I know a good bloke who hopes to get a few votes in the coming state election. He has become like his breeding stock, the latest being a mule - with the capability to dig its heels deep in the ground.
Stoic and loyal are some other words that come to mind, both for man and his beast. Always the first to bite when verbal bait is laid and never one to take no for an answer, my dear mate from the lowlands exercises his ability to steer conversation towards his way of thinking - much like the donkey.
The cattle baron Troy Irwin, who farms with his most capable all-'round champion cowgirl Mirasol, "my book keeper and therapist; more than my partner", commands a thousand acres of treeless plain at the very bottom of the Macleay river. The Cowgirl works the country with horse and cart but the Baron prefers elevation and musters crossbred cattle in the saddle.
The jarring of heavy hooves reverberates through the peat soil and is felt more than heard.
The Baron was once a crack rider and remains more than capable, but in the wake of the great cattle price spike he's put on a fine condition. Now he figures the mule will carry his weight and more.
In fact, the breeding includes a Marlee horse; Arab Pony over Belgian Draft/Suffolk Punch.
"I call her a pygmy draft," the Baron explains. "I can't get on a tall horse. My legs are too short; my gut's too big."
Over this pygmy draft was placed a thawed straw of mammoth donkey semen, of the type gifted to America by Spain. A tall horse stands 15 hands high, while this donkey - Moonwatcher - stood eye to eye.
The whisper among the observing crowd is that this mule will become more than a slave to transport. It is a physical manifestation of the Baron's personality - one who loves to plunge headfirst into politics and rock the boat for the sake of starting discussion.
As they say, a mule stares down fear and never panics
"No more privatisation," the Baron scowls, working himself into a lather over foreign ownership in the upper valley and pledges to run for parliament to fix that and so many other ills that have befallen the country.
Armed with a bandolier of ideals and a heeler attitude to unwarranted objection, the Baron has already figured in several local elections, dressed variously as superwoman, Shrek and as a koala. For the latter the Baron fitted a knitted tea cosy in the shape of a drop bear onto his rather large head to bring attention to the argument that the Nationals remain hamstrung by this native animal and has no real answer to counter opposition in favour of creating a large national park that would smother hundreds of jobs.
"But in fact," he insists, "I'm so green I'm a naturalist."
And he proceeds to explain that he and his cowgirl are no strangers to the bush bath.
When the Baron's not dreaming about working in parliament he rides his country, on horseback, and envisions himself like the general of an enormous army.
"The mule was inspired by history," he insists, and refers to the great Carthaginian general Hannibal as he rode out of the Alps during the same campaign that delivered elephants to the west over every mountain pass, all linked trunk-to-tail.
"The old painters depicted the great leader on an Andalusian horse but in fact he was riding a mule.
"They wouldn't include the beast because he has big ears and is regarded as a working man's ride. Mules were for peasants, not leaders of war. They're just not celebrated like horses, except in Spain."
The Baron then descends into a story of old, back in the days of bronco branding when a savvy ringer could process a mob with the stubborn loyalty of mules, used as coachers.
When roped to a steer they would walk the captured animal to the bronco yards and by leaning back on rear legs would hold a bullock against vertical posts while the ringer tossed the beast for treatment.
There are great hopes that this young mule will learn to move at a fast walk - a gaited way of fast paced ambulation. Being a mule of his breeding one would hope he carries a strong core to manage the heavy man on his back.
"All the best horses from history were amblers," continues the Baron. "They were highly prized for their fast walk gait. The Icelandic ponies did this, and the Tennessee Walking Horses. Riders liked the way they moved because their dogs could keep up with them. The pace was smooth, you just leant back and ate up the miles.
"These animals beat a quad bike any day. When you're working a mob you've got height. You can see what's going on. On a mule you're up away from snakes and the motion is effortless and smooth. When there's trouble a mule just looks at it," says the Baron, satisfied that he's made his point.
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