Last fall I was in Choteau and had a chance to visit with Maggie, one of the owners of Dropstone Outfitting, a stock-assisted hiking company.
We met in a pasture and that ultimately led to my little crush on Ruby the mule.
While Maggie and I were visiting, a mule wandered over and snuggled right up to her. I soon found out this was Ruby, a now-retired employee of Dropstone Outfitting. Ruby wasn’t overly persistent to get Maggie’s attention but there was that snuggle with a tender lean-in, and Ruby just stayed connected to her former boss.
So, who is Ruby?
Well, she was a good worker for Dropstone, and overall, she had a 20 year career as a pack mule. Maggie said she was a solid pack animal. Ruby could pack anything and wouldn’t flinch.
Ruby is now 24 years old and has one blind eye. She will turn her head more to see what is on the side of the blind eye and probably is a little more cautious. Despite Ruby’s age, Maggie said she can still be a dominant mule over the other pack mules and also the horses.
Dropstone Outfitting leads stock-assisted hikes along the Rocky Mountain Front. Hikers carry their day gear but the “stock assisted” part pertains to the pack animals who deliver the remainder of your camping gear. Yes, the Rubys of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Ruby looked as sweet and tender as could be and I had a hard time imagining her being a feisty pack mule. Maggie shared a photo of my little crush when she was a bit younger and I became a believer that Ruby could hold her own among the other animals. It would have been fun to know this mule in her younger days.
A neighbor animal named Hudson wandered over, much younger at only 3 years old, and I was sure Ruby would be jealous. But Ruby knew she was secure in Maggie’s affection and she stood patiently while Hudson pushed closer and then wandered off.
Who is now doing Ruby’s job? Two 6-year old mules (Ian and Andrew) have now replaced Ruby.
Days of grazing the lush grasses growing near the Rocky Mountains now fill Ruby’s seasons. She is eligible for full time Maggie-care and I trust that Ruby is one happy mule who has probably long forgotten all about me.