“Why don’t you get a tractor? You could get more done.”

“Don’t need more done.”

“But you could get it done faster.”

“Faster than what?”

“Faster than that mule goes.” The Yankee machine man really wanted to sell this down-south farm boy a tractor on account of the boy seemed to really be struggling with the mule (whom the boy sometimes called, Gee, and sometimes called Haw, the Yankee wondering why the down-south boy wanted to confuse the mule with multiple names) that was a bit pitiful in the Yankee’s eyes considering he (the mule) was constantly flicking horseflies or mosquitos or various sorts of flying bugs off his ears, not to mention his slow pace–even going so far as stopping once in a while without having been so instructed.

The Yankee sold tractors, machines, and whatever mechanical paraphernalia he could muster up and did not understand that the nature of the mule, unlike a horse, allowed him to stop when needing rest. His daddy had never told him that Southerners were like mules and Yankees were like horses: Mules were tough, hard-working, stubborn and smart enough to rest themselves from time to time—what they called leisure. Horses (a few are thoroughbreds but not many he had said.) will just run and go until they drop dead. Everything needs to be fast, fast and faster.

“This mule ain’t going, he’s pullin’. If he wanted to go he’d done gone before now.”

“Well, why not just give him a retirement in the pasture. Then I can get you a fine tractor, you would have more time, and your mule could have some pasture time dallying with the girl mules.” The Yankee’s mountain of masterful unknowledge knew no bounds, it seemed. “Then you could use them stud fees and make payments on the tractor which is going to save you time so you can get more done and make the payments on the tractor.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know. Payments on the tractor.”

“What kind of payment?”


“You mean there’s mor’n one?”

“Oh, of course,” the Yankee replied, realizing the down-south farm boy wasn’t proclivous to high-finance nor high-financing. You see you pay something down and the rest you do over some period of time until you own it.

“Down where?”

“No, no. Not down, like down. Down like on.”

“So you want me to put something out to pasture that I DO own so I can pay for something I don’t own? And I only pay ‘on’ it not ‘for’ it. Have I got this understood right?”

“If you wanna put it that way.” The Yankee removed his hat as, the sun was beating down a bit fiercely.

“And you think I can pay for it by breeding boy mules and girl mules?” The down-south farm boy had stopped his plowing long enough to chat with the Yankee, and during this pause he had taken out about two fingers worth from his Beechnut pouch and plugged it between his back teeth and gums. Then after letting the leaves settle in and having sucked out some of the delectable juices he spat at a passing horsefly. He missed. But the challenge was in the trying, not in the doing.

The Yankee Machine Man wiped his forehead with his dainty monogramed handkerchief, then put his hat back on. One could almost see the thoughts oozing from his brain in machine-like wavelets: These dang old Rebel boys are a difficult lot for explaining modern devices to.

“Why certainly. Certainly. Just think of it as rewarding this old mule who has worked so hard for so long. Now he can retire and enjoy himself.”

“And you say this is gonna save me time huh?”

“Oh, without question, my good man.”

“How much time you think I’ll need to get them mules bred?” The mule turned his head toward the YMM and bared his teeth. It wasn’t clear if it was a smile of happiness or frustration. He brayed.

Well whatever the gestation period of a beast such as this is, I don’t know. Perhaps something of a long period of months maybe. What would you say?

“I’d say it’s prob’ly longer than that.”

“Oh, I didn’t know. I’m from New York city. I’m not much up on Southern animals.”

The Farm Boy took another spit and missed another horsefly. He pushed his hat back on his forehead, and passed an expression, whether concealed or not, of you ain’t up on a bunch. “Well. Mr. New York Man, or Tractor Man or whatever it is you is, I’d say that tractor you wanna swap me can lay eggs and hatch chickens a whole lot quicker that this mule can get to gesti-cating more mules.”

“You mean it’s that long?”

“Pretty dang long. But I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you half the studs fees in what they call perpetuity for that tractor. My cousin could use it to have him a ride into the hay bailer. That way his wife could use the pickup for family git arounds. I would still have my mules for plowing and you could cash all them stud fees checks you are certain you’ll git. You’d be up there in New York city or wherever it is livin’ the high life with your stud fee money and I’d be mule plowin’ and my cousin would be drivin’ into town on a fine piece of machinery.”

The New York tractor man drove away with a smile as big as a harvest moon. Ready to retire like a wealthy Kentucky horse breeder. He had made the swap, a written contract and all, and had left these down south Southern boys a single tractor and a hefty goodbye.

The farm Boy was out plowing the next morning when he took a spit and squarely hit a horsefly right between the eyes.

Paul H. Yarbrough

I was born and reared in Mississippi, lived in both Louisiana and Texas (past 40 years). My wonderful wife of 43 years who recently passed away was from Louisiana. I have spent most of my business career in the oil business. I took up writing as a hobby 7 or 8 years ago and love to write about the South. I have just finished a third novel. I also believe in the South and its true beliefs.

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