Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – February 10, 1983
Today it is often forgotten that the mule furnished the transportation power of the canal. But in earlier times it was a common sight around Whitehall to see mule barns near the locks, the bridge leading from the lower bridge to the tow path, the winter boarding of the animals by hundreds on nearby farms, and the sight in springtime when the mules were brought into the village hitched by fourteens to resume their work in hauling cargo boats.
The editor of The Whitehall Times once answered a toast thrown at him about mules.
The toast: “Mules, the backbone of the raging canal.” His reply: “I love a mule. I will stand to his back until his ears drop off, if you will only chain down his heels. For four years I once watched this noble beast hauling boats on the canal while I hauled in my salary as canal collector with promptness and dispatch.”
The mule has done more for commerce than any other animal in existence, even the American eagle. Like the ballet dancer, it carries its attractions in its heels and, – like the ballet dancer, the mule knows how to use them. A good mule is the concentrated essence of dynamite, nitroglycerine, and Susan B. Anthony’s tongue. A canal without a mule would be like Hamlet without a Booth, Joe Cook without a dictionary, Dennis Kearney without the Chinese, Bob Ingersol without Bob Butler, and a Chicago girl – without number eleven shoes.
When we need a good fresh’ joke, we saddle the mule. When we want something with a hornet’s nest tied to it, we tickle the mule’s heels. When we realize the sublime jokes which fertile brains have evolved from the mule, is it any wonder the animal once in a while kicks back? His “heehaw” comes to us like angels whispering — when they have the croup.
But just pause; if I have said anything in favor of the mule, remember that I am only trying to do right by the animal that furnished the steam for every canaler’s team-boat, the salary for every canal official, the butt for every paragrapher’s joke. The mule is the most successfully abused creature that stands up, with the single exception of a newspaper editor.