Remembering horses and buggies and mules

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published August 18, 1993 in The Suburban Life, added August 16, 2016.

In 1926, Brownie Morgan drove Blaine DeMar's milk wagon on a milk route in Madeira. The mule is Jenny.

In 1926, Brownie Morgan drove Blaine DeMar’s milk wagon on a milk route in Madeira. The mule is Jenny.

Brownie Morgan remembers horse and buggy days in Madeira.  He remembers them well, especially the days of the horse and mule.

When living in Oakley as a child, Brownie’s dream was to own his own horse, like his heroes, Tom Mix and William S. Hart.  When he saw them on the silent screen, he dreamed of being like them, strong and silent, with an ever-faithful horse at his side as his companion.

This was happiness, he knew.  He lived the dream every hour of the day.  The horse he had in mind would do little, if any, work.  Nor would he.

When his parents announced they were looking for a farm to buy, Brownie knew his dream was coming true.  He was sure he’d get a horse of his own.

Imagine his disappointment when his mom and dad settled for buying a house and an extra lot on Laurel Avenue in Madeira.  It was hard to take for a 12-year-old kid who’d had his heart on a farm and a horse.  But he didn’t give up his dream.  He still knew there were horses in his future.

Horses did appear in his future two years later when he got a job working for Blaine DeMar on his farms.  He worked Saturdays and six days a week during summer vacations from school.

Though he had no riding horses, Mr. DeMar had a beautiful big team of workhorses and some mules.

Most of Brownie’s work involved the mules, especially one team of tame, gentle mules named Jack and Jenny.

Being around the horses and mules helped Brownie cling to his dream, even though there was work involved.  Work had not been in his dream.  There also was little riding involved in his real life on the DeMar farm.

About the only time the hired hands rode the mules was to and from the fields, or on some work-related mission.

Having seen his screen heroes jump across canyons on their horses, Brownie decided he would try to on one of the mules.  He planned it well.  On his way to routinely water the mules, they had to cross a wet weather ditch between two rolling hills not far from the road on the DeMar Kenwood Road farm.   Brownie even did research on how to get the mule to jump.  It seemed so simple.

At the chosen moment, Brownie got the mule running to full speed.  Then he tightened the reins, slapped the mule on the rump, and squeezed in his heels.

Brownie still doesn’t know what went wrong.  The mule stopped dead in his tracks.  Brownie shot through the air, across the ditch, and landed on the hard ground where he struggled for breath.

Meanwhile, the mule, which had ambled on up the hill, stood drinking at the watering trough.  Brownie stayed sore for days.

Another of his riding experiences involved a mule, which didn’t like its ears touched.  It took two men to put a bridle on the animal, even when the mule was tied close to the manger.

After the bridle was on and the bit in the mule’s mouth, things returned to normal.   The mule could then be worked singly, as part of a team, or hitched to a wagon.

One day, Brownie had to take this mule to a blacksmith shop in Madisonville to get new shoes.  He led the mule all the way down there, to the amusement of the blacksmiths, two big, burly men.

They chided him for leading the mule and told him he should be riding the mule instead.  Brownie explained about the ear phobia and said that the mule had never been ridden.

No problem, the men told him.  They, themselves, would help him.  They would help him mount the mule and then would hold the bridle and lead the mule around, getting it used to being ridden.  The mule would settle down in not time, they said.  He could then ride safely home.

Finally, they convinced Brownie it would work.

When he managed to get one leg barely over the animal’s back, the mule went into orbit.  The men let go of the bridle and just stood and watched the struggle.  All Brownie could do was to try to hang on.  Without a saddle, there was little to hang on to.

After what seemed years to Brownie, the mule settled down and headed for home, with Brownie still aboard.  All the way home, Brownie’s main thought was how to dismount without touching the mule’s ears and upsetting him all over again.  Somehow, Brownie managed to get to the ground in one piece.  And he never rode that mule again.

At that time, most of the Madeira area was farmland.  Blain DeMar owned two farms.  Brownie worked for him on both farms, going back and forth between them, even hauling big loads of hay.

He also worked for him on two separate occasions, the latter one being full time on a milk route.  Brownie drove the milk wagon, pulled by a mule, usually Jenny.

Brownie’s early work for Mr. DeMar involved mules and horses, but the mechanical age was coming to the farms of Madeira.  The times would change.

The next column will relate Brownie’s experiences with farm machinery and early cars, and with early transportation in Madeira.