Going through old papers, I found a letter written to my family after I rode a mule down (and up) the Grand Canyon in the 1950s. Only a stupid youngster like me (who had never even been near a horse) could do such a crazy thing….
Enjoy reading it.
Shirley and I were in the saddle from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. today with only one short break at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for a box lunch. Are we ever sore — and you know where. Surprised? Well, no one is more surprised than I am. This is the most foolhardy thing I’ve ever done. Of course, I’d no idea what I was letting myself in for….
It’s six miles down and six miles up a steep, narrow trail with sharp turns. Looking down, I worried about the mule, but then more about myself. Often I just had to close my eyes and trust in God.
We were eight daring souls and a guide, as for me, a good part of the battle was just getting up onto the mule for the first time. After a while, I got used to the movement and even the height. But when we got down to the bottom for lunch, our guide helped me down, asked if I was okay, I said sure, and my cramped legs collapsed under me. Still, it was a great experience and left such an impression I’m so sore I can hardly sit.
My trusty steed was Howard, who made me feel as if I should carry him instead of him carrying me. Sometimes he slipped on the rocks, always preferred walking right at the edge of the narrow trail, and stubborn as a mule, wouldn’t budge from there.
Shirley’s mule was Eva, who nibbled on every patch of green we passed. On one of the stops we made climbing up to allow the animals to rest, Eva leaned way over the cliff for a snack. Terrified, Shirley, who thought the dumb mule was going down, jumped off. She landed on the ground right under Eva, frightening the poor animal which darted about upsetting everyone.
Nothing would make my Howard run. (*We were right behind Shirley.) He was merely startled and a quick pull on the reins and a real western ‘Whoa’ put him in check. Our guide, however, was furious. True, it could have been a deadly accident. Shirley didn’t want to get back on Eva and I can’t blame her, but it would have been a long, hot, three mile hike straight up. She had no choice.
Howard begrudged me every step. I wondered why the guides kept teasing me. From way up, I’d hear them yell: ‘Get on there Howard!’ Afterwards I asked and was told Howard had always been the laziest thing they’d ever seen. I didn’t mind that and Howard and I got along famously. The only disadvantage was that we kept falling behind and I hated to whip him. The guy behind me would get fed up with us both and give Howard such a lash on his backside, he’d go flying with me hanging onto my Genuine $2 Stetson, my eyes closed, praying for all I was worth.
The picture I sent you today was taken before we started down the Canyon. We all look cool and neat. I took a snapshot after we returned — big difference. We were covered from head to toe in brick-red, white, yellow and gray dirt. I had so much gray in my hair, our guide teased me about being so frightened I‘d turned gray. Tonight, I see what he was talking about.
After the fabulous Grand Canyon, we arrived in Flagstaff, showered the filth off, washed it out of our hair, and now feel better. We had planned to go Las Vegas tonight, but need to recuperate. Don’t laugh, you would too.
With a very tender rear, I bid all goodnight. I’m having the time of my life.
Regards and love to all,
This is absolutely priceless! Even way back then, you were such a good writer, and caught my interest right away. What a brave and memorable thing to do…riding a stubborn mule down and up the Grand Canyon. The photos make it even better…I’m so glad you shared this with us!
Thank you for your kind comments Val: Yes, there was an OLDER woman there (she was 24) from Italy, who wanted to go but didn’t want to go alone. She talked me into it. I talked my lifelong friend Shirley into it, and when I look at these photos and remember that day, I find it a miracle that Shirley remained my friend for the rest of her life. All the best
What other treasures will she find digging through her old photos???
Interesting Susan: I AM having fun going through my old photos. My intentions are honorable. I want to eliminate all the stuff you won’t want — and I keep finding treasures. Love ya, Maughm
Bar to believe! You’ve got one on me…
Wow! I’ve got one on you???? With all you do! I’ll have to hold on to that forever! Love you Rafi, Mom
Fabulous! You had and still have guts.
And I really like the photo of you and Howard.
Bless Howard. He was definitely my kind of mule. Slow and easy….thank goodness.
Wow!!! What a great fake story. Forging a certificate and photo-shopping the pictures was first rate.There is no way you ever spent all day on a mule just inches from the edge of a cliff with a 3,000 foot drop. When I visit you in a few months, lets go riding mules high in the mountains. I’ll pay the entire cost just to see you on your ass.
Whaddaya mean Brian: Start saving your pennies! I’ll show you!
Once again, you had me laughing out loud. Why don’t you write a blog? You ARE so funny. I’d be your first loyal reader. Indeed, when we got to the bottom of the Canyon, after some hours on Howard, I was helped down and my tired legs collapsed under me and there I was — on my ass. Love ya!!!!
This is just fabulous, Maughm! Well written, funny, and hugely entertaining. Loved it! And I LOVED seeing you RIDING!!! Was the sheer joy you experienced being in the saddle somehow transmitted to me at birth? Is this where my love of all things equine came from???
Who knows? It had to go somewhere! (Chuckle.)
So glad you enjoyed it. Had a feeling you, especially, would. That letter was written so many years ago…. Love, Maughm
Absolutely beautiful view. That looks like so much fun. Horseback riding in such great scenery.
And thanks for reading it: I love just thinking about it now so many years later. Happy Holiday.
This is really interesting as well. Thanks for sharing.