Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Adventures of Linda and Festus


a guest post by Linda Kluge

So it was about 25 years ago I wanted to get a mule for Endurance racing. I had quite a few mules up to that point, but never for Endurance.

I noticed a Missouri Fox Trotting mule in, of all places, MISSOURI! “Festus” seemed like he’d be perfect!

Sonny and Marilyn Hornbaker were my Endurance mentors - they would come pick me up on the weekends to condition in the Owyhees.


Festus was a pain in the ass to load. (But I’m not going to let this mule beat me!). Finally he would load and I was exhausted. And off we’d go.

We went to some 25 mile Endurance rides. On Festus I worked so hard on keeping up. We’d always get lost, so they were at least 30 or 35 milers for us. Anyway, that’s the foundation of this story.

One morning I was going to take Festus on a conditioning ride around the country block by my house in Kuna. 

First obstacle: the scary dairy farmer across the street. (Not gonna let this mule beat me!)

We got by.

Next obstacle: The scary railroad tracks. (Not gonna let this mule beat me!)

Got over ‘em.

Finally made it to the first corner of the block.

We turned on the road - and look what’s coming: a semi truck! I stop Festus so he can watch it go by… but NO he turns and runs with the truck and we are racing the semi - the truck driver is laughing - then he turned off and I got Festus to stop. (I’m not gonna let this mule beat me!)

We turn around and try to finish the second leg of the block. (However we did it, it was not pretty!)

We got to the second corner and turned down the road. Halfway down - oh crap - another semi! And here we go, we are racing a semi again! The truck turns off, Festus stops, and I turn him around to finish the third mile, until another semi starts heading towards us - oh crap - we are in another race!

Finally I get Festus to stop - I am exhausted, almost crying - and some kids playing in their yard are LAUGHING at me! (Once again - I am not gonna let this DAMN MULE beat me!)

Finally I get to the last mile to home, it was getting dark and I turn with relief onto a nice dirt road alongside of the canal. (It’s been about 3 hours since I began this little trek.)

I am almost home, but WAIT. What do I hear in the distance… no… no… the whistle of a train! The tracks went along the side of the road we were on. 

I just froze. The train is approaching and clanging and horn BLASTING, coming straight towards us with its huge front light glaring at us! And Festus turns and does his thing. We are racing a damn train! It is so loud and fast and scary and we are heading towards the bridge over the canal - only there is no bridge for me and Festus!

I said to myself, “Why don’t I fall off… why don’t I just DIE!” That mule was so strong! No way could I slow him or turn him, his neck was like a rock!

Right before the canal was a farmer’s house. By God’s grace I pulled Festus into his yard - I am shaking and crying. The farmer asks, “Are you OK?” 

I said “Yes… I am just being a baby.”

I don’t remember one moment of the last mile home but somehow we got there. It was a LONG DAY!

The End.

That's Linda and Festus on the left, their first ride in the Owyhees

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