THE HEIRLOOM LIFE: Mule life on the Long farm is thriving

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

Story and photos
by Melanie Hutti
Contributing writer

For some, farm life is about cattle.  For others, it’s chickens and goats.   For the Long family, mules take center stage.  Lon, Thea, and Skylar Long have dedicated the majority of their Hustonville farm to the eight mules they currently own (not counting their single donkey nicknamed “Freebie”, who was included in a package deal for a purchased horse trailer).  

Mules have a longstanding history of being beasts of burden.  The product of a male donkey and a female horse, a mule’s strong legs and sturdy stature are perfect for pulling farm equipment and carts, carrying heavy loads, and transporting people across rough terrain.  Their hooves are stronger than horses, making them ideal for mountain transport.  Used in the military, their tales were “belled” (a tassel cut into their tail) to distinguish a mule’s purpose and training.  One “bell” meant a mule was a competent packer.  Two “bells” indicated that a mule could drive.  A “3-bell mule” was the most prized of all mules, adept in packing, driving, and riding.  

The Long family prizes their mules for trail riding and camping.  Used primarily for leisure, these beautiful animals have a very different life than their hard-working, field-plowing ancestors.  With a comfortable barn and an open field for running and rolling in the dirt (ungraceful, but making Thea smile every time they are loosed), these mules live the lap of luxury, at least as mule life goes.  The Longs and their eight mules (and one free donkey) are one more example of a modern family living The Heirloom Life.

About the writer: Melanie Hutti is a new contributing writer who enjoys cooking, heirloom gardening and art. She resides with her family on Gypsy Hill Farm in Lincoln County. Hutti can be reached by email at mhutti@bellsouth.net.