Joe N. Brown
Joe N. Brown

Back in the 1970s, mule riding, racing and roping became very popular.

Now, mules had always been used in the rough country of West Texas and everybody had some experience with mules.

I myself had owned two or three while ranching in the Big Bend country. Most of them I had gotten on horse trades and some were good saddle animals while others usually had a mean trick or two.

For about 10 years, I was the Arena Judge for the Sanderson Roping Club. During this time, I had judged many mule team roping, mule races and mule barrel races. I had seen all colors and kinds of mules when I finally got the fever to own a mule.

There was a rancher down on the border who dealt in mules of all kinds and at the time mules were selling from $500 to $1,000. I told him if he ever got a absolutely foolproof mule, I would buy him. I thought I was very safe as I did not believe one existed.

About two years later, the man called me one night at the ranch. He said, and I quote, “I have the mule you ordered so bring your trailer and saddle and come to my place tomorrow.” I agreed knowing I could turn this mule down if it did not suite me.

Arriving at his ranch south of Dryden about 10 o’clock the next day, I saw no mules in the pen. When I asked where was this perfect mule he wanted to sell me, the man turned and whistled loudly. Out of the brush came a tall brown horse mule in a hard run. He ran into the horse lot at the barns and stood waiting.

The rancher got a grass halter and put it on the mule then led him over to me and said meet Nicodemas. “He’s 4-years-old and is exactly what you ordered, foolproof.”

I said show me what he can or will do now! The rancher pulled the mules tail, crawled between his legs, then jumped on him bare-back. The mule never moved.

I said OK but how does he ride?

The rancher put a saddle on him, stepped aboard and rode him out of the pen in a full lope, then he caught the halter and did several circles before sliding him to a stop at the barn.

When I asked what he knew about the mule, his answer was, “He was raised in the back yard of a house in Tahoka on a bottle as he was an orphan. And what you just saw is what you get for $1,000.”

I checked the mule for scars, blemishes and brands. I found nothing and asked if he guaranteed this animal.

His answer was “Take him home, use him for 30 days and either bring him back or mail me a check. OK?”

Yes.

I took Nicodemas home and shortened his name to Nick. He was one of the finest saddle animals I had ridden in my life. He could literally do anything that you asked for, from climbing a mountain or bailing off in a deep canyon.

I kept and rode Nick for six years until I sold out and quit ranching when I sold him to a rich oil man for a hunting mule.

The sale price was $2,000 and he went to a good home.