Jerry Mule

Our guest contributor today, is Ronald F. Dodd, of Georgetown.

Ronald Dodd, or “Ron”, as he is known to most of us, is from a very old Sussex County family, the origins of which go back to 1635, in colonial Eastern Shore Virginia. Part of his boyhood was spent at Dodd’s Pond (Morris Millpond north of Millsboro) where his father operated a water-powered flour mill until WWII. His deep love of Sussex County history becomes evident after only a short conversation. He can’t help it; it’s part of him, sinew and bone.

Ron and his wife, Rebecca, are avid gardeners. They both labor intently throughout the season over vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubs on their properties in Georgetown. Ron and “Miss Bec”, as he affectionately calls her, are as quick to share their knowledge and the fruit of their labors, as Ron is to whip something up for you in the kitchen, or to package carefully, for your later enjoyment. His talents extend into woodworking, and the evidence of those talents is to be seen throughout their home.

Ron grew up in a time when Sussex was much leaner and life was a whole lot simpler. Here, he is telling a story to his nephews, William H. and Robert L. Lawson, about a mule named “Jerry” that was at that time (c 1945) owned by their father Clifford W. Lawson, who was married to Ronald’s sister, Jessie Dodd Lawson.

I have no idea why his name came up in our dinner time conversation this evening, but Miss Bec had never heard of him. During the time Dad owned him he was in the stables on the corner of Zoar and Lawson Roads, but Uncle Harry Davidson also owned him at one time, and he was over at Jessie and Clifford’s in Harbeson.

We had 3 horses at the stables, Ginny, a mare, broke both to saddle and harness (Mother drove her to check on chicken flocks during the gas shortage), her colt Bob, who never got completely broken to anything, Sam, a big broad-backed work horse, and Jerry mule; he and Sam would work together in harness pulling a wagon or whatever. Jim and Sarah Sturgis’s son Jim, Jr., broke Bob of his most antisocial behavior, but he never really was trustworthy.

Joe Burton and I used them together pulling a wagon while we picked up corn that had been piled between the rows after it had been topped, the blades stripped, shucked out, and the coarse fodder taken. When we had the big garden there during the war, Dad would cultivate with either one of them, either Sam or Jerry. I started riding him bareback down at the farm (what we called the corner), and continued to do so after he was at Harbeson.

I can remember both at Uncle Harry Davidson’s and at your Dad’s that Jerry had a harness that allowed him to face the barn; both barns had a track that ran lengthwise of the barn and projected out of the loft door. Jerry needed no commands to hoist a platform of baled hay to the correct height, and then slack up on the line while the persons in the barn loft pulled the carrier to wherever the bales was being stacked. When the carrier was pushed to the front of the barn, he would back up gradually to let it come gently down for another load.

When both you boys were little, I used to take him out around Harbeson riding him bareback; he was the focus of attention for a lot of kids. Once I took him into Juanita’s post office (or most of the way, but couldn’t back him out; during the complicated turning around maneuver, he made an unwelcome deposit that I later had to clean up. Sometime during one of our trips around Harbeson he stepped on my (what else but) bare foot; little damage was done to me, but he limped for the next two days. RFD.