From RFD-TV’s The American, to the Diamonds & Dirt Barrel Horse Classic, barrel racer and trainer, Sharin Hall from Kingston, Okla., has burst into the […]
ProFile: John Payne, The One Arm Bandit and his Mule
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
“Hi. I’m Moe and I’m more famous than John Payne. Or maybe not, but I’d like to think I am.
You might know John Payne, but you might know him by his other name. The One Arm Bandit. I’d like to brag that I’m the one who made him lose an arm, but it wasn’t me.
I came into John’s life ten years ago, when I was eight.
He was sitting at a sale, chewing the cud with all the other cowboys…. Well, actually, I’ll let John tell the story…
Hello, I’m John Payne, the One Arm Bandit, and one day, I was sitting at a mule sale in Ada, Oklahoma. I had a bullfight to work that night, and the mule sale was at the same place as the bullfight, or I’d have never been there and I’d have never bought him.
He’s a man killer, Moe is. He had six problems: you couldn’t catch him, you couldn’t bridle him, you couldn’t saddle him, you couldn’t get on him, and you couldn’t ride him. And he’d run off with you if you tried, even leading him.
But Moe and I, after I’ve pulled a lot of wet saddle blankets off of him, have come to an understanding. I ride him, he does what he’s supposed to, and we both get paid.
Part of my act is driving my trained buffalo or Watusi longhorns to the top of my trailer, following them up, and spinning my mule on the top of the trailer while cracking a bullwhip. All with one arm.
I used a horse for twenty years. I was the cowboy who said, when all the horses die, and I get tired of walking then I’ll use a mule.
But after I’ve had Moe, I sure do like how he works. He’s surefooted on the ramp. If it rains and it’s muddy and that ol’ ramp is wet and slick, he is really good at keeping his feet under him.
I’ve trained a lot of animals in my life. Horses, mules, zedonks, zorses, zebras, watusi cross longhorns, Corrientes, quarter horses, and mustangs, not to mention buffalo. And a chicken hawk. This hawk, I found it under a tree when it was a baby. I took it home, and fed it till it grew up. I’d whistle and he’d land on my arm. He loved mountain oysters and hamburger meat. When we was working cattle, he’d fly around and hang around us all the time.
Once I trained a woman …… to do whatever she wanted to do.
Buffalo is the meanest critter in North America. Buffalo tried to kill me almost every day for two years, and they’ve hooked me off the top of the trailer, twice, horse and all.
But back to Moe. Moe wasn’t harder to train than buffalo. He was a jerk, pulling back, making it hard on you every darn day, but he was not dangerous all the time. He was not hardheaded. He is very firm in his convictions.
He was worth it. Well, I had a lot of nice compliments on him and I’ve been offered $20,000 for him. But nobody could handle him but me. He’s the best looking mule in the world. He’s built great, stout, strong, durable, sure-footed, and trustworthy. I do parades on him when I jump off the trailer onto asphalt, and he slides on all four. A horse would be straddle-legged.
He’ll outwork two horses, but he’ll also outwork two horses trying to get out of work and being a little pillbox.
I can walk out there and say, ‘Moe,’ and he’ll come to me. Something else this mule can do, is I can stand on top of my trailer and pop a whip and he jumps out of the trailer and onto the pickup and up the ramp and come right to me.”
He’s the most famous mule in the world.
Moe: Well, I love you, too, John Payne, but I’m always keeping score and I’m not going to love you anymore than you love me.