The River Ranch Talent Show

The residents at the ranch were going to have an amateur talent show. Word got around about this exciting event. When I heard about it, I thought that would perhaps be a good place to show off Betty the mule’s comedy routine.

The show planned to use an outdoor picnic shelter for the venue that had an open area adjacent to it. When I inspected the location, I saw enough room for a circus ring.

I had no ring curb but a few of the residents raked the leaves into an equivalent shape. I rehearsed with the help of two men – the announcer and a prop man – and Betty did just fine.

Every animal trainer knows: if it works don’t change a thing. I had walked Betty a half mile from the stables to the venue to rehearse. For showtime I figured I’d save some steps and have the horse trailer nearby to tie her to. Since the horse and mule were constant companions, whenever I separated them to work, the other one experienced separation anxiety, because they were herd-bound.

With the horse trailer about a block away with the horse tied to it, I readied Betty and then got dressed. The talent show attracted quite a crowd. They brought folding chairs and were seated in a circle all around the makeshift ring. The volunteer announcer introduced us.

“Direct from the California gold mines, here to launch their career in show business, please welcome Gold Dust and the Old Cuss.”

I guided Betty into the midst of my friends and guests of the ranch. After I waved to the crowd, I asked Betty to begin the routine in the usual way.


She took off. She made a bee-line through the crowd, back from where we came to her companion on the side of the horse trailer. The crowd roared. I ran after her.

I caught up with her and led her back to the ring. After I caught my breath, I made another attempt.


She took off again.

As I ran after her, I realized my mistake. We hadn’t rehearsed with the horse nearby. Now I was in a pinch. It was showtime. I did not know what to do.

As I walked her back to the ring I pleaded, “come on Betty, you have just got to do this thing.”

Back in front of the audience, I had no other option. I started her again.


This time she stayed in the ring and did the entire routine flawlessly. The crowd loved us. Our conclusion included several well-deserved carrots. There is never a dull moment in show business.  Such is the life of living with and performing with animals.


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