By George Brown
A week or so ago a good friend asked me about Harvey’s white mule. (“Harvey’s white mule and the winter of ’52”, Clermont Sun, February 20). It’s my policy to not use the names of friends in my column but I’ll tell you this friend is a few years older than me and he writes a column for another paper under the pen name, “The Ole Fisherman”. Given his age, it’s not hard to understand The Ole Fisherman’s interest in Harvey’s while mule. I wouldn’t be surprised if he worked a field or two himself looking at the rear end of a mule when he was a boy.
After our conversation I got to thinking about Harvey, wondering if he was still around and whatever happened to his white mule. I recalled Harvey’s name was Harvey Orson Guntherford, so I called the mayor’s office in Bristol (near New Lexington) where my family and Harvey’s family lived when I attended first grade in a one room schoolhouse.
Well wouldn’t you know, not only did the lady who answered the phone know Harvey she said she worked for him because he’s the town mayor. Before putting me through to Mayor Guntherford, she told me, “Most folks around this part of Perry County call him Boss Hog. It’s on account of his initials and the fact that he’s the boss of the community.” I could tell from her voice she liked and respected Harvey.
I was pleased Harvey remembered me almost as well as I remembered him. After some small talk about the past 60 or so years of our lives I asked Harvey whatever happened to his white mule. The story that follows is an abbreviated version of our conversation.
Harvey said he named the mule Buzzard because every morning, as he rode his white mule to school, a flock of buzzards that roosted in a dead tree would give the mule the evil eye, staring at him from the moment he came into view and turning their bald heads to keep an eye on him as he passed by. Harvey was certain they were staring at the mule and not him because almost every afternoon when he got home from school and put the mule out to pasture that flock of buzzards would soar in circles overhead, as if they were expecting any minute he would drop over and die.
But the buzzards were disappointed because Harvey rode Buzzard to and from school for two more years, until Harvey had completed sixth grade. That summer the school district consolidated and closed the one-room schoolhouse so the next fall Harvey found himself riding a school bus to the new junior high school near New Lexington.
Since Harvey no longer needed Buzzard for transportation he left him out to pasture, and, as Harvey explained, “I about worried myself sick for fear I would come home one day and find that flock of buzzards picking and pecking Buzzard’s bones clean.”
“But there was no need to worry”, Harvey said as he continued his story. “Buzzard came up with a way of entertaining himself that caused those buzzards to completely give up on waiting for him to die.”
“A rich fellow from over near Cincinnati purchased a hundred acre farm right next to my family’s farm. When the place was sold at auction to settle the estate my Dad hoped to be the high bidder, but this fellow from Cincinnati, Rooks was his name, was determined to have it, and money seemed to be no object so he finally won the bid.”
“But my Dad and I had the last laugh”, Harvey went on with his story. “This Rooks fellow brought in a bunch of thoroughbred horses, one of which was a sleek, strikingly beautiful, pure white mare. Well, it took Buzzard and that mare about one day of watching each other over the fence before the two of them fell madly in love.” At this point Harvey had a chuckle in his voice that reminded me of when we were kids.
Harvey continued, “After a couple of days of nuzzling noses over the fence Buzzard got in his mind that he was going to jump the fence, but he was so old and half lame, when he made a run for the fence. instead of jumping he froze at the last minute and buried his head in the wires. Luckily I was able to cut him loose with the only real damage being to his pride.’
Still chuckling, Harvey went on, “The next morning, as I was going out to mend the fence, here came that mare running full stride, and she flew over that fence like a kite soaring in the wind.”
Harvey explained in some detail how Cloud, as he later learned was the mare’s name, and Buzzard spent a couple of romantic days together before old man Rooks spotted her and came charging over to have a word with Harvey’s Dad. I can’t put in print some of what Harvey said was said between the two men, but each stood his ground and when the conversation ended Harvey’s Dad owned the mare, and he didn’t seem a bit disappointed with this outcome.
“Maybe that was because, about ten months later, Cloud foaled the handsomest pure white colt this side of Wyoming”, Harvey exclaimed with excitement, as though the whole thing had happened yesterday.
“Now you know that colt’s daddy was a mule, but it didn’t look one lick like a mule, not in the least. My Dad agreed the colt, which we named Thunder Cloud, was too handsome to use for a work horse so I started riding and training him, and he grew up to be a majestic stallion.’
Harvey paused and his voice became subdued as he continued. “Well, when Thunder Cloud was four years old some fellows came to our place all the way from Hollywood asking about him. They said they’d been looking all over the country for a large pure white stallion for a new Lone Ranger movie called “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold’, and they’d heard we had a horse that might just make the perfect ‘Silver’”.
Harvey paused again. “It broke my heart to sell Thunder Cloud, but those men gave us enough money to pay for my college education to become a veterinarian so we sold him. I still like to watch that movie with my grandchildren and tell them about Buzzard and Thunder Cloud.”
“But what happened to Buzzard”, I asked (which, after all, was the whole purpose of my call.)
“Oh, after we sold Thunder Cloud we changed Buzzard’s name to Blizzard, which seemed a much more fitting name for the father of a movie star. When Blizzard passed a couple years later we had a taxidermist friend prepare and mount him. He’s still standing in the lobby of my clinic. If you’re ever over this way come by and you can see him.”
You know, I might just do that sometime and take The Ole Fisherman with me. Anyway, now you know the rest of the story about Harvey.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne, live in Jackson Township.