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Friday, May 28, 2010


I was born in the town of Columbia, Tennessee, and for many years the population was around 10,000. Columbia is about forty miles from Nashville.  Like so many small communities it was a farm driven economy. The mules and horses were critical parts of existence in early days, and in the early spring as people prepared to plow their fields they would buy or trade their stock. There was a day set aside for people to buy and trade in town. Below is a statement from the official mule day committee.

What is Mule Day?

”Mule Day is an annual celebration of all things related to mules, and is held in Columbia, Tennessee, the ‘Mule Capital’ of the world.  Begun in 1840 as ‘Breeder's Day,’ a meeting for mule breeders, it now attracts over 200,000 people and takes place over four days on the first Monday in April. In addition to mules, traditional Appalachian food, music, dancing, and crafts are featured."

The heavy involvement of Maury County in the mule industry has caused the event to grow over time into one of the largest livestock markets in the world.

A parade is featured with some of the most beautiful animals seen anywhere. There are Tennessee walking horses, matching mule teams that you could hardly tell one from another, that are decorated with the finest harness and tassels. The jackasses were always unruly, and had to have a twister on their upper lip to control them. Like most parades people were packed so close the only way you could move was to walk in the street. It is an event that must be experienced because the pageantry is more than words can describe.

During the time I lived there, the big day was in March, but on the first Monday of each spring and summer month there was a trading day where deals could be made on one particular street. Any deal made must be exactly as it was stated to be, for instance, a mule had to be sound, and not have any defects if so represented, otherwise the trade could be voided.

Next to the trading street there was a place called the “jockey yard” in there you could tell any kind of lie, the main purpose of being in there was to cheat someone. You might wonder why go in there when you knew there was no rules except “buyer beware”. Well some men like a challenge, and liked to play the game. I saw one fellow who bought a horse, and he realized afterward the horse was blind but here was nothing he could do about it. I could tell he was blind but I kept my mouth shut, because it was none of my business, and if I messed up the sale the seller might have whipped me; some of them were rough characters.

On Mondays and every Saturday, by the “jockey yard,” there was for years a black woman who would set up a bucket with a fire in it, and put a skillet that was half full of lard on the fire. She would batter some catfish, and fry it in the skillet, and sell it as fast as she could cook it. Those folks loved their catfish.

One last tale; there was some men that made a living just trading things. It didn't matter what they traded, they made money. One day my grandfather decided that he would make a good trader so he set out with a horse to start the trading.

Well to make a long story short at the end of the day, and after several trades he came home with a pocket knife for his horse. He never mentioned trading again, and I made sure not to question him about his trading experience; for I felt something things are better left unsaid.

Proverbs 20:14 It is naught, it is naught, says the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.

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