EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the second in a two-part series.
“I’m working like a borrowed mule,” confirms Cannon County resident Terry Kerry anytime someone inquires about his daily activities.
However, no mule or horse, no matter how famous or expensive, has garnered the respect and recognition in Cannon County than is bestowed on former Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Buddy Black.
“Although horses and mules are famous here, none are more well-known than Buddy Black. He, along with retired banker Bill Smith, are recognized as the mule patriarchs of Woodbury,” crowned Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick. “In fact, Buddy is known throughout Middle Tennessee as the king of mule loyalists.”
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Buddy Black was a very successful horse trainer before he focused on dealing and training of mules,” confirmed Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon. “Mules and horses have always been a big presence in Cannon County, but Buddy Black is recognized as our chief mule preservationist.”
As a recognized founder of the Woodbury-based Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners’ Association that has family members scattered throughout the southeastern United States, Black has served as the grand marshal, not once, but a record 34 consecutive years at Columbia (Tenn.) Mule Days, the largest mule show held in America.
“Some of the most famous Tennesseans in history have been recognized at the Columbia Mule Days’ parade,” confirmed Rutherford County Mule Skinner Danny Fraley, a man who regularly takes his mules, Leroy and Lucky, to Columbia Mule Days. “But who is the most famous mule man in Tennessee? That title goes to Cannon County’s mule history preservationist Buddy Black.”
“I can’t say enough good about Columbia resident Mr. D.C. Neely, the man most responsible for Mule Days in Maury County, the largest mule show in the U.S.,” credited Black. “The fact I’ve been the grand marshal all these years, well, that’s one of the biggest honors in my 85 years of life.”
Mule Skinner Black shared a “dream” he has for the preservation of mule history in Middle Tennessee.
“Our Mule Skinner’s Association has launched a campaign to establish a Mule Museum somewhere in the downtown area of Woodbury,” the mule man decreed. “It’s an idea whose time has come, for we need to preserve the history for our young people to know about. It was mule power that brought America into the modern of era of mechanization.”
Woodbury political leaders Gannon and Patrick both credit mules and the Mule Skinners group with bringing tourism dollars into Middle Tennessee’s economy.
“I think a mule museum would be terrific, and bring in clean tourism dollars for our merchants,” Mayor Patrick proclaimed.
“Buddy Black and the Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners have already benefitted our community in terms of increased tourism.
“The Mule Skinners not only hold their monthly meetings here, but they also help promote other tourism attractions such as the Arts Center of Cannon County and the Short Mountain Distillery up on our region’s highest mountain,” the mayor tabulated. “So yes, the time is nearing that we should help establish a true mule museum that will bring even more tourism dollars to our community.”
“If I’m re-elected as the county executive, I’m committed to helping establish a mule and horse museum,” added Cannon County’s incumbent Executive Gannon. “Those animals helped our forefathers survive through the tough times, such as the Great Depression, and they remain a popular part of our society here today.
“When, and if, the county can free up some storage space in other buildings, I’d like to propose the historic Cannon County Jail on the Square as a possible location for a museum for the preservation of mule and horse history here. That old jail, which dates back to the 1800s, would seem like an ideal location for a museum, which would attract more tourists to come to Cannon County.”
Each May, some of the “prettiest mules” in the Southeast are showcased in Woodbury.
“Some of the prettiest, lop-eared, proud-stepping and high-priced mules in America come here each May when we have our annual Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners Show at the Pemberton Fair Grounds,” noted Andy Duggin, current reigning president of the Mule Skinners group. “Our one-day show has exploded in popularity, to the point it’s the largest one-day show in the Southeastern states.”
Mule Skinner Duggin talks about some “high-priced” mules.
“Two of our most well-known mule skinners, Buddy Black and Mike Pemberton, have each sold a team of show ring quality mules for more than $10,000,” Duggin reined in some top-dollar mule figures.
“Last year, I sold a matched pair of mules for $10,000,” Mule Skinner Black confirmed. “I currently have a pair of great Belgium mules named Pam and Pat that I’ll get a minimum of $10,000 for, or I won’t move them out of my barn.”
Mayor Patrick shared the impact of mule enthusiasts such as Black.
“Buddy Black is a salt of the earth man, who has benefitted his community in so many ways, we can’t count ‘em,” the mayor declared. “In addition to his present-day promotion of mules and tourism dollars, Buddy served as chief deputy for former sheriffs, and after he retired from law enforcement, he served as court officer in the court system here.”
“Buddy Black and his mules, they’re great ambassadors for our great Middle Tennessee community,” agreed Gannon.