Chinati Mules

     Chinati Mules


       Mike Capron

Anne was excited to make this nice little Sunday ride with me to go get the jailbreaking mules. We gathered two fine rock horses and headed up the mountain from the HQ on a different trail to our camp, hoping to encounter the mules. It was a beautiful  Sunday and we were having a ball. We found the mules close to the HQ and captured them and headed back up to camp on top. The trail was new to us as we hadn’t explored this part of the ranch before. So it was exciting to see new country and enjoy the beauty of a pristine mountain. The veiws from Chinati were different at every corner of the trail, as we wound our way to the top. Many places were breath taking to say the least as the drop off on the down side was too far to even quess at, much less the thought of falling off of. But the mules and our steeds were of mountain stock and they took it all in with a breath of confidence. We felt like pioneers weaving our way through the canyons and ridges. This was a special treat for me, seldom does a hairy legged cowpuncher get to take his soul mate on such a beautiful ride on such a beartiful day. It truly was a beautiful Sunday for me. 

I was amazed at the different eco system on the mountain. Lots of Mountain Lion sign. We rode next to a huge Alligator Bark Juniper that over looked Doll Canyon and a huge vista of Marfa Flat and all the country to the east. You could see all the way to Austin.  Under this juniper the ground was covered in lion droppings, they looked a foot deep. I am not a lion hunter, but this is were I would come to hunt lions. Lots of Aoudad and little Coos Deer , but no mule deer. The rocks were jagged and the canyons deep, but the parks were breath taking lush green grass with no weeds. Sure looked cowey to me, but no sign of any cattle using this lush mountain top recently. 

We found the camp just like I had left it and it was no problem to pack up as we had two extra mounts now. I talked Anne into trading her horse for a nice gentle mule. I traded my horse for a fresh big stout mule and packed all the others. We headed down the mountain a little later than we needed to be, but we would still have time to have a leisure  ride down and still make it to Ft. Davis by dark. To end a beautiful day with my favorite pardner. I was sure feeling higher than the mountain. 

I was leading one mule and taking the lead of the pack string. Anne was in the drag and keeping everybody moving in single file down the mountain. The trail was plain but some brush had grown over the trail in places and it was tight going for short distances, not exactly a dude wrangling trail. You had to ride and pay attention to your livestock. The brush had hung a shovel on one of the packs and drug it off on the trail. Anne hollered but there was no way to get to it at this point. The trail was too narrow and a steep drop off. I told Anne to pick it up when she had a chance after the mules had passed over it.  She did with no problem until she remounted the little mule. I guess he thought that she was going to beat him with it, because he threw a fit and bucked her off right on the edge of the trail. It was solid jagged rock and the drop off was serious. I couldn’t see the whole wreck, but I knew it wasn’t good. It took me some doing to get to her by the time I got my mule tied and weaved my way back to her through all the other mules and horses. The trail was so narrow and congested with animals that it was impossible for them to pass one another. I had the trail blocked with my mule tied and so we had time to check out the damage. I didn’t need a medical genius to tell me that her wrist was broken, but she was in more pain with her rib section and I figure she must have broken some ribs also. The LZ that she had picked was a rock slide from a previous ancient earthquake. But it wasn’t stable and dropped off quickly to no telling where, we couldn’t see the bottom.  I wrapped her wrist and made a sling for her arm to rest in, hopping to help stabilize it from movement during our ride home. The ribs I tried to wrap, but not enough to help as the slightest movement made it very painful. I finally  convinced her to get back on the mule without the shovel and I assured her the mule would be alright now. But we hadn’t gone far until we found a good area to regroup and check out the injuries further. She said that the wrist was painful but the ribs were still the most painful. She said that I was going to be in worst shape if I didn’t unpack her horse so she could trade mounts. So to say the least, I did.  It was a long ride to the HQ and sure was dark when I got everything put up and headed to the hospital in Alpine. It was a long wait at the hospital for a doctor, but he was a good one and fixed Anne up real nice. No broken ribs, but a good fracture of the wrist. We headed back to Ft. Davis but she didn’t sleep much that night. I couldn’t believe it when she was up and ready to go to school the next morning. Hard core school teacher is all I have to say.  She has gone riding with me lots of times since then and she will go anywhere. But never mule back !!!!

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