Shaffee had a team of mules, large and soft and black.
They were taller than my dad, and had great, fat backs.
Shaffee loved those big mules, he never made them work.
They were kind and friendly, but pleasant don’t plow dirt.
Funny thing about those mules, that never plowed the sod,
(you could see it from afar) – their mismatched ears were odd.
Dad and I would call on him and go see his ‘ol friends’.
They always came to the fence, glad to make amends.
I would study them big ears. They were rough and bumpy
Three ears had missing tips, one – half gone and lumpy.
The old man saw me staring and then he told the tale
of how those mules lost their ears on a fiery trail.
This story is old, he said. Near forty years ago!
We lived up in the North Woods, close to Peshtigo.
I heard Dad suck in his breath, and knew this tale was true.
He had lumberjack-ed up there, back in his years of youth.
A fire raged, great and hot. The flames reached to the sky,
and as far as you could see. We all began to cry.
The only thing I could think was to go into the burn
to get to where it was safe. There’s nowhere else to turn.
I hooked my mules to the cart. The wife wet down the quilts.
I steered them into the flames, (and swallowed up my guilt.)
We hid in our comforters , to keep us from the heat.
Those two mules went right on through, though the ground burnt their feet.
By prayer and grace, we made it through heat and flames that day.
My family and I, and the mules who pulled our dray.
We were fine but smelled of smoke and felt we got off cheap.
Our faithful friends lost their ears, but they had earned their keep.
The only hair they had left, was where their harness lay.
We cried as we tended them. Thank God for them, that day.
Dad’s and my eyes teared up, as we looked upon those two
black and shiny pair of friends; beloved heroes, true.
The courage of those brave mules still inspires me today.
Courage means to face the fire and not to run away.