Mule Day --Working harder than a rented mule to keep a tradition

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"My favorite animal is the mule. He has a lot more horse sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating. And he knows when to stop working."

Harry S Truman

Spring has always been my favorite time of year: as the weather begins to warm up, so does the NCAA basketball tournament, the Masters, and Mule Day. Two of the three events get plenty of press, so let me tell you about my hometown's annual Mule Day event.

My hometown of Columbia Tennessee has been celebrating the mule and our historic relationship with this hard working and ornery animal every Spring since 1840 -- well before I was in a position to get kicked by one. And considering we are located next to Pulaski Tennessee, where the Ku Klux Klan was founded and near Carthage, Tennessee, where Al Gore was born, I always reasoned the Mule Day was not a bad historic event to celebrate.

Columbia is, after all, the "the Mule Capital of the World." Not just the United States, the world! Take that Winfield, Alabama! So this is not a nickel-and -dime operation. Back before tractors, the engine, garden tillers and illegal aliens, mules were the working real-deal, worthy of celebration.

The event has a Mule Pulling contest, Knife and Coin Show, Square Dancing, Cowboy Mounted shooting contest and a lumberjack exhibition (which I think is a subtle reach out to the lesbian community). There is also an amateur Liars Contest, which the many politicians who attend the event are forbidden to enter since they are professionals.

Two experiences of mine come to mind as I think back on Mule Days of my youth. The first occurred as I was walking near some mules and a hot dog stand. A mule or maybe a donkey tried to bite me (donkeys, you know, are the Democratic symbol, so maybe he sensed something brewing in me at age 17) and I ran away, slipping on what I can only hope was a hot dog on the ground.

A better memory is that I once dated a Mule Day Queen. It was and is a big deal to win that title in my hometown. It was not until a year later away at college when I was bragging about dating the Mule Day Queen at the SAE house that I realized the story did not travel well.

What I learned about mules in my upbringing has served me well in dealing with people since. I learned to never try to teach a mule to think or reason. It just does not work, and it just annoys the mule ---all the while making you look stupid for even trying. You never want to get yourself in a position where you are matching wits with a far inferior intellectual creature. It is the same reason no one should strike up a conversation with Paris Hilton at a bar.

What you have to love about mules and all animals is that they always seem to enjoy the moment. Only man seems to worry about things. Animals know that the primary principle of life is to enjoy it. And they never seem to pass any judgment nor ask many questions of others---an admirable trait.

Mule Day is so big that I even saw a picture of it last year on the front page of The New York Times. Oddly enough, the article was not what I expected -- a chance to belittle Southern traditions. Rather, in the New York Times tradition of criticizing Republican politicians, it was about the allocation of Homeland Security money to the event. I take issue with that. The terrorists who so value their camels, would like nothing more than to attack our mule stockpile. That many mules all gathered in one place would be too enticing to al-Qaeda.

Yep, al-Qaeda terrorists could move so freely in this Mule Day crowd and would be so hard to detect. And, what with all the guns and knives around, wielded by local owner operators of same, the terrorist would really have the upper hand. Again, I am just glad the U. S. Government is there to protect us.

This year's Mule Day is April 12-15th in Columbia Tennessee. If you would like to see a true slice of Americana, attend this festive tradition --al-Qaeda free since 1840!

Ron Hart is a columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to The Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander. His E-mail: