Mule soup: long-eared vindication on a lazy afternoon

Twenty mule team cargo racing through the desert. Courtesy

Ah, the workhorses — nay, work-MULES — of the West: A twenty-mule-team outfit rambles through the desert. Photo:

Sometimes we pioneers in the barren wilderness of the blogosphere think it might all be a lost cause. We throw seeds into the wind and they blow away onto rocky ground, never to flower into the loveliness of a response. So it was with this little country ramble that Art Scatter took way back on Sept. 14, when he spent a summer afternoon at Hells Canyon Mule Days in far northeast Oregon and shot a bloggish missive into silence.

Until — o joy — this warm and funny response arrived from mule gal Eva Willingham, whose comment is so filled with peckish good humor that we hope she writes again:

It cracks me up that you have gotten such a good handle on mules in such a short time. It’s taken some people years to figure them out, which is that you can’t figure them out. On the other hand, once you have ridden a mule, it’s really hard to go back to a horse. I do as much trail riding as possible. Packing, as well. I can ride a mule all day and never feel fatigued. I ride my horse for a few hours and know I’ve been on a horse. Because of the way they are built, they ride like Chevies instead of Fords. Hope you’re not a Ford person. This very weekend at 2:00 in Newberg at Devenwood you can observe a mule competing against some very pricy warmbloods and kicking butt. You want to see a mule at its finest, go watch.

Of course I’m flattered to have my powers of mulish perspicacity recognized by someone who actually knows what she’s talking about.

bluepintoAnd I like thinking about a mule as a Chevy and a horse as a Ford, although the only time that most of America really focuses on horses — Kentucky Derby weekend — the proper vehicular analog might by the Maserati: It goes really fast, and it’s always breaking down. City slicker that I am, I’m afraid I’m currently pretty much a Honda and Toyota man, although I did once own a Ford Pinto — most uncomfortable car ever created, and let’s not even think about those exploding fuel tanks.

I’m sorry to be missing the spectacle in Newberg, which I’m sure is a fine and lovely thing. But my weekend’s been pretty busy, what with all this writing stuff (some of it for actual money; you don’t get to see the paying pieces on Art Scatter) and gadding about town. Friday night was Portland Opera’s feisty, funny, gorgeously sung La Boheme. Saturday night I spent at Clackamas Repertory Theatre watching a warm production of Alfred Uhry’s play The Last Night of Ballyhoo; a review is supposed to pop up in The Oregonian on Monday morning. Tonight our friend Michele Mariana, who did some voice work and sang a song in the movie version of Neil Gaiman‘s novel Coraline, is dropping over for dinner and bringing a DVD of the movie, which we’ll watch.

img00034In the meantime, Mrs. Scatter has whomped up a tasty-smelling veggie chili for dinner tonight. And as she’s  scampered off with the smaller Large Smelly Boy to some sort of mallish destination in search of pants that actually fit him — update, via Blackerry: “I’m in hell. Stores: 4. Pants: O. Next up: Refreshments. Then more stores. You OK getting Michele? I’ll aim for being home at 5.” — it is my solemn task to monitor, stir, and maybe even subtly alter the soup on the stove.

The soup has sweet onions, garlic, red sweet peppers, Santa Fe chili powder from our friend Penelope, some leftover enchilada sauce, zucchini, soft tomatoes, corn, a nifty soy sausage called Soyrizo that has the spicing and texture of a Spanish chorizo, and a few dashes of Covey Run 2005 cabernet sauvignon, an excellent cooking wine from the Columbia Valley in Washington state that you can get for about five bucks a bottle. Some of the ingredients come from the gardens of our friends Susan and Bonnie.

The chili’s coming along quite well. So’s the Covey Run cab. Wish I could say the same for Mrs. Scatter and the smaller Large Smelly Boy’s pants. Now I really should clean up the house a bit. Company’s coming.


Top inset photo: The infamous Ford Pinto. Mine was pumpkin-yellow. This one’s blue. Either way, I’d rather ride a mule. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Lower inset photo: Mrs. Scatter’s delicious vegetarian chili, bubbling on the stove. Photo: The wielder of the cell phone gizmo declines to take credit for the photographic result.