Descendant of Absalom’s mule


Some way or the other the subject of King David came up at the think tank the other day. We got to talking about how he, great as he was and one of the four or five top superstars in the whole Jewish/Christian tradition though he may have been, did enough bad things all by himself to send half the population of Lee County to the calaboose for life.
We got off particularly on the messy episode there in which he and his son Absalom turned against one another and fought with armies and just generally upset the population thereabouts. And we talked on until we came to the part where Absalom’s army had been whipped and Ab was trying to get away on what, I suppose, was the first piece of transportation he could lay his hands on, a mule. It was, no doubt, an act of desperation. If he had had time  to pick and choose he certainly would have picked a swift horse to take him away from the site. But, it was one of those bad days and he wound up with a mule; and you know what that mule did to him.
A geezer (probably a Methodist) said, pshaw, he believed that the ancient scribes who so laboriously translated and compiled and arranged that part of the Bible (2 Samuel in this case) kind of used their imagination and added some local color and everything to come up with that business about Absalom getting his head caught in the oak tree limb and, as the writer so laconically puts it, being “taken up between the heaven and the earth.”
I rushed to the writer’s defense. Knowing mules as I do, it surprises me not in the least that the spiteful beast would first take Absalom right into the thickest part of the limbs, nor that “the mule that was under him went away,” leaving Ab hanging. Doesn’t surprise me at all.
We used to have this ancient, gnarled apple tree of uncertain ancestry
down in the old orchard, out between the barn and the Ridge Field. For want of a better name, we called it a June apple tree, because it bore its small, hard, tart, striped apples early. The apples were the kind boys like to gnaw on from when they (the apples) were pea-sized. Tart, yes, whatchoo talkin’ about! But still good. And when sliced and dried on a piece of tin, they made the most fantastic fried apple pies in the world! The tree was prolific, year after year after year, even when it got so old that half of it just rotted away. What was left would still be covered with apples. I can see it now, its bark decorated with thousands of sapsucker holes, the apples growing in clusters, like grapes, all over the old snag of a limb that jutted out to the north side.
That limb was, let me see, I’m not sure how many feet from the ground, but a mule could walk under it without any trouble. If the mule was carrying anything on its back, however, that was a different story, a mule of a different color, as it were.
I was slow about learning, then, even as now. I’d be plowing in the Ridge Field. On my way back to the field after eating dinner (the noon meal, don’t you know), I’d say to myself, “Now why don’t I ride old Bill right up under that limb and fill up my overall pockets with those nice June apples so that I can munch on them even as I run around the corn with the Georgia stock?”
This time, I’d feel sure, I could make Bill stop at just the right place, so that I could sit on his rather pointed back and be in exactly the perfect position to pick the fruit. So we’d make a slight detour from the path to go under the tree, me sitting up there, casual as you please, on the sweaty backband, holding on to the hames listening to the jingle of the traces. I’d steer old Bill right in under that big horizontal limb, ah, right there, easy, whoa now. Whoa! And being, no doubt, a direct descendant of that mule in the Absalom story, old Bill wouldn’t stop at exactly the right time (or, after stopping he’d ease up a few feet to eat some of the apples on the ground), and the limb would rake me right off his back onto the ground, where I’d lie amongst the rotting apples and yellow jackets and discus Bill’s ancestry all the way back to David’s time and beyond.
Later, when I’d have to explain the bruises and scratches to Daddy and the truth would reluctantly be dragged from me, he’d say, shaking his head, “O Bobby, my son. My son?”
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at


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