By Treena Mielke
The temperature hovered around 31 degrees C and the sweat was running into Ethel Hollihan’s eyes when she led the grand march into the riding arena at Tees Longears Days Aug. 20 and 21.
“It’s a good thing my mule knew where he was going because I couldn’t see,” said Hollihan, who has been an integral part of the event for several years, along with her husband, Merv.
The couple, who live in Ponoka, enjoy their mules, Jesse and Ginger, and are happy to be members of The Alberta Donkey and Mule Club.
“Our mules are special to us,” said Hollihan. “I don’t know what we would do without them.”
Merv Hollihan was recognized for his dedication and commitment to the club with a jacket and a framed picture of his mule, Jesse.
“It feels wonderful,” he said, noting he has faithfully attended the event over the years, despite serious heart problems.
“He’s been a member and competed in every show they’ve had,” said Hollihan of her husband. “And he has built the gate and bridges and did all the work at home and hauled it out there. He’s just been an all-round general good guy (for the club).”
Also recognized at Longears Days was Deloit Wolfe Jr, who travelled from Munroe, Wash. with his family, Deanne and Allie and their mule, Horace, whom they inherited from his father, Deloit Wolfe Sr.
Wolfe explained that his father, who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease last year, had requested that he bring the mule back to Tees one more time before retiring her.
“It was one of his last requests,” said Wolfe. “He couldn’t speak, so he wrote notes to me.”
Wolfe spoke fondly of his father, who though a successful orthodontist, loved to hang out with the rural crowd, dressing casual and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
“He was a Kansas farm boy who ended up in Missoula, Mont.,” he said.
Wolfe said travelling 900 miles from Washington to Tees was a journey he is glad he took. “It’s been neat to meet all these people. They are wonderful; so friendly. It’s hard to meet genuine people anymore.”
Merv Hollihan also spoke well of Wolfe’s late father, noting he travelled regularly with Horace from Missoula to Tees to take part in the annual event.
“He was a wonderful man,” he said. “And I miss him.”
Wolfe said Horace, who is 20 years old, will pull the family’s 1920 John Deere doctor’s buggy in the Washington State Fair later this summer as her last official duty.
“Then she can just relax and have fun,” he said. “She’s old and she’s getting tired.”
Ethel Hollihan said the number of participants and spectators was down this year. “I’d like to see it continue, but we are all getting tired. It’s a lot of work and young people aren’t stepping up to the plate.”