How to Catch a Mule

How to catch a mule with Sam Hawkens and the Greenhorn

Sam Hawkens and the Greenhorn are after a herd of mustangs, to catch a horse for Sam.


Excerpt from: Winnetou I,

“Take them between us, me on the left, you to the right!” he shouted to me.

We spurred our horses on and not only kept pace with the mustangs, but also quickly caught up with them before they reached the forest. They didn’t get to the trees; the troop turned around and attempted to get away through the gap between us. To prevent that from happening, we swiftly moved towards each other; that’s when they scattered in all directions like a brood of chickens stirred up by a hawk. The white stallion and the mule shot through between Sam and I, and then separated from the others; we chased after them. As we did, Sam swung his lasso above his head, ready for the throw and shouted to me:

“Typical greenhorn! You’ll be one forever!”


“Because you’re after the white, and only a greenhorn would do that, heeheehee!”
I gave him an answer but he didn’t hear it because his loud laughter drowned out my voice. He thought I was after the white stallion. So what! I left the mule to him and turned to where the mustangs were running around in leaderless confusion, snorting fearfully. As I looked back, I observed that Sam had come close enough to the mule to throw the lasso. The loop came to sit properly around the neck of the animal. Sam had to stop then and, just like he had explained to me so clearly, position his horse to anchor the taut lasso and hold the resulting jolt. He did so, but just one moment too late; his horse hadn’t finished turning around and bracing itself, and was thrown by the forceful yank. Sam Hawkens sailed through the air in a superb somersault and hit the dirt. The horse quickly got up and continued running. The lasso lost its tension, the mule stood firm and wasn’t thrown. It got its wind back and galloped away, pulling the horse along across the prairie because the other end of the rope was tied to the saddle horn. I hurried to Sam to see whether or not he was injured. He got up and was in a flap:

“Tarnation! There goes Dick Stones nag including the mule without saying adieu, if I’m not mistaken!”

“Are you hurt?”

“No. Dismount quickly, and give me your horse. I need it!”


“Because I want to go after the fugitives. Get down, quickly!”

“Wouldn’t think of it! You’d risk another somersault and then both horses would be gone.”
I drove my horse on and after the mule. It had gone quite some distance already, but then got into conflict with the horse. Each wanted to head in a different direction and in doing so hampered their escape because they were tied together. That’s why I soon caught up with them. I didn’t have to use my lasso at all and, instead, grabbed the one that connected the two animals; I was confident I would subdue the mule. Initially, I let it continue to run and galloped after it with both horses, but gradually shortened the rope so that the noose tightened gradually. It enabled me to steer the animal fairly well; gradually, and in a wide arc, we returned to where Hawkens was standing. When we got there, I pulled the lasso tight with a sudden tug and cut the mule’s air; it sank to its knees.

“Hold tight until I’ve got a hold of the rascal, and then let go!” Sam shouted.

He ran up to it and, although the animal on the ground kicked out with its legs, stood hard against it.

“Now!” he said.

I let go of the lasso; the mule had its breath back and got up; just as swiftly, Sam swung onto its back. For a few moments the mule stood motionless, as if frozen with fear; but then it leapt into the air, reared and bucked, suddenly jumped sideways with all four, and then arched its back to unseat Sam, but he sat fast.

“Can’t get rid of me!” he called. “Now it’ll resort to its last option and race away with me. Wait here; I’ll bring it back tamed!”

But he was mistaken. It didn’t race off with him, instead, it threw itself on the ground and rolled. Sam risked having his ribs broken; he had to get off its back. I jumped out of the saddle, grabbed the lasso, which was dragging on the ground, and hastily wrapped it around the strong root of a nearby bush. The mule had got rid of its rider and rose. It wanted to storm off, but the root held; the lasso tightened around its neck again with a jerk; the animal fell again. Sam Hawkens scrambled away to the side, felt his ribs and legs, pulled a face as if he’d eaten sauerkraut with plum pudding and said:

“Let the beast go; nobody’s gonna tame it, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Certainly not! Wouldn’t want to be beaten by a mule whose father was an ass instead of a gentleman. It’ll have to obey. Watch!”

I retrieved the lasso from the root and with legs wide apart stood above the animal. As soon as it got its wind back it jumped up. Then it was a matter of applying the strongest leg pressure I was capable of, and I definitely had an advantage over short-legged Sam in that respect. While the mule repeated its tricks to try and throw me, I gathered the lasso and gripped it hard behind the noose around its neck. I tightened it as soon as I noticed that the animal wanted to roll; by manipulating the rope and using leg pressure I kept it standing upright. It was an ugly fight, brute force against brute force; I perspired from every pore; but the mule was even worse off; it was in a lather, sweat ran down its entire body and large flakes of foam dripped from its mouth. It’s movements grew increasingly weaker and less deliberate; its furious snorting changed to a short cough, then, finally, it collapsed beneath me, not intentionally, but because it was exhausted. It remained lying on the ground with a vacant stare. I drew deep, deep breaths; I felt as if every tendon and sinew in my body had been torn.

“Heavens, you’re one of a kind!” Sam exclaimed. “You’re stronger than the animal! If you could see your face you’d get a shock!”

“I believe you.”

“Your eyes are bulging, your lips are swollen and your cheeks are virtually blue!”

“That’s because I’m a greenhorn and don’t submit to being thrown, while someone else, a master in mustang catching, was smarter and let the mule brush him off, after he had tied his own horse to it first and sent them both on a leisurely jaunt.”

He pulled an even more woeful face and begged:

“Be quiet about that, sir! I tell you that this could happen to the most capable hunter. You’ve had two very good days.”

“I hope to experience many more such days. On the other hand, they were really bad for you. How are your ribs and other bones?”

“Don’t know. I’ll collect them later and count them as soon as I feel better. They still rattle around everywhere in my body. I never sat on a beast like this one! I hope it’ll see sense now!”

“It will. See how tired it’s lying there, almost pathetic. Saddle it up. You’ll ride it home.”

“Then it’ll start bucking again!”

“No it won’t! It had enough. It’s a smart animal, and you’ll be happy to have caught it.”

“Yes, I think so, too. Had my eye on it right from the start. And you on the white stallion, which wasn’t very smart.”

“How do you know?”

“Of course, it wasn’t smart!”

“I don’t mean that, but what you said about having had my eye on the white horse.”

“What else?”

“The mule as well.”


“Yes. Even though I’m a greenhorn, I know enough to realize that a white horse is no good for a frontiersman. I liked the mule as soon as I saw it.”

“Yes, you’ve got good horse sense, I have to admit that.”

“I hope that your own commonsense is just as well developed, dear Sam! Come and help me get the animal off the ground!”
We pulled the mule up. It stood still and shivered all over. It didn’t object to having saddle and bridle strapped on, and when Sam mounted up it obeyed the reins as readily as a well-trained horse.

“Must have had a master before,” Sam remarked. “Someone who was a good rider; I can feel it. Probably ran away. Do you know what I’m going to call ’er?”


“Mary. I rode a mule once by the name of Mary and don’t have to worry about thinking up another one.”

“A mule named Mary and a gun named Liddy!”
“Yes. Two lovely names, no?[…]

More: WinnetouI,