Stephen F. Austin State University

From a Mule's Perspective (July 2013)

From a Mule's Perspective (July 2013)

From a Mule's Perspective
- By Ann Middleton

Good roads were much needed in Bossier Parish and, in the early twentieth century, almost every edition of The Bossier Banner contained Bossier residents' editorializing about how much they were needed and how they could be acquired. In the December 5, 1907 edition of the paper one contributor wrote:

"The majority of the people of Bossier Parish want good roads. Not good roads at any price, but the best roads at a moderate price, if possible. And it is possible to have good roads here perhaps as cheaply as they can be constructed anywhere, and surely cheaper than the cost to many communities that now have roads of the best. The trouble is we are inexperienced. We do not know the nature of the soils of our parish nor do we know what type of roads would be best suited to them. As soon as these matters are determined just so soon will we have good roads. We believe the road question is already settled within the minds of the masses. They want good roads and are willing to pay for them."

Adopting another way of looking at the road question, L. C. B. wrote to the paper's editor, W. H. Scanland:

"Dear Sir: I noticed in a recent issue of your paper a double-column paragraph on the heavy road tax that we are now paying in the form of worn out wagons, and noted your observation as to the numbers of such vehicles about the blacksmith shops, etc."

"Dear Mr. Editor, did you ever stop to think what some of our mules could tell us about the roads if we understood their bray, or they could talk English? I doubt not it would be most entertaining and instructive. They could tell us just where the worst hills were, and all the bad places in the roads. They would undoubtedly tell us that it would be much easier to pull up a hill of even grade than one which has many grades. They would furthur [sic] advise us not to have the steepest grade at the top of the hill! They might suggest not to try to make water run up hill as we now do when we attempt to dig drainage ditches to drain our roads without using a level. They might also reason that simply piling up earth in a ridge did not make a road! Also, that it would be necessary to get all the water well away from the sides of the roads unless we wanted them to play mole and burrow beneath the surface, which would not be to their liking. They would say it was best sometimes to go around a hill rather than over it, if the grade could not be reduced to a reasonable one."

"I could take up much more of your valuable space with good points which our mules might suggest. The principal kick a mule has is the roads, and when he lands on us it is because we happen to get in range. Now, this is horse sense. They being half horse, why not."

It is interesting to note that in Dr. Tom Carleton's account of Shed Road, he says that "Judge Watkins [Watkins constructed Shed Road in 1880] often told the story of how the mules that regularly made trips over this route would start braying when they knew they had easy going for the rest of the way." It would seem that mules do indeed know about good roads. To find out more about Bossier Parish's interesting history, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.