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Reminiscing Mule Trains

October 18, 2006 Times Edition

In the 1920's, farming operations in Jackson County were still carried on with animal power; horses, mules, and a few oxen. There were 13 dealers in the county. Tractor dealers "0".

A major factor for the use of work animals was in the high number of small farms. Many of these had been sub-divided from large plantations during the post-war reconstruction years of the late 1860's and 1870's. Most of these parcels could be tended behind a good pair of mules, sustaining continued ownership by individual farm families.

In Marianna, there were four livestock dealers, or "stables"; two in the west end of town and two in downtown. One of these was owned by a Mr. Holman in a structure south of Marianna Office Supply on Green Street, and the other by my father. His stables were at the intersection of Jackson and Green, a short distance from Holman and Company. In the peak season of winter, when farmland was being broken for the coming crop year, over two hundred head of mules would be kept in these two barns. Have times changed? Go to the City Hall for permission to house these 200 animals adjacent to the downtown business district. If you're lucky, you may escape.

Few mules were produced locally. The major auction markets were in St. Louis, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Locally, the L. & N. Railroad maintained unloading ramps and pens adjacent to Daffin Wholesale.

The transfer of these newlyarrived mules became a popular local spectator sport. Now we can’t compete with the annual “running of the bulls” in the Spanish town of Pamplona, but neither can they organize a “mule run”! These animals primarily four to six years old, arrived by train and didn’t have a clue as to their location. Since the distance to their new home was a short four blocks, trucking was not practical.

For equine reasons unknown, a disoriented mule will follow a horse. If a white horse is available, this is the best choice of all. After a period of riding alongside the penned mules, letting them get the scent and identity of the horse, the stockades gate was opened. None of the young mules were ever lost as they trotted up the streets into the stables. The spectators cheered. So much for entertainment in Marianna’s earlier days.

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