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Here's why mules are taking over this small California town | Bartell's Backroads

Every year in Bishop, Calif., there are over a thousand mules who visit the town. Bartell's Backroads takes us to the Eastern Sierra to learn why.

BISHOP, Calif. — Overnight the small town of Bishop turns from a population of about 3,700 people to more than 30,000. Surprisingly, it is not for a music festival or sporting event — the main attraction is mules.

The Eastern Sierra is home to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States. 

It is also known for mules, who were an essential part of living for gold miners, farmers and industries of all kinds. With steady footing, this animal has been a resourceful way to travel through the steep and rugged landscape.

It's no wonder that the backroads of the Eastern Sierra has an annual Mule Days Celebration

The long-standing tradition started in 1969. The town of Bishop is inundated with thousands of mules every Memorial Day weekend.

Bob Tallman, event announcer for Mule Days, shares why mules are worth the celebration. 

"Once a mule has been taught to do something right. They will do it repetitiously over and over again."

Mule Days originally started as a show-and-tell for locals, but today it is a little hard to define the event. It is a combination of a parade, skills test and wild west show.


With such a distinct celebration, the question must be asked, what is the difference between a mule and a donkey?

Mule owner Garon Stutzman explains, "A mule is half a horse and half a donkey. A mules daddy is donkey, and a mules mom is a horse." 

Basically, a female mule and a male mule cannot have babies. 

"They have all the equipment. They could breed and have fun... but...well let's just say it is like a wonderful date. If only I was born a mule," Garon said.

But all the trainers, packers and riders at Mule Days already know that. They come in masses to celebrate this six day event full of mule mania.

What many may not know when they arrive is that there's mule poop. It is the job of mule owners to clean up after their animal. While everyone is out showing and glowing, hall of fame mule owner PJ Allen is cleaning up after her mules, Jip and Jude. 

For Allan, the task is simple, "The object is to get this poop in that bucket without getting it on you."

In Bishop, it is not polite to just stand around watching someone do all the work. She says if you don't know what to do just ask, someone will put you to work.

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