Long before Ol’ Pete took his trip to Washington, D.C., he had a few other adventures that were fodder for the stories we heard when we first moved here. Naturally, the history of Ol’ Pete wouldn’t be complete without documentation of those misadventures, so let me tell you what I found out about the time Pete was painted lime green with pink polka dots. I tracked down the ring leader of this infamous escapade and had to promise to use no names, to protect the guilty, even though I’ll bet half the town could name names if you asked them.
Sometime in the late 60s, which would have been just a few short years after Pete came to Muleshoe as the Mule Memorial, this group of high school seniors who stayed in trouble together came up with a plan to give him this interesting look. They drew straws, and my source drew the short straw, which meant that he had to paint the mule. The others were the look-outs who were to watch for police and others and honk their horn when someone approached so the painter could hide behind the nearby railroad cars. This was before the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center was built, remember, and most of the time railroad cars would be conveniently parked in the vicinity to hide behind.
The mule decorating was completed without a hitch and all went well, until the next day when the brouhaha hit the fan and the town was aghast and dismayed that someone had defiled their new national monument. After all, a lot of people went to a lot of trouble to get that mule in Muleshoe, he was still shiny and new, and now someone had sullied the results of all that hard work.
And the perpetrators might have gotten away with it, except that the next day the painter of the mule was summoned to pick up his mother at the beauty shop, and his fingernails outlined in lime green paint were his undoing. His mother, observant as most mothers are, noticed them right off, was horrified at her discovery, and sent her wayward son back to the car immediately. He didn’t say so, but I suspect there was hell to pay when he got home.
But who knew? Being pretty typical teenagers, I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. And they did at least have the forethought to use water-based paint, so Ol’ Pete’s appropriate mule brown finish was restored without a hitch when city workers were dispatched to make things right again.
My informant told me with a chuckle that they had no idea their paint job would upset so many people so much. And of course, they never gave a thought to the fact they would be defacing public property that also happened to be a national monument. They really could have gotten into a boatload of trouble. But the world was a different place back then. I guess by the time things settled down and the mule was back to his original finish, everyone was just glad everything was back to normal, no lasting harm had been done, and the story became a part of Muleshoe folklore.
At least now I have saved it for future generations to be able to read about, much to the chagrin of those who were involved, I guess! And if I was really good with Photo Shop, which I am not, I could have tried to recreate that lovely paint job for you, which I won’t. So let your imagination run wild and conjure up your own vision of Ol” Pete as a green and pink Appaloosa. Have fun! In all my digging for this story, I also unearthed information about the other Ol’ Pete adventure we heard about when we moved here. Tune in next week for one last mule story.