A Morning’s Madness

  The east Texas sun beat down mercilessly and Jacob paused to wipe the sweat from his eyes before hitching the mule to his plow. Lately, it had become increasingly difficult to get Sukey in harness and to work. She was beginning to display the stubborn, sullen disposition for which her breed is famous. This morning didn’t look like it would be an exception. As Jacob approached her with the collar, she turned her head away from him and began to walk in a slow circle, keeping just out of reach. Jacob  always fought to control his temper when Sukey got recalcitrant , because it was vital that he get his 40 acres plowed and planted in cotton. His poor East Texas red dirt farm would yield about three bales. In those depression years, the $90.00 the three bales would bring was enough to survive, providing the garden produced and the cow didn’t dry up, and nobody stole the pigs and chickens. Sabine County, Texas in 1931 wasn’t a paradise but a man could make do.
 So, this morning Jacob didn’t lose his temper. He sweet talked and clucked softly, and told Sukey what a fine girl she was, and after a few minutes, she stood still and he eased the collar over her head. He hitched up the harness and led her to the plow and connected it. He wiped the sweat from his eyes once more and reached for the plow handles.
 “Gol-dang you wuthless, no-count flop eared, crow bait!” he exploded, “Git up”. Sukey was calmly sitting on her haunches.
 “Git up!”, he shouted again and slapped her with the plow reins. She didn’t move. He moved around to her front, and cursing her loudly, grabbed one long ear in each hand and pulled. Sukey brayed, but didn’t move. Jacob banged her on the nose with his fist. She blinked twice and broke wind. His self control was rapidly fading. He moved to her side and kicked her sharply in the belly. She grunted. He kicked her again and finally she stood up.
 Jacob was perspiring freely, his anger barely held in check
 “Giddap”, he said. Sukey took three steps and stopped. He slapped her with the plow reins again. She stood there. His fury was now a red cloud in front of his eyes. He cursed and pulled her ears, he whacked her nose, and kicked her belly. She stood there. His fury was now a red cloud in front of his eyes. He cursed and pulled her ears, he whacked her nose, and kicked her belly. He got behind her and pushed with all his might, his shoulder against her haunches. She broke wind in his face and the stench was sickening.
 “That does it”, he screamed. “I’ve tried everything I know how to try, except one. My Daddy told me a mule will do anything if you just get its attention”.
 He raced to the wood pile and came back with a piece of firewood about three feet long and six inches thick.
 “Now, you gol-danged, wuthless, flea bitten, no good, glue bait, hard headed idjit”, he screamed, as he wielded the piece of firewood like a baseball bat, “I am about to git yore attention”. He swung with all his strength and the firewood connected right between the mule’s eyes. It cracked like a rifle shot. Sukey shuddered, fell to her knees, brayed once weakly and fell over dead.
 He stared at her for a moment and looked up to see a dust devil dance across the far end of his unplowed field. It looked like it was going to be a rough year.