Skip to comments.Grand Canyon 'On the Trail' Theme Portrays Donkey Falling off the Edge
Posted on 02/20/2017 12:54:09 PM PST by CharlesOConnell
After an Intro, Ferde Grofe's 'Grand Canyon Suite', Donkey Theme, starts with a picturesque depiction of pack mules on the trail for the first 8 measures.
The second 8 measures of a descending, frenetic theme, don't make programmatic sense, unless there is an explicit visual depiction of a donkey tumbling off the trail.
In the third 8 measure section, the donkey's plaintive hee-haw is heard.
I hiked the Kaibob and Bright Angel Trail with my dad and brothers and assorted uncles way back when. Down one, up the other.
Spent the night in sleeping bags at the bottom. Wonderful trip.
We passed the donkeys (burros ?) both ways, but I felt better trusting my own feet and my own balance, not the donkey’s.
I seem to recall it as background to some old Warner Bros. cartoons.
I don’t think they’ve ever lost a donkey or a tourist off a donkey. Never. An old high class Bostonian lady once asked a mule-skinner if there was a dining car on the mule train to the bottom, however.
One of the first records I collected back in the Army in the mid 60s. I still have that recording.
They use mules because mules are sure-footed and (I’ve been told) smarter than horses.
They were mules. I lived there in 1954-5. My parents were teachers. I was in 2nd grade and loved it.
I’ve always loved Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, too. Brilliant.
In law school, I heard of a case in which a mule acted up and pitched its middle aged woman rider off and over the edge into the abyss. The legal issue was how to get a key piece of evidence in: that one of the muleskinners remarked spontaneously that the mule at fault had been troublesome ever since it had been demoted from lead mule to a less appealing position in the middle of the mule train.
My parents had that record in the ‘60’s as well - I listened to it many times, reading the descriptions of the different movements as they were played.
Still one my favorite pieces.
Thanks- now that tune’ll be runnin’ through my brain all evening!
My wife did the mule ride to the bottom with a night at phantom ranch a few years ago. Loved it and would do it again in a heart beat. She was charged with carrying the mail in her saddle bag too a bonus recollection.
News to me.
My housemate worked there.
In 2009 a woman was injured in a mule accident. She was ‘stabilized’ and helicoptered out, but I don’t recall the ultimate outcome. And it’s unclear if the mule survived.
I have both animals. My mule is extremely smart and very sensitive. He has a way of “telling” you things and if you don’t accept what he “says” you receive a very smug look relating how stupid he considers you. And, the jealous streak is very prominent in him. I have spent time calming him and drying “tears” that stream down his cheeks. And he never forgets. The donkeys definitely come second. They are sweet, but not nearly as bright as Jake.
Now, sure-footed? Well, in his younger days. At 30, we go for walks around the property and I watch every step he takes. He knows his pasture, but I look for holes and uneven ground when we walk outside. Believe me, catching an animal that weighs 850 pounds more is quite the feat for a 64 year old broad.
Yes, mules are smarter than horses. They learn very quickly and do not regress if training sessions lapse for weeks or months. Horses’ training seems to evaporate early on if time lapses occur.
Their sure footedness is said to come from their wider set eyes than a horse, allowing them to see where each foot lands.
Mules are less likely to panic (spook) than a horse, and prefers to confront danger, where a horse prefers to flee.
The john mules are more cantankerous than the mare mules, but are loyal if treated well.
I have owned several mules and horses, my current mule has been with me for 25+ years, and was a young plow mule when I got him. He has many hundreds of hours under a saddle now, and still takes me on a ride now and then.
We were stationed at Clark AFB in the Philippines when my dad bought a record that had the Grand Canyon Suite on one side and Johnny Cash narrating a pack trip down the Bright Angel Trail on the other.
I vividly remember listening to the suite for the first time and, at the precise moment in the “On The Trail” movement to which you refer, my dad shouted: “... and the donkey fell off the cliff!”
When my dad was reassigned to Warner-Robbins AFB in Georgia, we made the cross-country trek by car and our route took us by the Grand Canyon. When we arrived there, I refused to get out of the car, terrified that I would surely fall into the chasm if I got anywhere near the edge.
I heard of the case quite a while ago, and it was related in class by a much older law professor, so my guess is that the accident was in the 1950s or even much further back.
They are, quite famously I believe, MULES !
My dad had this on 78’s in the fifties. I remember his exhortations to “Listen to that!” which I did pay attention to, even if it was just to perk up for a minute or two.
Well ... it’s SEARED IN MY MEMORY!
They use mules and have not lost one with a rider. They have lost pack mules though; successful pack mules generally become the riding mules.d
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