Now here is a story some people have trouble believing, but there are a lot of folks around here who swear its true. It’s about the death of Old Blue, the Applewood Manor mule. I heard the story from one of the locals while I was whittling on Applewood’s Rocking Chair Porch. Years back before there were small tractors for city farmers and SUV’s for hauling, a lot people around Asheville kept a mule or two. Now, Asheville’s mules were famous for their unusual stubbornness. Some say they believe their stubbornness was due to the high quartz content of the mountains. People said that the energy vortex affected mules’ brains and made the animals think they were smarter than humans.
Well, Old Blue was even more stubborn than all the other stubborn mules around. He saw things his way. For example, if he thought the ground was too wet for plowing, no amount of prodding would make him plow an inch, even if the ground was as dry as the desert. If he decided it was eating time, you fed him, or he would kick on the Manor door until you did—even if he had already been fed. If he decided it was a plowing day, you plowed. If he decided it wasn’t, then you didn’t! That is just the way it was. So, after a while people just gave up and went with the flow. They did whatever of Old Blue decided was right to do, even if it wasn’t.
A number of years back, Asheville experienced a strange year—particularly weather-wise. It seldom gets really hot in Asheville, but that year it did. We are talking really hot—way over a hundred degrees. In the middle of July, on the hottest day of that hot year, Old Blue had decided it was time to harvest the corn. So hot or not, the folks at Applewood put on their overalls, got some burlap bags and headed out to the corn patch. They had no more than gotten there when things started popping—pop, pop, pop! It had gotten so hot that the corn was popping. Before long, you couldn’t see three feet ahead for the white flecks of corn popping and falling back to the ground.
Then Old Blue started shaking and shivering all over. The Applewood folks thought the popping sound had just scared him. But no amount of pulling or pushing got the stubborn mule to move. He stood there shaking and shivering. He would not go back to the barn. Finally, he curled up and laid down in all that popping corn. The humans were suffering in that awful heat, so they just gave up and left Old Blue lying there, after they had covered him up with their burlap bags. They figured he would come back to the Manor when he decided it was time to eat.
But he never came back. So, the next morning they went back to the corn patch to fetch him. They found Old Blue on the ground covered up with white popcorn. He was hard as rock and cold to the touch. That darn mule was so stubborn that he had frozen himself to death thinking that he was in a snowstorm.