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Forest Service Retires Two Mules
Updated November 29, 2016 8:17 AM
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(BEDFORD) - Two of the Hoosier National Forest's hardest-working employees: Ruth and Jack, are retiring after a combined 40 years of service. Ruth and Jack are mules, two of the team of four mules that assist in maintaining trails in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness.

Without the ability to use vehicles or power tools in wilderness areas, the team of mules are able to haul gravel, move logs, pull plows and graders, and make work in the Wilderness interesting and fun.
 
Wilderness Ranger Rod Fahl admits losing two of his co-workers is hard, "They're a part of my team. They never complain and they've given me their best effort every day I've asked them to work."  
 
Fahl said both mules are nearing 30 years old. Ruth is a large half-Percheron mule who is beginning to have some health issues. "She is powerful enough to pull a plow through roots or rocks. She is amazingly strong but gentle and has a sweet disposition," said Fahl.  Ruth had served the longest on the mule team and is easily recognized by her size and dark color.
 
Jack who is the oldest mule on the team, is the alpha mule in the group and Rod said, "Jack's versatile skills and experience will make him hard to replace. He's just a solid worker who always seems to enjoy going to work every morning."
 
The mules have not only worked on the Hoosier NF, but have been requested by the Shawnee National Forest as well and worked on wilderness areas in Illinois. The Shawnee NF is so impressed with the mule team, they have requested a long-term agreement to regularly use the mules on their Forest.
 
Together the two mules have helped plow and grade over 22 miles of new trail and hauled over 1,200 tons of gravel with a sled or in gravel saddle bags to resurface wilderness trails. They have also made over 7,000 visitor contacts in the field and participated in countless public education efforts about primitive tools and assisted the Forest in outreach by being featured in the newspapers and publications. Ruth and Jack and their team have each won three Traditional Skills and Minimum Tool Leadership Awards from the Chief of the Forest Service. 
 
The two mules have truly been remarkable assets to the Hoosier NF. To celebrate their years of service, employees had a retirement party for Ruth and Jack on Halloween. Everyone dressed up for Halloween and had a cookout for lunch and brought carrots for the mules. "I think they enjoyed their party," said Fahl, "I know they enjoyed the carrots, and while they liked working on the Forest, I think they'll be pretty happy just hanging out in a field all day too." Fahl said he wishes good grass and sunny days in the future for his old friends. 
 
The Hoosier NF will be looking for two replacement mules to add to the team.



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