Do what you like; it's good for the soul
I called a friend of mine the other night, just to check in. He told me, among other news, that he had been working to put a crupper on his mule. And I thought, is this a great country or what? By day, we go out there and do what we have to do to...
I called a friend of mine the other night, just to check in. He told me, among other news, that he had been working to put a crupper on his mule.
And I thought, is this a great country or what? By day, we go out there and do what we have to do to earn a buck. But come evenings and weekends, we can do whatever we want. Even put a crupper on a mule.
I had no idea what a crupper was. A crupper, said my friend, the part-time cowboy, is a leather strap that goes under the tail of a mule, around the mule's hind end and connects to the back of the mule rider's saddle. Mules, unlike horses, have straight backs, he explained. A mule's saddle tends to slide forward, which irritates a mule and may cause involuntary dismounting of the rider. A crupper solves that problem.
The mule didn't like the crupper at first, but my buddy worked with him until he became accustomed to it. I'm sure that was a satisfying process for my friend.
This reinforced for me the notion that it is a good thing for all of us to practice something completely unrelated to our day jobs.
I know a man who makes knives and other sharp objects from stone. The practice is called flint-knapping. He gave me one of his knives, a handsome and functional object. It must have taken him hours. Making the knife surely provided him insight into the ways of our ancestors, who used such tools to procure their suppers.
Other grown men huddle over tiny work benches using dyed feathers from the necks of chickens to tie fishing flies that resemble insects. These men might tell you they tie flies to save money, and they do. But they also are transporting their minds to distant waters on January nights. A guy could go to worse places on a winter evening.
I think of others I know who build Kentucky flint-lock rifles, grow bonsai trees, rope calves, tan caribou hides with the animals' brains, play drums, paint rocks, carve loons and measure antlers. Necessary? Vital? World-changing?
No, in every case. And that's the point.
We all need to have something that we can get lost in. We ought to have something that carries us away. We ought to have something that allows us to lose all track of time.
For a couple of years, some of us gathered weekly to play a game called "wally-ball." It's volleyball played indoors on a racquetball court. The walls are in play. Thus, wally-ball.
We played with wild abandon, tearing the occasional finger ligament, spraining ankles, pulling muscles. I quit shortly after the night I went up to block a shot, caught the bottom of the net with my lower jaw and nearly ripped my lip off as I ascended.
I loved wally-ball. It had little redeeming value in the large scope of life. But we played until we dropped, competed fiercely, went out for dinner afterward and arrived home spent. It was good for the soul.
I suspect convincing a mule to wear a crupper works the same way.
SAM COOK can be reached at (218) 723-5332 or email@example.com . For previous columns, go to duluthnewstribune.com.