The American Mule Museum loves to hear from the fans and supporters. Here is a great letter that we wanted to share with all the readers.
Dear American Mule Museum Personnel,
My name is Ryan Damboise and I am from Bristol, Connecticut. I am very thankful to have found the American Mule Museum website because it is providing the benchmark from which my orientation to the American mule is reliably proceeding. My goal is to work as a packer, and much of what I have learned about packmules is the result of your work on the AMM website. I want you to know this because I am preparing for my journey into the mule’s domain, and I am relying heavily on your work to successfully navigate this learning process. It is important to me that I inform you of your role in my self-directed learning, especially because you are helping determine the quality of my preparation as I continue toward my stated goal. I value and appreciate the significant effort involved in your research and writing, as well as the ongoing investment you are making to advance the public’s understanding of the American mule. My progress has been made possible, in large part, due to your concerted effort on behalf of the American mule.
I have begun structuring my knowledge base of mule information by reading all of Ms. Marye Roeser’s Mule Tales articles. I have savored each for its artistic flavor and richly informative gleanings. I have also read the blog, the newsletter archive, and have explored many of the websites under the links tab. In fact, I purchased a copy of Ms. Merideth Hodges’ Training Mules and Donkeys because of the link you provided to the Lucky Three Ranch website. I also purchased a copy of Dr. Robert Miller’s Understanding Horse Behavior — The Secrets of the Horse's Mind because I saw a reference to him on Ms. Hodges’ website and was reminded of having seen his name on the schedule of the Bishop Mule Days Celebration's 50th Anniversary proceedings (which is also linked to on your website).
I am directing all of my resources, meager though they are, to building a properly set foundation that my future packing team-members can be confident in. I have my Bachelor of Animal Science with several years' experience working as a horse wrangler and trail guide (though not currently), however, I don’t yet have experience shoeing. I have begun to remedy this because I know I need to be a skilled horseshoer in order to be a responsible packer. To familiarize myself with the foremost advances in horseshoeing, I have recently participated in the 17th Annual International Hoof Care Summit. The consensus from related conversations was that I ought to attend a horseshoeing school.
My hope is to develop horseshoeing (mules hoeing) proficiency at a program immersed in the mule packing tradition. Would I be correct in thinking the Sierra Horseshoeing School is one such program? Does it continue to operate in Bishop? If it does, would you be so kind as to provide me with the name and contact information of the person with whom I should establish contact? It would be great because I could give a hand at AMM too.
Thank you very much for your generous insight.
With best personal regards,
Ryan, thank you for letting us know that you have found our work helpful and inspiring. We love getting letters to hear how the AMM has touched lives and inspired people to work with, learn about, and teach others about mules. Please feel free to contact us further if we can help you along your path working with mules.
FISH PLANTING PRIOR TO AERIAL STOCKING OF HIGH SIERRA LAKES
Written by Marye Roeser
After World War II ended in 1946, California Department of Fish and Game began aerial fish planting using Army planes and pilots to plant hatchery raised fingerling trout in the lakes and streams of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Much of the Sierra is road less wilderness and is not accessible by vehicle. Prior to aerial drops, fingerling trout were planted in these lakes with strings of mules carrying special fish cans and then on the backs of packers and crew to their destination. These early aerial drops were still not able to plant all lakes due to the restrictions of the early airplanes of that time.
Fish hatcheries scattered around the Sierra collected trout eggs and raised trout until they could be planted in the area lakes and streams. Rainbow Trout were the most commonly planted and golden trout were planted in high lakes where suitable habitat was found. Special aerated tanker trucks hauled the “catch-able" fish to the appropriate lakes and streams that they could access. Since the majority of the Sierra lakes and streams are located away from roads; commercial pack stations provided mule transportation for these tiny fish. Their destination; new watery homes in the vast Sierra Nevada range. Fish and Game trucks would haul fingerlings to pack stations where they would transfer the fingerlings to fish cans. These fish cans would then travel by mule back to the high lakes and creeks. These specially designed and constructed cans hold the little fish in water while traveling until they could be poured into the destination lakes and streams. A mule can carry one can on each side hooked onto the packsaddle and lashed in place.
In 1952, Lou Roeser remembers helping in the yard at Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit with a fish planting trip to plant small trout fingerlings. These fingerlings were raised in the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery and trucked to the pack station in a fish planting truck. Stout, gentle pack mules were saddled and cinched ready for the fish cans to be loaded with tiny, young fish. As soon as the cans were packed on a mule that mule would be kept moving by the mounted packer as additional packed mules were tied into the mule string. Trout need adequate oxygen in the cold water and this constant movement kept the water in the cans aerated so the little fish could obtain their necessary oxygen. The mule packer would then move out on the trail leading to the lakes. Employees from California Fish and Game accompanied the packer and mule string to organized the pouring out of the fish at the chosen site(s). The mules were brought as close as possible to the fingerlings planned destination. When the mule strings could not be brought to the waters edge the men than backpacked the fish cans the rest of the way.
That same year, Russ Johnson, the owner of McGee Creek Pack Station and Cliff Brunk with California Dept. of Fish and Game, packed golden trout up to Baldwin Lake and a creek above Horsetail Falls. They led the mules as far as feasible. They then hiked, carrying the cans on their backs the remainder of the way.
Today, California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducts aerial fish planting with more modern aircraft and schedules air drops every 3 years for each lake. Lakes with more fishing pressure are planted more often. The “Packer with the Mule String” planting method was used throughout the Sierra Nevada range to stock backcountry lakes for many years and still today in some more inaccessible basins. The Sierra have become famous for the great fishing opportunities to be found in many of the lakes, river and creeks throughout the mountain range.
Mules, a Family Business
100 years and still going strong.
Submitted by Jennifer Roeser
Written by Michaela Reese
The Reese name has been one in the same with hard work, family values, and good business for nearly one hundred years. The Reese Brothers have taken pride in their family business and have created a way of life for generations to follow and flourish. The journey began in the nineteen twenties with Rufus Reese Sr. starting the family’s long and deep traditions within the mule trading business that has carried on for four generations. Dickie and Rufus Reese are the third generation to continue their family business and stretch it from mules being used to pack, as outfitters, traverse the Grand Cannon, and used in the military.
The mules arrive at Greenwood Farms and are taken into the family’s massive gray barn to be clipped, saddled or harnessed, and prepped for their jobs and lives ahead. Some mules are bought for show, others for their brute strength and aid many of the Amish communities in and around Middle Tennessee. From the crop in rural fields Pennsylvania to the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana the Reese mules are used and depended on everyday. Nation wide the Reese Brother’s Mule Company can be seen providing park services in the Midwest, giving carriage rides in California, and quail hunts in South Georgia. Many other business families buy mules from Greenwood Farms and in turn sell them to others in places around the U.S. They sell to individuals or to other businesses. These animals have many functions that Dickie and Rufus capitalized on to ensure the well being of their future family members. The thought of Rufus Sr. in Nashville, Tennessee auctioning and bargaining for his great grandchildren’s future is enough to make anyone proud to know, or be part of, this family.
When the brothers took over the family business it was due to a horrific accident resulting in the loss of their father in 1979. The brothers picked up the business with a skill and finesse that not many could achieve. Dickie took over the accounting side having graduated from The University of Tennessee with an Animal Science degree. Rufus, with his no-nonsense attitude, took over the trading of the mules and auctioning. The brothers were, and are, the power-houses of the mule trading world and work exceptionally well together. Dickie states, “We never really fought. Rufus is absolutely the perfect partner.” They worked hard everyday together, learning from one another and gaining the respect of men and women worldwide. Rufus humbly states, “We don’t consider ourselves mule trainers, we keep our operation simple and sell what we buy. The less we have to handle a mule the more profit there is in him.” The ability of the two brothers to save and keep their family business has resulted in the newest generation joining the business. Richard Reese is Rufus’s son. Rufus has taught, and still teaches, his son the way of life on the Greenwood Farm on which Richard grew up. Throughout the years the farm has never really changed just increased in size and ability to profit. The farm makes its name in cattle, mules, and of course mule auctions. The Reese Brothers are famous for their mule consignments in the three big sales. They occur in January, February, and November in Westmoreland, Tennessee. The preparation and work it takes to orchestrate such a sale is awe inspiring and only possible due to the way Richard, Dickie, and Rufus work together.
Dickie and Rufus retired, for the most part, in 2018 and have granted the farm to Richard to continue, for many years to come. Richard’s natural skill continues to impress, and provide for, the farmers and business men that depend on the Reese Brother’s Mule Company. Richard has two teachers that know the very inner workings of not only the mules they care for but also the ideals they stand for. Rufus’s daughter Rilla Reese Hanks has also taken after her family name and started up a business for herself and her family. She graduated from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a Masters in Animal Science, just like her uncle. She then went on to graduate with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. Just like Richard; she grew up on Greenwood Farms and has amassed a huge knowledge from working with horses and mules her entire life. Rilla and her husband Drew started their own breeding of mules in 2016 and she is consulted frequently on health issues as a Veterinarian. Dickie still works the three big mule auctions and Rufus can be seen in the barns working with and ensuring the mules are taken care of. Even though the Brothers are retired their relentless passion for their farm, animals, and family is awe inspiring.
One hundred years of business is no small accomplishment especially considering the advancement of technology. Throughout all of life’s struggles Dickie and Rufus Reese have been a shining beacon of hard work, family values, and good family business. These men have worked incredibly hard creating a way of life in Middle Tennessee that will live on in the hearts and minds of many Reese generations to come.
Don’t miss the famous Tennessee Sales that take place the second Saturday of January, February, March, October, and November. There is a specialty sale the second Friday of January known at the Colt Sale and a sale during the Great Mule and Donkey Celebration at Shelbyville in July each Year. Check out the website at: www.reesemules.com.