Saturday, May 6, 2017

the muleskinner


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when carlton stephens mitchell was born, his mother took one look at him and decided that he was born to be a muleskinner.

carlton’s father, as well as his grandparents and most of his aunts and uncles, thought it more appropriate that carlton should get a law degree, with the possible goal of entering the state department, as so many of his ancestors had.

carlton’s mother continued to insist that muleskinning was a more appropriate career for the little fellow.

when carlton was about to graduate from prep school, the headmaster, who was an old friend of the family and aware of the division of opinion within the family, summoned carlton to his office.

“well, young man,” the headmaster addressed carlton with his customary brisk bonhomie, “where do you stand on this issue, eh? after all, you are the person most affected by all this, and must have some thoughts on it?”

carlton, who had grown onto a pale and passive youth with little force of personality, simply looked at his feet and mumbled, “it is all the same to me.”

“well.” continued the headmaster, “not to take sides, but i believe the opportunities foe muleskinners are rather limited in today’s world. they might be - what do you call it - ‘threatened’ - that’s not it - what’s the cant phrase you see in the media - for lions and wolves and such - ?”

“endangered?” carlton asked. as he looked up and spoke he noticed the picture of theodore roosevelt on the wall behind the headmaster.

“yes, of course - endangered. endangered species. they are an endangered species. and the mules may well be too, for all i know.”

“i believe, sir, my mother is aware of that and has already had enquiries made.”

in the event, the wishes of carlton’s mother prevailed, and instead of going to yale, carlton was apprenticed to a muleteer with a relatively thriving business in the northern andes mountains.

one bright afternoon as carlton was accompanying a train through a pass just below the border between peru and ecuador, he looked up and saw a vision of eternity in the clouds.

this vision had a profound effect on carlton, one he had difficulty in communicating even to himself. determined both to understand it and to make it known to others, he started a new religion.

abandoning the muleskinning business, he took to the roads and byways of south and central america, preaching his new gospel, and thus disappointing the varied hopes of all who had taken an interest in his career.


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