A True Story - Not For The Faint Of Heart
Franz Häsler was bisexual, and he died of Aids about 2 years after we killed the mule. Not that the mule had anything to do with it, I simply don't believe in fairy tales where dead animals come back and exact revenge. Besides, Jockel and I are still alive, and we took part in the perpetration of that crime as well.
Jockel was born deformed, he was missing most fingers on his hands, and he had a wooden leg. It was that wooden leg that almost cost him his life, as you will see later.
It all began on a hot summer afternoon. We were living in a rustic old house up in the mountains, down on the Peloponnesus in southern Greece. We had a marvelous view of the Mediterranean, and we could be at the beach after a brisk 20 minute walk down the hillside.
But the mule was walking up.
I love the Greek people, but there are things in their character that can really put you off. One of those things is their belief that animals don't have a soul, and they treat them accordingly. Dogs, for example, spend their lives on a short chain, if you want to call that vegetative existence a life.
The mule never had a name. Its owner wanted to get rid of it, it was old and couldn't work anymore. So he tied it with a rope to a stick that he had driven down into the ground. And he simply let it there, in the heat of the summer, on an open field, expecting it to die of thirst.
It must have tried for days to pull itself loose from that rope, because when it actually managed to do so, the rope had eaten into its flesh, and maggots where crawling in the wound. But manage it did, and it began its search for water.
We had a stone trough in our front yard, with a little water in it, which it must have smelled. I was sitting on our veranda reading a book, when this huge, dirty-white and emaciated creature walks through the stone portal. I've never seen an animal so focused. We didn't know what was going on, and we tried to stop it advancing towards our chicken coup, but to no avail. It wanted to drink, and it was going to get to the water, despite our efforts to shoo it away.
After we figured out what was going on, we filled a couple of buckets with water, and it just drank, and drank, and drank...........
The question was, what were we going to do with it? We couldn't return it to the owner, even if we had known who the owner was. He would have sent us to hell, how dare we trying to help that mule!
So we took it in, on a temporary basis. I guess the idea was to give it a chance to die naturally and with some dignity.
Days went by, and the mule was happily roaming the grounds, causing us some friction with the neighbors whose olive trees were just to tasty to be left alone. But we were kind of used to that, our dog, Juppy, tended to chase their sheep - but that's a different story.
After some six weeks we got tired of the whole thing. The mule didn't show any signs of dying, and its droppings were littering our veranda. There were nights when we came back from the village and had to fight our way back into the house, since the monster was blocking the door. It felt, well, like home at last.
In the end we took an executive decision - we were going to kill the mule, and we were going to do so by humane means, making sure that it wouldn't suffer.
A Greek friend of ours took the lead. He led it one afternoon to a place way outside the village, near to a gorge, and tied it to a tree.
The next day, Franz, Jockel and I set off. Our lead man was Jockel. He had assured us that he absolutely knew how to kill a mule. The idea was simple: You took a big hammer and a chisel, placed the chisel on the forehead of the mule, and with one strong hit of the hammer the mule would just drop dead, not even knowing what had happened to it.
Jockel would charge us the fee of a 'mastora', a skilled craftsman who knows his trade, and it would be 2,000 Drachmas (about U$ 50.00 at the time).
We set off around 11:00 in the morning. Our Greek friend had described to us the way we would have to take to get to the place of execution, and we found it easily.
When we arrived, the mule was nibbling on the branches of the tree it was tied to. It didn't even acknowledge us, I'm not sure whether it was just being impolite or whether it was just too hot for friendly gestures.
Jockel positioned himself in front of the mule, who looked at him quizzically. He took the hammer and the chisel, and that's when we noticed that his hands were shaking badly. The son of a gun was in it for the money, and he had never before in his life killed a mule!
He placed the chisel and gave it a tiny bang with the hammer. Now you have to understand, this is a technique that's implemented all the time, not only in Greece. But the trick is, you need to have the balls to give the chisel one BIG bang with the hammer, so that it penetrates the forehead and pierces the creatures brain.
The mule kept looking quizzically at Jockel, who by now was sweating profusely and was trying to work up the guts to kill the beast.
After tickling it some more, he declared grandly that this did not work. And he proceeded with plan B.
Plan B was simple. He would cut the mules main artery with a quick swish, and the animal would simply bleed to death.
He proceeded to take a tiny pocket knife out of his pocket. By now we were just speechless, and we didn't know whether to let him continue or ask for our money back.
He put the tiny knife at the throat of the beast, and, with shaking hands, he started to cut it up. But he just managed to scratch it, and some drops of blood were starting to flow.
See, you need not only balls to ram a chisel into a mule's head, you need balls as well to make it bleed to death.
And, I hate to say it, he didn't have them.
By now the mule was being aware that something was amiss, and it started to fight back. Jockel backed off, and we had a council.
The grand idea was to push the mule over the edge of the gorge. The tree whose leaves it had been nibbling stood right at the edge of it, and all of us started to push it towards the edge. And now the mule just KNEW that we were out to kill it, and it pushed back - wouldn't you?
But there were three of us, and after a long fight the animal started to slip over the edge.
The rope we had used to tie it to the tree was slithering along the ground as the mule plunged to the bottom of the gorge, and it almost tied itself around Jockel's wooden leg. This guy was extremely lucky, because he managed to pull free - otherwise he would have gone down with the mule.
Walking back to the village, we gave him his money - and he actually accepted it.