Skinning Mules and Whacking Bulls



So easy for us today to go to the store and buy just about anything we want. A drive on any interstate will allow you to quickly see how all those goods get there every day. Trucks and trains and in some cases planes move our goods today, making sure I can grab a fresh pineapple on a cold snowy November day in Wyoming. But how did they do it in the old days, the really old days?  Mule Skinners and Bull Whackers moved the goods.

From about 1825, freighters started moving goods to outlying settlements and forts. When the 1860s came, with the transcontinental railroad, the freighting business became one of the busiest in the west. Freighters moved goods from and too the railroad, supplying goods needed for expansion and settlement of the new west.

Freighters, for protection and because of the amount of goods needed, traveled in huge slow moving overland trains. These trains consisted of two dozen or more wagons, each carrying as much as three tons of goods. The wagons were pulled by huge teams of six pair of oxen or several pair of mules, depending on the weight of the freight.   Not fast but most efficient.
Train Stopped for the Day

Mule Drivers were known as mule-skinners and the oxen drivers as bull-whackers, all using their bull whips most efficiently to nip black flies away from the oxen and mules. This slow but efficient way to move goods allowed the new citizens of the west to buy the same coffee, canned peaches and yards of calico that were offered on the two coasts. It lasted into the 1900s until motor trucks and better roads allowed for the bull-whackers and mule-skinners to die off in favor of truck drivers.
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