In camp with the mule boys | Bishop Mule Days

ImageThere were pirates and mule skinners. Beer can holsters and plastic wine glasses. Belt buckles and all sorts of straw hats. Hot cakes and venison and pots with beans ‘n’ weenies. Giant bags of warm kettle corn, gooey monkey bread in a Dutch oven and our new favorite broccoli salad.

There was laughter from the crowd. Bikini-donning donkeys; and men, too. There was braying all day, and cozy sleep all night. Movies (and satellite TV in the camper!) between mule shows, as well shopping and wheel-spinning and parade-watchin’ with the best of ‘em. There were welcoming smiles and fun storytelling and big bear hugs, too.

I can’t tell you how much fun I had in this world that is so foreign to me. I’m not a cowgirl or a mule girl. I don’t have real cowgirl boots and the only hat I wore was a rainbow-striped one you’d see on a beach, not at a rodeo. I didn’t understand all the rules or know all the terms. BUT, I do know how to clap hard and holler loud. I know how to fill up a paper plate with potluck spoonfuls, how to use an outhouse and make magic in a Dutch oven. I know how to bullshit with the best of ‘em and sit around with mugs of coffee and cups of bubbly in my hand. In the end, we were all just a bunch of new and old friends, who stretch between Klamath Falls and Yosemite and San Diego, and came together in a campground to celebrate an easy love and camaraderie that was strong from the beginning.

George — our unofficial camp president — always says, “There’s only one way to know if you really liked Mule Days.”

Then he pauses.

“We know you liked it if you come back the next year.”

George, I promise, I’ll be back.

Here are photos from around camp. I’ll share more of the events and animals a little later. And here’s some of what I wrote yesterday on the weekend.

. . . . . . .

This is George. He’s been going to Mule Days for 44 years. Now, he feeds people, and he loves it. At his home near Yosemite, he runs Hillbilly Catering (love it!). Sometime before that, he cooked for John Wayne for two years. His famous tritips, which he’s cooking up here on his massive grill, was John Wayne’s absolute fave:ImageWe were surrounded by snow-capped mountains and blue skies.ImageImageImageMeet Wayne. He and his wife, Barbara, are pirates. Translation: They built a beautiful pirate ship that they take all around and let kids play on — when they’re not in character at Renaissance fairs. Wayne says kids think he’s Santa, to which he answers, “There’s a big difference between ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and ‘Yo Ho Ho.’” Wayne has some other jokes that I probably shouldn’t share here ; )ImageSomeone made venison. I was weirded out, yet I tried. Not bad, but the image of Bambi never left my mind:ImageImageJohn. He was our lovely neighbor who taught us how to back up an RV with a gentle pull of the wheel and how a few little gizmos make RV life easier:ImageLove the light:ImageJosh is sort of George’s protege in the camp kitchen. He sliced 12 tritips perfectly and made us fluffy pancakes in the morning:ImageImageThe sun made images in my coffee, and I was highly entertained one morning:ImageIt’s Wayne!ImageImageA cowgirl who loves the classics:ImageTom, the smiling man with the pipe and beer holster (yep, that’s his):ImageFiddler Peet joined our camp and played a bit during our first night:ImageAnd John; Aunt Jo may or may not have hijacked that Bloody Mary from him:ImageEveryone belly-up to the food table:ImageAunt Jo and I made a monkey bread and cheesy hashbrowns in a Dutch oven one day:ImageDuring downtime, I watched a Dutch oven, sipped Cab and read a new issue of Anthology magazine:ImageWe only ate out once, and it was to feast on an Indian taco:ImageImageOn one of the last nights, I think all leftovers went into this pot. When camping … :ImageImageImageWorking her magic:ImageLove the old campers and motorhomes:ImageMy tired camera and my mascara-less eyes, in the car mirror:ImageSun sets over camp:Image

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