Mule competition sparks friendship

Showoffs at the Fair

By Fernanda Alexander - Smith-Cotton High School

Showoffs at the Fair

By Fernanda Alexander

Smith-Cotton High School

The Missouri State Fair is a different meaning for everyone. For some the Fair is exciting because of the food, or maybe the carnival rides, or competition in something they are talented at. Friendships can also be made because of a fair. Who would have thought that Missouri’s state animal, the mule, is a reason for the friendship of a couple of fair competitors?

Louis Birkenholz, 56, of Hopkins, and Jeff Miller, 54, of Butler, became friends at a fair because both had mules competing.

Birkenholz and his wife Cheryl, 54, are in Sedalia to show off their draft mules at the Fair this year. The couple have been attending the Missouri State Fair for 27 years. Taking care of mules has been a family affair for Birkenholz. His grandfather and father began farming with mules and Birkenholz followed in their footsteps.

Miller and his wife are at the Fair as well. The Butler couple are here with their haflinger mules, who Birkenholz jokingly said are “lawn ornaments” because they are smaller in size and easier to put in one’s lawn. Miller began with mules the same way Birkenholz did: with his father.

“Dad raised them as well,” Miller said.

Raising and competing mules is a way of life for Miller because, as he said, it is a “dying art.” Miller chose to compete with mules because of his family and because “the mule got our country going.”

Both Miller and Birkenholz plan to compete with their mules as long as they can stand it. While they were talking, one of Birkenholz’s draft mules starting acting up a bit and Miller teased back saying, “break them before you bring them to town.”

It is obvious to see how these men are friends by the way they joke with one another about their animals. According to Miller, most of the people they are friends with in mule competition are only seen at the mule shows. Luckily for these two, the Missouri State Fair has brought them together for a few days.

“(We may) argue a lot and everyone shows against the other but there isn’t anyone that wouldn’t help each other,” Miller said.

Sedalia Democrat
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