In 1950, my paternal grandfather, Harloe, enlisted in the Army. Having grown up with a deep love for horses and mules, he had heard rumors of a "Mule Pack" artillery division, and asked if he could volunteer for it. He was immediately told that all volunteers were welcome, because few people wanted to work with mules.
My grandfather, however, loved it.
Lest you wonder what on earth purpose mules served to the military, they were used to haul weapons (75mm howitzers) in difficult terrain where vehicles and people couldn't carry them.
In addition to being pack mules, some were trained to ride. My grandfather worked with a mule he named Flag. Here are his words about the meeting.
"One cold morning when I picked up his right foreleg, he straightened it out and his hoof came down on my foot. I thought it was broken, but in a few minutes I was able to walk on it. I went up to him and kicked his shin, and when he picked up his leg I caught it and examined it. The next morning I repeated the process and he picked up his leg again. From then on I could snap my finger and he would raise his leg. I told everyone I taught him to shake hands, but didn't bother to tell them about my stomped foot."
By the age of 20, my grandfather had been promoted to Field First Sergeant over most of the entire Mule Pack because of his skill with and knowledge of the animals.
Discharged in 1953, he thought that was the last of the Mule Pack. Two years later, newly married to my grandmother, they visited some relatives and happened to take a trip to Ft. Carson, home of the army mule corral. Wondering if Flag was there, my grandfather started looking.
He says, "I was looking for a black mule with number 38H1, and when I found him he would know me. [My great-uncle] asked how I would know he knew me. I said that he would shake hands with me. When I found Flag, I went up to his right foreleg and snapped my finger. He picked up that leg and placed his foot in my waiting hand just as he had done when I was his master. I still wonder what went through his mind that day..."
Happy Memorial Day. Be sure to say thank you. And technically, yes, Family Photo Monday.
Photo on top is my grandfather on the right with mules. The bottom photo is my grandfather and Flag.