Monday, January 16, 2017


My younger brother, Ricky Tippett, shares a story from our family.  It's one worth preserving!
Ricky. . .the younger

Papa and the Mule
My Dad died in 1993, and I often think about the legacy he left me as a boy and later as a man. Filled with wisdom and discernment, his quiet way drew people to seek him out for counsel.
One day, many years before he died, Dad told me a story about his father—my Papa—from my Dad’s younger days on the farm. Though poor in many ways, my parents were rich with strong families that loved God and loved people. Farming can be a tough life and I think that’s a major reason Dad decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy as soon as he graduated from high school.
Daddy, the enlisted sailor

When Dad was a boy Papa hitched up their only mule and went out behind the house to plow the field. Everything was going well, until about the end of the third furrow and that was when the mule decided he had plowed enough. Stubbornly standing still, the mule refused to take another step. Papa snapped the reins and talked to the mule. “Come on, now! Let’s go! Work to do!”
But the mule just stood there refusing to budge.
Dad smiled as he watched the scene unfold, but he had enough sense not to laugh at times like this. Papa had his own boiling points and this was not a time for a son to snicker at his father’s frustration. Dad told me that he looked down or back at the house and Papa didn’t see him grinning.
Papa Tippett with Lloyd Jr.
Back at the mule, however, it was not going so well. By this time, Papa was pulling on the mule’s bridle and yelling at him to come on and plow. With each tug Papa’s mood changed from irritation to anger and now to the final level.
No longer smiling, Dad just watched Papa’s futile efforts to convince that mule to move forward.
Not sure whether it was a warning to the mule or just rage talking, Papa screamed, “Fine! Just stay right there!”
Stomping off to the barn about a hundred yards away, Papa soon came back out with a huge four-by-four post in his hands. While Papa was not a big, heavy man, he was a tall, lanky man and the post in his hands looked small. But there was nothing small about it.
Now standing in front of the immovable mass of flesh, Papa held the post up to the mule’s eyes so he could clearly see it. “You see this post? Well, you better see it,” Papa yelled. “Cause I’m about to lower it onto your mangy head if you don’t start plowing right now!”
Not convinced, evidently, the mule just stood there staring back. As if Papa was counting it down, …. 3…. 2…. 1…..

Papa raised that post over his head with both arms and with all of the force he could muster and all of the rage in his head, he whacked that mule on the top of his head, right between the eyes.
Dad said that he saw that big old mule drop to the ground so fast that he never even saw his knees buckle. It was just dead weight that hit the ground so quickly it didn’t even seem real.
No longer smirking, Dad was shocked. He remembered thinking, “Oh, my goodness! Daddy his just killed our only mule!”
The mule’s eyes were closed and he was absolutely dead still. Papa showed no signs of remorse and seemed glad the mule moved at last, even if it was in the wrong direction and for the last time.
Dad was wondering what they were going to do without a plowing mule. Papa was just staring down at his dead mule.
There was another surprise to come. Dad noticed after a few minutes that one of the mule’s hind legs twitched. Then another leg moved and suddenly the mule jumped up to a standing position and without another word from Papa, the mule started to plow right where he had left off.
Dad said that Papa had to hurry to catch up to the mule and get ahold of the reins. I remember smiling when Dad talked about how the mule never stopped the rest of the day, but plowed the whole field until the sun went down.
Then one morning I came across this verse in Psalm 32 and this scene from decades ago played out again in my mind…
Be ye not as the horse,
or as the mule, which have no understanding:
whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle,
lest they come near unto thee.
(Ps. 32:9)
While the mule is known for being stubborn the horse is known for being uncontrollable and impetuous. Both are bad. Both want to go their own way. Both need the controlling bit and bridle. One is stubborn. One is impetuous and impulsive.
I don’t have a good horse story about being brash and headstrong. But I don’t need a horse story. I have been like that old mule enough to learn that I need God to control me. That’s why I am drawn to the verse preceding this negative verse about two animals. I love verse 8 –
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye.
I can go my own way like the horse or the mule or I can learn from them.
Regardless, God always gets His way.
Submission is a lot easier without scars left behind by a four-by-four post.
Ricky Tippett

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