THE ARMY MULE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
Sometimes mules got in the army ’cause they’d pulled a wicked trick.
Had some trouble with a feller and the feller he got kicked.
That man’s neighbors joined in singin’, while the parson blessed his soul;
“Shall We Meet Beyond the River Where the Surges Cease to Roll.”
But the mule he liked the army when he got his trainin’ done.
And the soldiers didn’t seem to hold his past against him none.
For the packer and the “Skinner,” take ’em as a general rule,
Has a past a heap more shady than the average army mule.
No they didn’t starve or beat him, and he did his share of work.
They knowed how they ort to treat him and the mule he didn’t shirk
If you know the way to use him he’s a mighty handy tool,
And the people that abused him rank a lot below the mule.
There mebby is a stubborn streak that runs among the breed.
Don’t try to move a wheel mule up and work him in the lead.
That works in both directions and you buck the self same deal
If you try to make the lead mule back and work him on the wheel.
He will keep a heavy wagon movin’ right along the road.
In among the hills and mountains he will pack a heavy load.
He might light out for some reason that you never could explain,
But you’ll find him at the picket line in time to get his grain.
‘Course you have to be admittin’ that a mule has got his tricks.
He ain’t harmless like a kitten, and he means it when he kicks.
But you’ll find him mighty useful, and you’ll find he ain’t no fool,
If you chance to get acquainted with a real old army mule.
…by Bruce Kiskaddon
Still thinking of veterans, here’s a tribute to the four-legged kind.
“The Army Mule” appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1943 and was included in the 1947 edition of Rhymes of the Ranges. Western Livestock journalist Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 edition of Rhymes of the Ranges:
Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.
Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.
Texan Kay Nowell recites “The Army Mule” on the latest MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com, a 3-cd collection, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. On it, Bill Siems tells more about the life and work of Bruce Kiskaddon.
This undated photo from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division is titled, “Pack mule of U.S. Army Signal Corps, used for carrying storage batteries for the field wireless telegraph.”
This poem and photograph are in the public domain.