Annie, the 10-year-old muleskinner
Wednesday, December 04, 2013 4:00 PM
LINDEN, Texas - I attended the eighth grade in Lovelock school in 1945, but eighth-grader Annie Aufdermaur was not there.
Even though she lived only a couple miles away from downtown Lovelock, she did not attend school in town. Any of you old timers remember the Fairview school? It was only a couple miles from the town's grade school. That's where Annie attended school through the eighth grade. I met her in our freshman year of high school at P.C.H.S. I shared with you in an earlier column that I was secretly in love with Annie. No one but me knew that at the time.
Annie was pretty, intelligent, very agile and athletic, very personable. I don't know how many boys were secretly in love with her, but most, if not all, boys admired her.
She was a fantastic tennis player, and was good at every sport she tried. Had the girls sports been promoted back then like they are today, Annie would probably have been in the Olympics, or even playing in the Wimbledon tennis tournament. For certain, I believe, she would have been Nevada State champion in tennis. But back in the 1940s, most efforts, and money, was spent on boys sports. Girls were just emerging in schools as organized athletes.
Recently I was chatting with Annie on the phone and she was sharing with me about her life on the farm when she was young. The Aufdermaur farm was in the Upper Valley, not far from town.
"I was a 10-year-old muleskinner," she stated.
Now that got my attention, and big time. A 10-year-old girl muleskinner? Unheard of. I asked Annie to share her story with Review-Miner readers. Write your story down, and I'll do a column about you. But she never did, A couple days ago I asked her why.
"Well, I don't like to write, but I like to talk. How about if I just tell you my story, and you write it down?" Deal, Annie. Here is her very interesting story about her "mule skinning" days in Upper Valley.
"I wasn't really a muleskinner," she said. "But I talked like one. The old Plugs that I worked would not work unless you yelled and cussed at them. So I learned how to cuss and yell like the muleskinners just to get them to work."
My inquiry then was, what was your job, as a 10 year old, that you had control of a team of mules?
Annie's folks grew alfalfa hay, and at that time they stacked it, rather than baled it, like in later years. The wagons would bring the loose hay in from the field, and put the hay in a device that was raised up with a pulley to the top of the haystack. Annie's job was to pull the hay up with two mules. When the hay got to the top of the stack, stop the mules, someone dropped the hay, then she backed the mules back to the starting position, and was ready for another load, and another short trip.
One day at lunch time Annie went into the house saying her muleskinner cussing words. Her mother grabbed her, informed her she might have to talk like that to the mules, but that kind of talk would not be allowed in the house. She put soap in Annie's mouth, so she would well remember not to cuss in the house again.
"I never talked like that in the house again," said Annie. "I saved that talk for the mules. They just wouldn't work without it."
Now Annie, here is something to ponder. You said you "really was not a muleskinner?" According to Mr. Webster, you were a true bona fide muleskinner. Here is the definition of a muleskinner: "someone who drives or works mules." So you don't have to be a smelly old man with tobacco juice running off your chin and working a 20 mule team pulling a Borax wagon to be a real muleskinner. A pretty 10-year-old girl who works mules is by definition a muleskinner.
Thanks Annie, for sharing with us part of your youth growing up in Pershing County, Nevada, U.S.A. There was Annie Oakley, sharpshooter, Little Orphan Annie, famous orphan, and Lovelock's Annie Aufdermaur, muleskinner.
Roy can be reached via email at email@example.com.