3 Mules and The Open Road

Read an interesting article recently.  “There Is a Man Wandering Around California with 3 Mules.”  The Man in question goes by the name “Mule,” and he is indeed wandering the Golden State with three pack mules.

It seems that for the last several decades, Mule’s been a bit of a nomad.  He started out traveling with what he could carry, and with a slight build, that wasn’t much.  So he managed to secure a mule.  This allowed his geography to expand.  Then came the second, and then the third trusted animal, and Mule began to explore the country.  He’d scrounge up provisions, pack up the animals, and hit the road.  When it got hot, he’d head north and find some hill country.  When it got cold, he would head south and find some warmth.  He lived off of the land, bathed in streams, and fed & watered his team where it was free and ready.  But he began to grow concerned.

Mule’s migratory route found him crossing many of the same parcels of land year after year.  Trails that were natural and untouched by man one year would be crossed with power lines and fences the next.  More and more, he found himself bumping into progress.  And that’s where his trouble started.

When Mule strolled into a town, he would follow rail lines and use public lands for stopping points.  He never set up a proper camp, left nothing behind, and rarely stayed more than a night or two.  The sight of a trail-worn man with three pack mules, however, seemed to concern some people.  So he began to get visits from local officials.  That’s where the trouble really started.

They would ask his name, and he would say, “Mule.”  Asked for his real name, he would patiently explain that no one had called him anything but “Mule” for the better part of thirty years, so that was his name.  They’d ask where he lived.  He would say, “Here.”  They’d patiently explain that he couldn’t live on public land, and he’d say, “No, HERE,” stretching his arms wide.  Pressed for clarification, he’d explain, “Here.  Earth.  It’s beautiful.  That’s where I live.”  This conversation often resulted in an invitation to move on, or even an arrest.

Which brings us to Mule being in California, John Steinbeck’s Land of Milk and Honey.

In late August, Nature had taken Mule to Gilroy, California, just south of San Jose.  As he often did, he was leading his team along a roadway.  Police showed up and asked him to leave, but he refused.  There were no laws against walking the road, and no signs saying “No Mules Allowed.”  So Mule was arrested for disobeying a Police Officer, locked up, and his mules sent to an animal shelter.

We have the utmost respect for members of the law enforcement community.  It’s a tough and often thankless job.  But really, Gilroy?  Really?

The fine stewards of Gilroy’s correctional facility thought Mule might be a bit starkers, so they sent him packing (pun totally intended) to a loony bin, where he stayed for about a week.  Then a patient-rights advocate heard about him, pointed out the idiocy of the situation, and got Mule sprung.  He retrieved his mules, and hit the road.

Mule says on his Facebook (He also has a website and YouTube channel):

“We have come here where we are not supposed to be here but we are here we are supposed to be and stay out there. But the out there is disappearing and being distroyed by here ( the megatropolis ) We will be here and stay here and spread the energy of balance between the megatropolis and the Natural World all day every day one step at a time. The Mules”

Mule’s story reminds us of the stories we hear about guerilla gardens being condemned.  They remind us of Joel Salatin being directed to locate a septic field above the stream where his animals drink.  Of being told we can’t grow lettuce or raise chickens or compost on our balcony.

So many rules.  So few Mules.

Filmmaker John McDonald met Mule on a random roadway and is making a film about his journey.  He also helps Mule with his website and media.  McDonald also took the photo used in this post, which we got from Mule’s Facebook page.  Visit 3Mules.com, and follow their journey on Facebook.  Please.