What's Your Mule?

I have always loved a good story. Ever since I was a lil' tyke there have been words that stood out in those stories, but I couldn't tell you why. It's only since I've gotten older and gained some understanding that I've been able to piece together some of the mystery.

When I was young I remember hearing stories about the hills of Wayne County, Tennessee. Some of them were from my Pawpaw (my dad's dad), and some of them were from others about my Pawpaw. Too much time has passed and they aren't really full-fledged stories in my mind anymore, but more like expanded glimpses into the past. Those words, though. It's those magical words contained in the glimpses I will never forget. Hickory. Hollows (hollers). Squirrels. Lye. Moonshine. Catfish. Hillbilly. And Mules.

Those words have stayed in me like dormant seeds waiting to be watered. I believe that's true for everyone. Whether you have a rich family history or you're an orphan on the street. The seeds are inside of you. Seeds of identity. Sometimes the water comes from something we read or a picture we see. Maybe a particular geographical area we're drawn to. Even God himself drops people in our lives that stir up something we've yet to understand. And lately, as crazy as it sounds, mules have been that draw for me.

The family and I were in Colorado on vacation this past week and I went on my first mule ride. I wasn't interested in a horse, I was dead set on riding a longear. It's not just a novelty interest for me. It's a connection to my heritage...my past, but also my future. A yearning to discover more of who I really am.

And, lo and behold, the put me on a molly mule called Houdini. She was named for her ability to open gates. Evidently, her best work was on a visit to a cattle ranch in Texas. Overnight, she opened three different gates and when morning came, they discovered the cattle enjoying their newfound freedom. And on our ride, she didn't disappoint.

She was smooth as can be, but also a little sneaky. Her favorite maneuver was to wait until I was checking out the beautiful scenery and then stop for a snack on the trail. She got me good the first couple of times...me doing the ol' greenhorn rein pull to no avail. Who would have ever thought a mules neck is much stronger than my massive arms? My heels eventually got her attention, though! Most of the time she was on auto-pilot, even for the stream jumps. It was my favorite part. Come to a complete stop...ka-boink...and right on over.

The more the ride went on, the more we came to an understanding, Houdini and I. She would tolerate me and I would appreciate her for being my first mule. She helped me delve deeper into this unexplored part of my soul, and I allowed her to swipe food along the trail as long as she didn't stop while doing it. Pretty good deal I thought.

So what's your mule? What's that thing (or things) that keep popping up in your life that you don't allow yourself to explore? Maybe it's about timing, maybe it's about fear. Whatever the reason you haven't, just don't let it die. The more you dig in and become more of the real you, the better place the world will be. Plus, as a bonus, you'll probably inspire others to have the guts to do the same.

P.S. I've already got my next mule ride on the radar!