I skirted the road to the left, entered a tree line, and crept down the hill paralleling the road.
I could make out a figure on either a mule or a horse, and he was singing to the top of his lungs. As the gloom of the night was slowing giving way to the early morning light, I saw it was a bearded man on a mule. He didn’t have a saddle; just a horse blanket, or in this case a mule blanket, that he had used for a barrier between him and the animal. He had his left arm wrapped around a jug, which must have contained some kind of whiskey due to his obviously inebriated state. He had the mule’s bridle reins in his right hand.
He stopped in the middle of the very steep road and positioned the jug to take a swig. He placed both hands on the jug and started to bring it to his lips. He tilted his head way back, probably due to the jug being almost empty. This move caused him to lose his balance.
Flailing his arms in slow motion, he dropped the jug. He attempted to catch the jug, but instead, hit the ground with a thud and remained motionless. The jug broke, and what little amount of liquid that hadn’t been dispatched was quickly absorbed by the dirt road. The mule didn’t move, other than to look back to see why the load he had been carrying had sudden gotten lighter.
I moved out of the tree line and approached the man. The mule must have been older than Methuselah because he didn’t even move a muscle when I approached the scene of the unfortunate disposition of his load. The reek of whiskey permeated the air, and it wasn’t from the broken jug. It was from the drunken heap of humanity lying in the road.
I put my hand on the man’s chest to see if he was still breathing. He was. The mule just looked back at me with a sort of quizzical gaze, if you can attribute human mannerisms to an animal.
I decided to drag him off the road to examine him further and tied the mule to one of the trees in the tree line. A plan was starting to formulate in my mind.