GEE & HAW
Have you ever wondered just how one trains a mule to respond to directions?
Training or Breaking a mule is done in the following sequents. A bridle is a harness that fits over the mule’s head with an iron Bit placed in the mouth. The bit has rings on either side to which leather or rope plow lines are attached. The lines are run through rings attached to the hames that are fitted onto the collar around the mules neck. The lines then go to the handles on either side of the plow
Trace chains are hooked to the hames and travel through hooks on the backband in the center of the animals back and on to the singletree that is attached to the front of the plow.
To guide the mule in the proper direction, the farmer or trainer pulls on the right line and yells GEE! After repeated moves such as this, the mule begins to realize that GEE means move to the right. To move to the left, the left line is pulled and the yell is HAW.
After repeated tugs on either line at the same time GEE or HAW is yelled, the mule eventually learns to move either left or right on command. Depending on the particular animal, this training could take only a matter of hours or even days and weeks. In isolated instances, this training could amount to naught since there were a few animals that were so danged ‘‘mule-headed’ that they never learned.
I remember a neighbor once purchased a young mule that had never been broken. He worked for weeks to train the mule to plow without success. He finally asked my father to help him to break the animal.
Together, they hitched the mule to a jog-stock in an open field. Regardless of their attempts, the training was fruitless until my father walked over to a nearby woods and cut a small sapling tree about eight feet long.
With the neighbor holding onto the plow and lines, he got the mule walking in a straight line. When he yelled GEE, my dad hit the mule behind the ear with all of his strength. The same thing occurred when HAW was yelled.
It took several licks with the sapling before the mule would literally JUMP to the right or left, with only a mere whisper of gee or haw.
Mules, like some humans, learn fast while others take a while longer; but eventually all do learn.
Anyone questioning these methods will prompt the response; “Y’all aint from around here; are y’all? Dj