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How much wood would a stubborn mule need?

THE BRIGHT SIDE: Joe Bushue


At first I almost took it as a compliment. When someone said, “You’re as stubborn as a mule,” I assumed they meant that I was a person true to my beliefs and convictions, and not easily swayed from either.

I took some pride in that until I realized that it wasn’t compliment.

My father had a pet mule for 20-plus years. When that mule decided he wasn’t going to do something, no amount of pushing, pulling, poking, prodding or other forms of persuasion would make that mule change its mind. When they also used the word ass, I didn’t think they meant mule or even a donkey.

As I wondered if maybe the bad side of that trait could pertain to me, it made me remember a story my late aunt used to tell me. The church she went to as a small child had only a wood stove as its heating source, so the church had a woodshed.

There was a woman who rode her mule to church every Sunday. She would tie up the mule where all of the other horses, wagons and buggies were. She would then go inside to enjoy the church service. When it was over, she would go get on her mule for the mile or so ride home.

The only problem was that when she was at the church service, the mule would lie down and go to sleep. And when she tried to get the mule up for the ride home, it decided to show its stubborn streak. It made up its mind it wasn’t going to get up. I guess it thought it could fall asleep at church too.

This became a real problem every Sunday. Getting tired of fighting that mule every week, the woman decided she would show the mule who was smarter. She would ride the mule right into the woodshed. Then she stacked wood under the mule so it couldn’t lie down at all. Then she would go to church. When she came out to go home, the mule was standing. Then she would move the woodpile from under the mule, get on and ride home. She showed him!

I remember that story whenever I go to church, a wedding, graduation or anyplace where I might get the “nods” or wake myself up with a loud but inappropriate snort. (Come on, we’ve all done it.) Now I solve that problem. Whenever I’m going to one of those functions, I take a small piece of firewood to sit on. I may look kind of stupid, but not stubborn.

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..