Middle Tennessee Mule Skinner Danny Fraley gives a recent demonstration recently with mules Leroy and Lucky at the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna, Tenn. (TMP Photo/D. Whittle)
WOODBURY, Tenn. – You meet some interesting, and yes, colorful folks at the monthly Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners’ meeting held the first Tuesday night each month at D & J Steakhouse.
The evening event features a meal and business meeting moderated by Mule Skinner President Andy Duggin.
Here’s a tidbit from a typical Moon Skinner conversation.
“What kind of tobacco are you chewing?” Mule Skinner Mack Willoughby was asked by a fellow Mule Skinner.
“Twist…I grow tobacco and make my own twist,” said Willoughby, a longtime Mule Skinner and retired agriculture educator from Watertown, Tenn.
For citified folks who don’t know about “mule skinning,” it’s not the slaughter of a mule, but being smart enough to get a good pair of working mules to do what you need them to do.
“I think this chew came out of my crop grown two years ago,” Willoughby added as he snuggled another plug to his left jaw to balance with his right jaw plug. “Age doesn’t hurt it, so I’d guess this came out of my 2010 crop of tobacco.”
Coy “Boy” Ricketts was almost late for this month’s meeting due to two unruly young mules back on his rural Rutherford County farm.
“I’ve had them being broke in by an Amish farmer down in the Ethridge, (Tenn.), farming community,” noted Coy, who drives a Rutherford County school bus professionally when he is not trying to steer his unruly lop-eared mules in the right direction.
“But, they obviously need some more breaking in,” opined Smyrna-area Mule Skinner Danny Fraley.
The Mule Skinners welcomed new member Marc Fraley, son of mule man Danny Fraley. Marc Fraley works with the Almaville Volunteer Fire Department when not conducting mule-related matters.
One of Danny Fraley’s claims to fame is that Nashville country music banjo maestro Leroy Troy is named after one of his mules.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” Danny Fraley said emphatically.
Legendary Mule Skinner Bill Smith, the group’s patriarch and a founding member at age 95, was asked to open the meeting with a prayer.
The Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners formed in 1997 to help modern-day citizens remember the importance of mule power down through the centuries.
“Before we pray, I just want to say I’m proud and humbled to be a part of this great organization that was formed to help preserve the rich history that mules have here in Middle Tennessee,” Smith said. “For example, did you know it was mules that provided the power needed to construct the first paved road linking Woodbury, Readyville and Murfreesboro?
“We have a lot of good, warm fellowship each month, and I’m proud that my granddaughters, Lindsey Patterson and Blaire Smith, are Mule Skinners in good standing and are here with me tonight,” retired banker Smith said.
Mule Skinners Mack and Wilma Motes, of Eagleville, were recognized for traveling the greatest distance to attend this latest Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners’ meeting.
Duggin gave an update about the organization’s proposed Mule Museum they’re planning in the downtown area of Woodbury he says will increase tourism for Cannon County.
“Our political and community leaders are behind the effort, and it looks like we have a good shot at locating our Mule Museum somewhere on the historic Woodbury Square,” Duggin said. “We hope to make a major announcement sometime in the spring about our museum that will showcase and preserve the proud history of mules that helped make our community and nation what it is today.”
For those who would like more information about the Mule Skinners’ group or to inquire about mule team demonstrations at parades and schools, call Duggin at 615-624-1708 or Danny Fraley at 615-631-1177.