MIKE PESCA, host:
So we followed the story of high gas prices for awhile now. In 2004, the story was, holy cow, gas is two dollars a gallon. By 2007, it was, holy crow, gas is averaging three dollars a gallon. But now, in 2008, it has come to this, holy mule, and Katy, bar the door, because father and son farmers, T. R. and Danny Raymond of Warren County, Tennessee, have gone all mule on us. They've put their gas-guzzling tractors in storage, and have re-jiggered their farm equipment to run on mule power. In between plowings and plantings, I talked to them about it.
T. R., what kind of farm do you run?
Mr. T. R. RAYMOND (Farmer, Warren County, Tennessee): We got about a 40, 45-acre farm. We've got like 20 of red (ph) cows and 20, 17, 18 head of horses and mules and just, you know, just old country boy.
PESCA: Now, Danny, I understand it was you who came up with the idea to use mules, and that you train them. Was that hard? I hear they are stubborn.
Mr. DANNY RAYMOND (Farmer, Warren County, Tennessee): Well, it's time consuming. It's pretty good, but yeah, they are doing real well.
PESCA: So what kind of things do they do that your tractor used to do?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Well, they can do the pulling, you know, if you just don't happen to have the PTO shaft.
PESCA: The PTO shaft? You lost me. I am a city guy.
Mr. D. RAYMOND: That is a power-take-off shaft. It gives you the power to run some of the equipment.
PESCA: I get it. And have you hooked up apparatus behind the mules that they drag along that the tractor used to drag?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Yes, sir.
PESCA: How does that work? How do you figure out how to do that?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Well, I just had to figure out a way to carry the front of each rake, and take the weight off of the mules, and add a cart to tie it to, made a little cart to tie it to, and it worked out just fine.
PESCA: And were the mules - did they bridal at that at first, or were - did they take to it really easily?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Well, they were a little nervous at first, but they adjusted real well.
PESCA: And let's talk about the savings. How much does gas cost where you live?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: $3.87 a gallon.
PESCA: Oh, wow, and so how much were you pouring into your tractor every week?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: About 60 or 70 dollars a week.
Mr. T. RAYMOND: No, a day!
PESCA: A day. Oh, wow.
Mr. T. RAYMOND: A day, and figure five times that, see...
PESCA: Yeah. So how much have you saved so far?
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Well, it's hard to keep up with, but when you done it, you save a lot.
PESCA: And what about the mules? I guess they just eat hay. How much does that cost?
Mr. T. RAYMOND: They eat hay and a little sweets. They eat a little corn, you know, shear of corn, something like that.
PESCA: Yeah, And unlike the tractor, you rub them behind the ears every once in awhile.
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Oh, yes. You got to rub 'round (ph) them, talk to them, you know, stay acquainted with them, where they know you, you know.
PESCA: And your mules, what are their names?
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Dolly and Molly.
PESCA: And what are their personalities like?
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Well, that's - they're real good. They will do anything you ask them to do.
PESCA: And do they know that they're part of this...
Mr. T. RAYMOND: They know their part to do. If you want to turn right, you can holler, yee, and they'll follow with her (ph), or you want to go left, you holler, haw, they'll follow right over there, just like you're talking to somebody.
PESCA: Oh, so, see, I never knew that when the cowboys yell "yeehaw," they are really meaning "right, left."
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. T. RAYMOND: That's right. This horse knows what they're talking about, see?
PESCA: And you know, has your idea taken off? Other farms jealous, maybe wanting to buy their own mules?
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Well, there is a lot of mule power around here, you know.
Mr. T. RAYMOND: A lot of them are using them now, going, just trying to save gasoline.
PESCA: Makes sense. Danny, I...
Mr. T. RAYMOND: When you get to work, before you take a can of Ford gas, pick the mules up.
PESCA: Danny, I understand you have six other mules?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Yes.
PESCA: And how - are you going to train them to do functions?
Mr. D. RAYMOND: Yes, I have to, to save gasoline, see.
PESCA: All right. Well, thanks, gentleman, and good luck with turning your mules into equipment, and good luck with saving money on gas, and you know, maybe your idea will really take hold, and we'll see if it's all around the country. So thank you very much again.
Mr. T. RAYMOND: Thank you.
PESCA: That was T. R. Raymond and his son, Danny, frugal farmers and mule enthusiasts in Tennessee.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.