Grandpa and his mules

From a letter written to CJ Hadley, editor of RANGE Magazine

CJ Hadley

RANGE Magazine

P.O. Box 639

Carson City, NV 89702 

Dear CJ:

Of course, you know that us Southerners enjoy telling a story, and we look for any excuse to tell one.

This year I was scanning old family photos and negatives and came across the enclosed photo. The man at the right holding onto the reins of a mule is my granddad, Tinsley Spicer. At the far right, you can see two young kids. At the edge, the taller girl is my mom, the other girl is her sister – my aunt. The photo was probably taken around 1928. The other men are my great uncles.

My grandad always had mules. He had no use for horses, they were too flighty for him. He plowed with mules, and even pulled a haying machine with mules on his small farm near Bakers Works, Tennessee.

The saddest day in my grandfather’s life was when he was unable to care for his mules and had to let them go. 

Grandpa did not drink, and once I asked him why he didn’t enjoy a beer or a little Tennessee Moonshine every once in a while. He told me that in his younger days, he would take a few drinks, and at a party once he enjoyed too much John Barleycorn and decided to tap into his inner rodeo’er. 

He climbed aboard a bull, and the bull wanted no part of it. And, after a few seconds, grandpa wanted no part of it either. The bull and grandpa parted ways, and Tinsley Spicer never drank again, and never rode a bull again.

Grandpa passed away in 1988. In 2001 I went to work at the newspaper in Columbia, Tennessee. Columbia is about an hour away from my grandparents’ farm (which my sister and I still own).

My first spring working in Columbia I was warned about getting around town during Mule Days. I figured, “what kind of crowd would show up over mules?” Well, that year close to a quarter of a million came to Columbia to celebrate the mule. In the old days, Columbia was the trading spot for mules.

It was quite a crowd, and quite a party. Though I never heard him talk about Columbia, I always wondered if grandpa ever traded mules in Columbia. 

If you ever get the chance, head out to Columbia, Tennessee and check out Mule Days. 


Warmest Regards,