Betty Robinson, former NASMA Director and Historian, lost her good friend on
Monday. Dr. Ruth, Betty's mule companion for twenty years, lost her battle
with stomach cancer and was humanely euthanized.
Betty's shares this tribute to Ruth.
I bought Ruth from Dave McMahen when she was ten. She and I enjoyed a wonderful
twenty years together. Ruth was my first mule and I bought her after my friend
Dave dared me to ride one of his on a Competitive Trail Ride. I was assigned to
ride drag and had a fantastic experience. If you have never ridden a mule you
can’t understand the difference between riding a mule and a horse. From that day
forward I knew I wanted a mule and I pestered Dave until he sold me Dr. Ruth.
Prior to coming to me Ruth had
already had three years experience in Competitive Trail Riding. She had won
everything an individual could win except the Presidents Cup. She was ridden by
a Texan, Renee Stevens and was one of the first mules to ever compete against
horses at a CTR. The two racked up their share of trophies. When I bought Ruth I
was pretty much through with competition and ready for some quiet every day
taught me every “good” thing I ever learned about a mule. She knew I was a
novice mule owner and had a great amount of patience with me. She was both
reliable and loyal. Ruth was my friend of all friends. We could ride through the
mountains, not even on a trail, and know exactly what the other one was
thinking. She was a joker and loved to tease with me. She would tease the other
mules too, by locking them out of the feed lot or locking them in the barn. When
she knew I was ready to ride she would hide in a patch of cedars in the pasture
where she thought I couldn’t see her. But she was always ready to go when the
trailer rolled out.
Ruth loved apples and PB&J
sandwiches. Back in the ‘90s Ruth was my mentor while I wrote both my first two
books: Horse Trails in Arkansas and Horse Trails in Oklahoma . We camped out by
ourselves many nights in strange country. We did a good job looking out for each
other. She would wake me up if “anything”, even a strange dog, came near our
camp. I would put her in the trailer whenever we had to camp in a storm. I
more good hay and grain than she could eat. We would be dead tired driving home
from a weekend of chasing trails in Oklahoma and still take time out to share
peanut butter cookies and gator-aide at the rest areas.
Ruth was a willing partner and went anywhere I asked unless my suggestion was so
totally dangerous she thought we were both going to get hurt. She only seriously
refused me once. That’s a darn good average since I often asked her to do some
pretty stupid things.
She lived to by thirty years of age which by most mule standards is young. But
she was fighting stomach cancer and had been for over a year. I couldn’t be
selfish enough to make her suffer any longer. To the very last day whenever I
put a saddle on her she would get a bow in her back and try to make me think she
was going to throw me over the fence. The mule never bucked in her whole life
but she sure tried to make you think she would.
If you’re a rider and have never ridden a good mule, you haven’t lived yet. The
really good ones don’t come along as often as some folks might think. Dr. Ruth
was one of the best. The last thing I told her before I gave her a good bye kiss
was, “Okay, so you are going on before me, it hurts but I’ll get by. Just
remember, one day I’ll come looking for you and I expect you to be waiting at