Writing Group: Non-Fiction: Part III


For this last week’s prompt we thought up a memory from our childhood or teenage years and really worked on describing the senses. The only edits are spelling.

The air was crisp, burning lungs in the early morning mountain air. Moisture hung in the air, we were on the side of the Continental Divide where it rained each afternoon. The day was growing warm and the air thinner as we came to the deadfall. A massive tree across the trail.

We had been moving deadfalls off the trail for days. Our fingers cramped, arms burned from using the flimsy saws and hatchets. This one looked low enough for our riding horses and pack mules to jump. The first two crossed with no issue, riderless they jumped with easy, happy to stand, waiting for the rest of us to cross.

The first of our pack mules was a big steady palomino with a level head. He was easily able to carry two large packs. The tan of their coverings complimenting his hide and fitting into the rustic atmosphere of the rough and rocky mountain trail.

Sarge was led to the deadfall and he would not jump. At least, not for a while. My dad pulled on the lead attached to his halter and I smacked him with my reins. We didn’t carry crops – this wasn’t normally an issue. The faithful mule raised his front legs and pushed himself up and forward only to over balance.

The sound of an animal that large crashing to the ground to land on a sea of tree limbs is deafening and the ground trembles. Fear and adrenaline flood the system, thoughts race. If he is hurt, if he thrashes we are days from help – at least two days worth of riding. Short of a helicopter it would be nearly impossible to get an injured mule out.

But he didn’t thrash. In fact, besides raising his head to look at us he didn’t move at all. His look clearly said: Alright you idiots, you got me into this, get me out. Quickly I tied up my mare and the other pack mule, Molly. Once we realized he wasn’t going to freak out my sister started taking pictures from where she stood holding the other half of the string that had crossed. The click and winding of the disposable camera was loud in the silence. My dad and I moved quickly, pulling the packs off the wooden frame. Once unloaded my dad pulled the large mule giving him room to rock and get to his hooves.

The only damage was a bent tent pole and Sarge wouldn’t jump anything for the rest of the trip. The relief was sweet, no one was injured and we all learned something: the next time a pack animal would not jump we unloaded her before getting her to jump.

The tan mule in the middle is Sarge.

Yes, this is a true story. Yes, we listened to the animals after this incident. This occurred in the San Juan National Forest. No, I don’t know where the photos of the incident are but the one above is from that trip. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to listen to an animal’s instincts? Did you? Let me know in the comments and happy reading.

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4 comments on “Writing Group: Non-Fiction: Part III”

  1. Besides the mule’s peril, your experience sounds incredible. It sounds like a frontier excursion…I was thinking you pulled it from a book…no offense.

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    1. None taken, that trip was a bit wild. We had a horse throw a shoe, we got caught in a thunderstorm, we ate fresh caught trout, and took shelter in an abandoned mining cabin.

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