasn't fit to take care of her."
Trying to get him calmed down, I suggested we start from the top of what had happened on such a pretty fall day. When talking to Uncle Sid, the facts are sometime hard to get straight.
"This morning about eight o'clock this lady and her two-year-old son stopped on the side of the road at the rock wall beside the front pasture. She got her child out of the car and placed him on the rock wall to take a look at Rowdy grazing in the front pasture," Uncle Sid proceeded to tell his side of the story.
"Of course, you know how Rowdy likes to tease kids. She walked over to the fence and started checking the little feller out," he went on to say. "The lady got some weeds in her hand and proceeded to feed Rowdy right in front of her kid. Rowdy is about half-blind and she not only nibbled on the weeds she also took a nip out of the child's blue jeans as well."
I also knew Rowdy and understood how she liked to tease you by nipping at your clothes. She is a mule and anyone who has ever been around one knows that you don't turn your back on them.
"After Rowdy nipped her little boy, the lady comes up here and calls me out on the porch," the old farmer explained. "She demanded I pay for the kid's britches and that I should be ashamed to have such a mean animal around the public. Rowdy is not mean, she's just a mule!"
In today's new world of public aggression on private property, Uncle Sid seems to have met the perfect example of what many farmers are facing today. A lot of people seem to think all property belongs to the public and all animals are from the petting zoo. Cows, horses, goats and yes mules, are often approached by unknowing individuals on many of our farms to be petted and those folks learn right quick that all livestock is not like what Disney Productions portray them as. They are animals that could hurt you if you do not know the proper way to handle them, as well as they are also private property.
"What did you tell the lady Uncle Sid?" I asked.
"I told her I was sorry about the child's little britches, but Rowdy has been in that front pasture for several years and she was the first person I have ever had who has ever stopped and blocked early morning traffic to give grass to a silly old mule," Uncle Sid said with a grin. "I also told her that the way I see it, that mule ought to be allowed one free nibble after all these years of resisting her urges."
He went on to tell me the lady left in a huff and he decided he would just move Rowdy to the back barn lot for a while. He didn't want to tempt another city slicker.
It is sad that in today's world that the respect of other people's property is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. However, a few more nips by mules like Rowdy may get some folk's attention of where they should and should not be.