Archive » July 12, 2012
Another Mule Days draws Valley participants
By Pat Murphy, Contributing Writer
Another Mule Days has come and gone, and what a wild and wooly event it was! A bunch of people from the Valley went to either watch it or take part. And it truly is an experience that you’ll never forget.
Bishop, Calif., is the hub of the horse and mule-packing industry in the eastern Sierras. Mule Days is the largest mule exhibit in the world, with an attendance of more than 30,000 people.
John Crockett, curator of the SYV Carriage Museum competed in several of the events and swears that he feels lucky to have returned in one piece. He brought home a bunch of ribbons and a nice belt buckle, which were given to all contestants. John jumped in with both feet and somehow emerged alive with the following awards: Americana class – 10th, Parade – 5th, Working pair of mules – 4th and Working single mule – 3rd.
“The chariot races were really scary,” he tells me. “You go around this race track standing in a chariot the size of a trash can with wheels. You have to get the mules going as fast as they can. But good driving mules are trained to start at a walk and then gradually increase speed if you want them to. In this race, the other contestants just shot out over the starting line and went hell-bent around the track. I tried to keep up but came in last, and the announcer said he wasn’t sure if I knew this was a race!
“But I’m getting ahead of myself. Otis Caleb and I went up to Bishop with a mountain wagon that had belonged to T.Hayer and that Terry Evans lent to us. We also took an extension-top Phaeton that was put on display from our museum, and my own cart and a mule harness. We were the only people that had “Sharecropper mules” which is a name for a team that is not matched. I was driving one blonde and the other a brunette.
“There was a big crowd there and the stands were completely full over the weekend. This was a week-long, very unique experience and I am definitely going back next year. There were all kinds of classes, from side saddle riding to pack mules. The Pack Scramble had a bunch of mules turned loose together, and the packers had to get their own mules and get them all across the finish line.
“Probably, one of the funniest contests was the Dolly Parton ride. Men put two balloons full of water inside their shirts and galloped back to the finish line. Somehow, those balloons just didn’t want to hold the water – and if a balloon breaks, then the rider has to go back and get another one. The winner who gets back over the line first with his two balloons still full of water wins!”
Steve and Jennifer Berman and their two daughters Olivia and Emily, take part in Mule Days every year. This year they competed in 27 different classes and received awards ranging from 1st to 7th place. Jennifer told us, “Highlights included 1st place in chariot steer stopping, with Steve as the teamster and Charlie Prewitt of Sanger, Calif., as the roper. Steve took 2nd in gambler’s choice and 4th in timed obstacle team. Olivia won 2nd in youth driving. Emily, riding her mule Ruby, came alive this year in barrels. She won 2nd in youth, as well as, in the open class. Jennifer driving Pearl made it to the finals in single driving gambler’s choice. We took 4th behind three amazing mule trainers, so we felt proud of that.”
The Bermans also showed a beautiful restored phaeton from the Santa Ynez Museum in the Americana class and placed 3rd. Steve is a Museum board member. Emily is on track to be High Point Youth for AMA again this year. Kim Kunkle, was a long time Valley resident, and a devoted afficado of mules. Finally, she just packed up and moved to Bishop, to be nearer the action. Kim won the halter class and placed in English mules!