By Ralph Trenary
News stories rarely stick in my mind for more than a day, and I can’t remember a Colorado story that lingered for over a week. That was before the unspeakable injustice in Woodland Park on Thursday, March 12, 2009.
I might just permanently record that date as an onerous “red letter” day in my calendar. My computerized date book will remind me for eternity. In my judgment that’s the duration of penalty that the perpetrator of this crime deserves.
If you missed it, or haven’t already launched an online search, what’s eating at me is the cruel and senseless shooting of Molly the mule. Woodland Park now holds a kindred relationship with Estes Park, for very much like the tragic poaching of Samson the bull elk, some cretin shot Molly with a high-powered rifle and left her lying in her pasture to bleed to death.
The Associated Press reports and the comments from Teller County Sheriff’s investigators just add to my disgust. The casual explanation that a poacher may have mistaken Molly for an elk is infuriating and indefensible. Mule = moose, maybe, but mule = elk is just too much of a Mr. Magoo for me to accept.
Mules hold a special place of reverence in our family. The National Western Stock Show mule competitions have been an annual mainstay. The grandfather kept Jenny and Jezabel at the ranch for years. Before politics got in the way the family veterinarian took exceptional care of those two. During the previous generation a team of mules pulled the great-grandfather’s two-yard dredge to create the fish ponds.
My teeth clench at the thought of someone pulling the trigger with a mule in the crosshairs. Since taking my hunter safety course in elementary school I completed 26-years of military service. Both taught me a lot about target identification and selection. Taking a shot into a fenced pasture is absolutely unacceptable. There’s more to this tragedy than mistaking a mule for an elk.
The good folks of Woodland Park have been contributing to a reward fund to find Molly’s shooter. Perhaps the temptation of cash will reveal the truth of this crime. My hope is that the perpetrator would soon succumb to either guilt or a resurgence of conscience and accept the consequences.
I have some theories about this tragedy that may, or may not, be revealed by either a police investigation, evidence brought out by the reward or a sudden case of responsibility, honesty and higher moral values than those displayed on March 12. My gut twists a little with the thought that there may be a dark and malicious motivation behind Molly’s killing. Perhaps my inner detective will be proven wrong.
In 1995 I distinctly remember using words like “despicable,” “horrible” and ”criminal” while reading the report of Samson’s killing. This shouldn’t be happening again, but it has and it’s far beyond a misdemeanor. Now every time I look at an elk or a mule I doubt that I can avoid the memory of these two tragedies.
Laws and criminal prosecution are reactionary measures that can rarely be counted as truly correcting or compensating for the crime. My preference is for proactive and preventive measures. But, there’s very little you can do to help someone else when they’re about to pull the trigger, have the wrong animal in their sights and don’t really care. Molly deserved better, Samson deserved better and I fear this will happen again.
Send contributions to the fund to find Molly’s killer:
Park State Bank
Account: “Molly the Mule Reward Fund”
710 West Hwy. 24
P.O. Box 9, Woodland Park, CO 80863