February 19, 2017
You may not have known there was a movie star in your midst. But if you live in Idaho County, and more specifically the Slate Creek area just off the Salmon River, this is very true.
If you are a Western movie aficionado, I would wager a bet you have seen the film "Lonesome Dove." And if you enjoyed it, you may also have watched the prequel, "Dead Man's Walk."
There is a scene in this TV miniseries where a Comanche chief, Buffalo Hump, is warned "beware the dark woman on the white mule."
Buffalo Hump is told the woman will carry a sword and ride a white mule and will bring devastation on the Comanche people.
This woman did in fact arrive riding a white mule.
I searched for hours this weekend trying to find an image of this mule. You might ask why I would go to the trouble.
I knew this mule, and his name was Lonesome.
Lonesome arrived at Slate Creek, here in the wilds of Idaho, several years ago. My father-in-law, Dan Doherty, had secured Lonesome from a man in Idaho County.
Now anyone who knows Dan well is probably aware of his affection for horses, as well as his great appreciation for the Lonesome Dove films. There isn't a scenario I could imagine that would have prevented Dan from securing this mule.
Lonesome enjoyed a pasture with a wide, open space edged by Cottonwood trees and the rolling Slate Creek. He was kept company by geese and chickens and the occasional wild turkey and more frequent mule deer.
When my family would visit Slate Creek, Lonesome trailed along behind us as we explored wooded areas looking for photo opportunities. Maybe he knew if he waited long enough he would be granted the grooming he enjoyed so much.
Or maybe he followed knowing once we returned to the corral, he would be rewarded with handfuls of oats.
Lonesome had lived to the far end of a life span for a mule. There were several occasions when Lonesome might have gone on to greener pastures. But to say Dan doted on him would be an understatement.
On Saturday, Feb. 18, we visited Dan at Slate Creek. Lonesome had been found terribly ill that morning and Dan explained the end was near. We walked to his corral and brushed him one last time.
During the night, while we slept, Lonesome passed away. That night I dreamed Lonesome was a young mule, healthy once again, running up the hill and away into the mountains.
I believe this to be true. Lonesome has passed to other (though, I'm not sure it is greener) pastures and is free to run wild or enjoy the breeze under some Cottonwood trees.
Rest easy, old friend. You'll always be our movie star.
Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have a suggestion, contact Laurie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-983-1200.