Gil Lamb of radio station KMUL and Carroll Pouncey, manager of the Muleshoe Chamber of Commerce, wrote Dr. Barnett and newspaper columnist George Dolan, calling attention to the suitability of the town’s name and the town’s appreciation of the animal. At the same time, fourth grade students taught by Mrs. Inez Middlebrook collected their nickels and dimes and wrote a now-historic letter of appeal which said in part:

“Our boys football team is called the Muleshoe Mules, and so is our basketball team. The girls teams are Mulettes. The emblem for our basketball and football teams, and also for our town is a mule and a muleshoe.”

This settled it. Dr. Barnett flew to Muleshoe, organized the National Mule Memorial Association, and the project got underway in earnest.

subscribe John Hanenburg (left) and Bill Bowles load Pete for his journey to Muleshoe, Texas.

Contributions began arriving from all over the country. They came from 28 states and two foreign countries. They ranged from 21¢ from a Samarkand camel driver to a sizable check from an oil company, and included a couple of crumpled dollar bills from a widow in Kansas, nickels and dimes from school children, and five bucks from an ex-mule driving Army sergeant.

When the national association began searching for a sculptor for a mule statue, pictures of Old Pete, its chosen model, were sent to the nationally known animal sculptors, the Fiberglass Menagerie of Alpine, California. The company’s owners, Jim and Mildred Rorie, went to Muleshoe to see Pete and came away with the commission to create the statue. Their sculptor, Kevin Wolf, made a plaster model from Pete’s measurements and photographs, and members of the commission in Muleshoe flew to Alpine for a final check-up before the mold was made.

Pete’s publicity began even before he reached Muleshoe, for he was photographed and televised for the southern California audience as soon as he emerged from his mold, sleek and shiny as any good mule should be.

Some jet-age cynic asked, “Why a statue to a dumb animal like a mule?,” and thereby displayed his ignorance. Anyone who has numbered a mule among his acquaintances will tell you that stubborn a mule may be, but dumb he never was. Besides being sturdy sure-footed, and able to stand more heat, more cold, and do more work on less food and water than any other animal, he is a smart cookie!

A mule will not founder by overeating. He will not injure himself in a runaway. He will not allow himself to be overworked.

subscribe The historical marker that stands beside Old Pete.

Briefly, the mule deserves a monument for these reasons: Wherever pioneer man set foot in America, the mule plodded close behind. Mules plowed the first sod for pioneer man. Mules built the first railways westward. Mules pulled the covered wagons west. Mules hauled the first freight. Mules built the first highway. Mules, 5,000 strong, labored and died on the battlefields of World War I, and pulled cannons and carried the wounded down the muddy hills of Italy in World War II.

So now he has his monument that is inscribed, Dedicated to the memory of all mules who had such an important role in the pioneering of America, and to the memory of the late Dr. J.B. Bamett, who would not let the mule be forgotten. Beside it is a historical marker which reads in part, The Mule. Without ancestral pride or hope of off spring, the mule, along with buffalo, hound and Longhorn made Texas history.

And perhaps, after his hard-working, unappreciated past, Nelda Merriott was right when she wrote this poem, published in the Muleshoe Journal:

“He who laughs last
Laughs best, it’s true
‘Cause look who’s gettin’
The new statue!
The MULE, that’s WHO!”

 

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