It was a “sign from God” that prompted Cadillac Jack’s former owner to sell him to MU veterinary student Christina Truesdale, and she considers him the best mule in the world. Three years after she rescued him from a life of abuse, Cadillac Jack seems to have found his peace. And his appetite.
“I have a skinny old dog, and my mule is a porker,” Truesdale said while petting Jack’s belly during a recent visit to his stable.
It was a hot summer day in 1997 when Truesdale, 26, met Cadillac Jack, now 13, at a horse ranch in southern Missouri where she had taken a summer job.
“It was a horse-lover’s dream,” Truesdale said. “Primitive living conditions and primitive pay, but heck, you got to ride horses 60 hours a week or more.”
The owner of the ranch, however, wouldn’t give her a horse to ride. Instead, she got a mule.
“He points to this little brown thing with long ears all huddled up in a corner, and he tells me that’s what I’m gonna ride,” Truesdale said.
She was unhappy at first. But the mule, weak, overcome with fear and “beaten to pieces,” would eventually become her great companion.
Back then the mule was known simply as Jack, but Truesdale soon attached the second name to reflect the fact that mules offer smoother rides than horses while descending rocky trails.
Cadillac Jack was reborn under Truesdale’s care. Scars on his head, neck and shoulders offer evidence the mule has suffered abuse, but that life is behind him now.
“He’s been to hell and back,” Truesdale said. “But he survived it.”
“It was a match made in heaven. For some reason, he trusted me.”
The reason is simple. Truesdale is “Mommy” to all the animals she cares for.
Truesdale has owned Jack for three years now. When her summer job at the ranch ended, she didn’t want to part ways with the mule, so she struck a deal with the owner to take him with her to Truman State University. She eventually returned the mule to the ranch but offered to buy him. The owner declined, and because no one else could handle Jack, he left the mule out to pasture for two years.
Unknown to her, however, Jack was sold in 2000. She later learned that the buyer was a Wentzville resident, a woman who eventually came to realize she would never be able to handle Jack.
Still, Truesdale had a hard time convincing her that selling the mule was the best idea. After wavering for weeks, the woman said that a “sign from God” would seal the deal, and Truesdale bought Jack for $1,300. The generosity of her MU classmates made it possible for Truesdale to bring Jack to Columbia.
“All my classmates, bless their hearts, they offered me whatever they possibly could,” she said.
An Uncommon Bond
As they walk into the stable together, Truesdale and Jack share this common story. Dressed in Western wear with a worn, red baseball cap, Truesdale is only a little taller than the mule.
“I’ve ridden hundreds of horses in my life, and this is the only one I’ve had some kind of a bond with,” Truesdale says. “He’s definitely not perfect, but he’s perfect enough for me.”
She glances at the mule. “What do you think, Goofy?”
She teases her longtime friend throughout the evening, but Jack doesn’t seem to mind the ribbing or being spoiled.
Truesdale said she spends around $300 a month on Jack’s stabling, food and occasional goodies.
John Coats owns the barn where Cadillac Jack lives. While writing him a check to cover Jack’s expenses, Truesdale talks about getting another greyhound because her dog, Royal, has anxiety issues.
“You can’t save them all,” Coats said.
Truesdale knows that. But she is going to try anyway.