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.
Believe it or not, that’s my name in faded ink proving I actually did this
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….
The magnificent Grand Canyon
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.
Ready to go. That’s me right in front of the last man up on top. He’d whip my mule when we slowed down.
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.
Our group on the trail
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.
Me on Howard
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.
In this color photo of another group, you can see how narrow and steep the trail is.
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,