FROM PACK MULE TO MOVIE STAR,
THIS MULE'S DONE IT ALL
By Susan Dudasik
Horse Fame special for April 2000
THE LIFE OF MOUSEY -
For most mules, life is fairly simple;
they are either used for riding, driving or packing. But for Mousey,
a small 13.3 hand grulla molly mule, life has been a real adventure. Estimated
at almost 40 year's old, Mousey's
story began in the early 60's where as a 4 year-old, she was spotted by
Bobby Davenport, a movie-horse trainer from Hollywood. He
and his friend, Joe Craigmile, a horse wrangler, were on
location in Cottonwood, Arizona, with the Elvis Presley film,
TRAINING FOR STARDOM -
There, among the lights, cameras and action of the set, Mousey began her training. She was introduced to the hobbles and lunge line and taught the most important word she would ever learn, "Whoa!" She quickly learned that "Whoa!" meant for her to stop and stand. That no matter what was happening to or around her she wasn't to move. Then, once she understood the basic groundwork, Davenport began riding her and was soon using her to move cattle in background scenes for the film.When the movie finished, Davenport brought Mousey back to his home in Sun Valley, California. There she learned the basic movie cues such as lifting her lip to smile, cross her front legs, bow, kneel, lay down and sit up. She also learned to take basic stage directions to walk away, stop, turn left or right, look behind her and come when called, all on hand and voice commands. Eventually Davenport became involved in other projects and didn't have enough time for Mousey and Craigmile jumped at the opportunity. He wanted a good all-around saddle mule that he could use for anything and though he worked with movie horses, he wasn't particularly interested in using her for that reason. His primary enjoyment was hunting and he wanted something dependable. On his days off, he would often head for the high sierras to hunt or camp. For Mousey, this was another new experience since she had always lived in the flatlands. But she soon became adept at carrying a rider or loaded pack along steep trails and rushing rivers.
MOVIE & TV APPEARANCES -
Her first was a background
filler in " Stay Away,
Joe " with Elvis Presley.
"Maverick" television series
In 1976, Rita Lundine,
the daughter of Craigmile's friend, Richard Lundine,
talked him into allowing her to show Mousey
at the 1976 Mule Days World Championship Show in Bishop, California. Unfortunately,
at that time, most horseshow committees couldn't conceive of the idea of
a mule competing in their event and there were no mule shows in the area,
went to Mule Days with no prior show ring experience. But once there, she
showed her versatility by competing in English and Western pleasure, jumping,
reining, trail, gymkhana events and halter. She left the event with the
Overall Reserve Championship
title and an offer from the halter judge to buy her. The next year Mousey
and Lundine returned to reclaim their Overall Reserve Championship
title. Following her show ring debut, there was a renewed interest in the
Western, and once again the little mule was back in demand.
MOUSEY TODAY -
Joe & Bev Craigmile bought her from Bobby Davenport about 35 years ago.
Aside from her packing, show and movie career, Mousey has been an outstanding ambassador for the mule world. She has been used for a number of clinics and was often ridden on horse-club trail rides. She has always put her best hoof forward in public and has helped dispel many of the negative images people have about mules. She has also earned a place in the American Donkey and Mule Society's Hall of Fame. Currently Mousey is enjoying her retirement in a five acre field in Salmon, Idaho. According to Craigmile's wife, Bev, Mousey has done whatever they have asked of her and has always made them proud of her. "No matter how old she gets, she's here to stay!" said Craigmile. "That little mule has earned her keep!"
LOST IN THE HIGH SIERRA MOUNTAINS -
While on hiatus form the "Maverick" series, Craigmile took Mousey and his other mule, Josephine, on a hunting trip to the Sierras. While there, the mules were kept in a large wire-fenced public corral. On the second night, another group arrived and turned their horses in with the mules. Unfortunately, one of the horses had never been in a big corral and when all the equines started running around, checking each other out, the horse ran through the fence. Everyone else followed, including the mules. By morning, all the horses were found but there was no sign of the mules. After a day's search, Craigmile returned to his trailer, which was parked several miles from the corrals and to his surprise, there were mule tracks all around. But, unfortunately, no mules. Apparently the pair had returned to the trailer and got tired of waiting. Heartbroken, Craigmile had to return home for work but returned the next weekend. The local radio station had been making announcements about the two mules and the rangers had been keeping an eye out for them. After a day and a half of searching, there was still no sign of the mules. Again, Craigmile had to return to work. With time running out, he had given up hope of finding them when a ranger flagged him down and said two mules were spotted in a pasture not far away. Craigmile followed and sure enough, there were his two mules. Josephine, the younger mule eagerly came when Craigmile called, but Mousey hung back. She knew she was in trouble. After a bit of coaxing, she finally walked to Craigmile and lowered her head. "If you ever..." was all he said as he slipped the halter on his little mule. Mousey gave him a nudge and obediently followed him to the trailer.
After her adventures in the Sierras, Mousey returned to work on the "Maverick" series, but it was soon canceled. Her next acting job on the "Yellow Rose" was the most challenging of all.
UPDATE: 30 June 2001
Mousey is doing fine and she is enjoying her days lounging in the pasture and munching grass. She's about 40 now and we had a special equine dentist come out. He was amazed at how good her teeth were. Her back is starting to sag but she can still gallop with the rest of the herd. Here is Mousey today.
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