Rural American Know-How: Mules, Mud, Morels and Mental Health

Grit’s rural American know-how articles this issue include topics on mules, mud, morels and mental health.

Television and movie writers would have us believe that it was six-guns and rifles that won the West, but I have a different idea. Being an aficionado of histories and diaries of women on the Western trails, I’m convinced that the mule, not side arms, enabled and sustained our nation’s western frontier. Whether or not you agree with the underlying principle behind America’s western movement, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more essential element of this country’s growth than the hard-working, noble mule.

If I was already predisposed to respecting mules when I began this issue of Grit, after editing two stories (“Cheers for the Long Ears” and “Sweet Pet Gives a Mean Kick”) and sifting through dozens of photos of these handsome creatures, I’m now completely enamored. They’re strong, they’re smart, they’re sure-footed, and they also have the best faces. Don’t you love how nature puts eyeliner on some animals, just so we’ll be sure to notice how soulful they are?

We had a great time with this issue, particularly editing Kristin Davenport’s article on mud. Having lived miles out in the country during many a mud season, I know firsthand the degree of absolute muck this season brings. As Kristin says in her article, you can work around it, deal with it and prevent it as much as possible, but eventually you can only try not to let it make you crazy. We hope our article helps promote at least a little mental health in the mud department.

Every rural American person I know, whether a small farmer, large food producer or someone who just likes living out where the pavement ends, occasionally confronts the conundrum of how to find someone to watch the place. One of our favorite farmers, Hank Will, shares his experiences and provides tips that should give you the confidence to spend a few days away if you want or need to. Everyone needs a break from time to time, and Hank tells us practical ways to make sure our vacations are truly relaxing, not worrisome.

Once again, Josh Young has made me wish I didn’t drink tea while I’m editing these stories. A fine film of English Breakfast Tea now covers my keyboard where I sprayed it upon reading his account of a know-it-all professor who got his comeuppance during a family outing to gather morel mushrooms (“Look Before You Leap, or Pick Mushrooms”). For my money, it isn’t really spring until I’ve had at least one serving of sautéed morels. Here’s hoping you have the opportunity to cook up a batch or two of your very own this spring.

We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you. Drop us a note at letters @ Grit.com and let us hear from you. And to make your opinions even better known, go to www.Grit.com and sign up for our Editorial Advisory Group. We’ll do occasional surveys on article and cover ideas. We’d love to hear what you think!

— K. C. Compton

Published on Mar 1, 2007

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