The Mule and the One Red Hen

My coworker often discusses drama caused over the years by one of her friends. At lunch she described the latest events to me and several others as she pondered whether she should even continue their friendship.

Knowing she’ll always deal with flare-ups of unpleasantness had my coworker in a quandary. Their friendship is great for the most part, but occasional negatives are difficult to deal with. She asked us for advice. I gave no advice but made a comment to the group.

“Jiggs would have said this is like the mule and the one red hen.”

Puzzled faces awaited my explanation.

As a kid I spent many summer weekends at the farm owned by Dessie and Jiggs, my aunt and uncle. I like to think I helped around the place but the reality is I played in the creek and ate Dessie’s good cooking. Often we’d ride over to see Bud and Cherry, friends who owned a nearby farm. We would pass woods, creeks, and in a bend in the road was a small pasture where there always stood a mule.

Next to the pasture was a weathered chicken coop. Not enclosed, but wandering where they chose, was a flock of maybe twenty chickens. The chickens were always in the vicinity of the coop and always together, except for one red hen.

Without fail, the mule and the hen would be together in the small pasture when we drove by. The first time I noticed, I paid little attention. Over time I realized they were always together. Soon I actually began to look for them. Each time, I saw the mule with the one red hen.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by their odd friendship. I never thought to mention it to Dessie and Jiggs until later in the summer when we once again made the drive. We were about to approach the pasture so I brought it up ahead of time to make sure they saw it for themselves.

“Have y’all noticed,” I asked excitedly, “that every time we ride by this pasture up here that instead of with the flock, one chicken hangs out with the mule? It’s cool that they’re friends.”

We rounded the bend in the road and Dessie and Jiggs turned to look at what I had described. Sure enough, the flock of chickens pecked around the coop, but the mule and the one red hen were together in the pasture. Having seen the two together, Dessie and Jiggs turned back around as we passed by.

“Well.” Dessie acknowledged in her genuinely pleasant way.

Jiggs looked at me in the rear view mirror as he drove. I could see him grinning.

“You know why they’re friends, don’t you?” Jiggs asked. I saw Dessie turn to look at him. Seeing the grin on his face, one quickly formed on hers. She was ready for whatever he would say next.

I wasn’t.

“No why?” I asked. Always thinking Jiggs one of the most intelligent people I’d ever met, I was eager to have the highly technical explanation of this complex interspecies relationship explained to me in full, and forthwith.

“Because,” Jiggs began as he formed his erudite response, “when the mule craps the chicken picks stuff out of it.”

I retched.

Dessie laughed hysterically.

Jiggs kept driving.

My stomach settled long enough for me to speak. “That doesn’t seem like a friendship at all then.”

“Sure it does.” Jiggs said, still grinning. “The chicken enjoys being with the mule, she just knows she has to deal with a little crap now and then.”

Well, Jiggs certainly explained that one.

And I explained to my coworkers that we all have friendships with dynamics of good and the occasional bad. If you’re really friends with someone then dealing with crap now and then is just part of the arrangement.

Several coworkers laughed, one actually applauded, but two were suddenly no longer interested in lunch.

My coworker and her mule are still friends, the last I heard.

Stuart M. Perkins



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102 responses to “The Mule and the One Red Hen

  1. mwood7555

    You’ll love this!

  2. multicolouredbiro

    A fine little yarn with a good moral 🙂

  3. DK

    Well done, good sir… well done! 🙂

  4. thankfulgirl20


  5. Karen

    Love this one my dear

  6. Sounds like one smart hen! Thx for the day brightener!!!

  7. This one’s a keeper! I’ve got a few mules in my life!

  8. Everyone must have at least one mule in their lives 🙂
    Beautiful parallel.

  9. Ain’t that the truth? Thanks for the smile today, I can use it!

  10. That’s an excellent story and very true. I think when the crap buries you, it might be time to move on.

    Great post!

  11. How right you are about friendships having both good and bad dynamics. I think we all prefer the good as the bad can be very tricky to deal with.

  12. DGT

    What a lovely sentiment if you can avoid the retching! We all have or had relationships like the mule and the little red hen.

  13. Wow… This is a great fellowship post. The yarn with the fairy Godmother attitude. Beautiful!

  14. Reblogged this on creativeword and commented:
    Very enlightening and honest to form. We all have a diverse peer group and with this comes an array of complex personalities and a recipe of values.

    I’m sure we can all relate to having a friend who presents very histrionic in nature. We accept this dramatic trait and though at times, it can be exhausting, it also offers enlightenment and intrigue. Their stories create an elaborate and fascinating creation and as humans, we hang off a little excitement here and there.

    Then there are those narcissistic friends. The ones who have always experienced things better or in more ways than you. They will glow in self praise and can willingly lead the conversation on admiration of their many abilities. They love to love…as long as they themselves remain the recipient.

    They challenge our patience, but we continue to love them. Why? Because we so love the drama and the internal battle they create within us.

    We look to our ‘twin’ friends as our soul friends. They understand our deepest fear and it’s so surreal how they simply ‘get it’. With them, we can be us. Simply.

    The sub- category of our peer group is vast, yet we value the diversity.

    Each gives us an experience and compliments our journey. Either negatively or positively, the challenge enhances our perspective.

    It allows us to grow.

  15. I saw it coming (grew up on and around farms), but that didn’t matter. Still loved reading it. Well told!

  16. That one red hen must have been the brightest of the chicken brains! When is your book of stories coming out? I want to pass them all on as Christmas presents.

  17. kendallhalin

    That’s funny and not what I was expecting at all!

  18. You are an awesome storyteller 🙂

  19. I love true tales like these. Wonderful post – so glad you stopped by my roughwighting blog, so I could in turn meet you!

  20. Hilarious story and great lesson 🙂

  21. Great story! People that own chickens know that they cach have their own personality. The mule hen relationship fits a lot of people I’m sure. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Fantastic story and so fitting for your friend’s conundrum!

  23. Brilliant! LOL, loved your tale, and the lesson learned.
    I would also like to thank you for the like on my blog as well. :o)

  24. Delightful story! also yucky (the poop part), but oh so true. What a great way to illustrate a point! I am thankful for my imperfect friends, but I think I have blinders on when it comes to their imperfections and I certainly hope that mine do not torment them!

  25. A good homily. Same with family. Many thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate.

  26. Ahhh, the Wisdom of Jiggs. Surely there’s a little book waiting to be penned by your tell-it-as-it-is uncle. Wonderful piece of (self-)reflection..

  27. Love it! Just a wonderful story. Thanks

  28. This is a great story and well written. It reminded me of the old-time fables told by management gurus. Here’s one of them:

    A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I’d love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.” “Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. They’re packed with nutrients.” The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day he reached the second branch and, finally, after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Then he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree. (Management Lesson: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.)

  29. I love this little story!

  30. imjo10

    Thanks Stuart for liking my blog. I will try to do it more often. Love the Mule and the Hen. I’m still leaning how to use the site. I can’t even find the Like button .lol

  31. Joy Kennedy

    i’m pretty sure i’m a mule or a hen in my various friendships.

  32. “Because,” Jiggs began as he formed his erudite response, “when the mule craps the chicken picks stuff out of it.”


    I didn’t see that one comin’.

  33. Certain people always grieve me out for taking the long way around when I’m making a point. After watching you handle that one so masterfully, I know why. Because it’s awesome. And I think you might manage it even more skilfully than I. Kudos.

  34. Quietly warming, gently informing. 10 stars.

  35. Ruth

    Enjoyed reading this one about Dessie and Jiggs. Those Perkins boys always had something clever to say.

  36. Ooooh wow. There is SUCH wisdom there. Just have to keep the crap in the right proportions. Thank you for sharin that wonderful story.

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