Mule Plowing Record

by Rural Heritage
December 2018 – January 2019
On September 29, 2018, a record-setting 95 mules plowed simultaneously for at least one minute at the Grady George, Jr., farm in Woodbury, Tenn. The Guinness World Record people are expected to officially award the record to the event, hosted by the Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners club, early next year.

 

grady george jr

When the folks at Guinness agree to consider a world record-setting attempt by anybody, whether it is for the world's largest frying pan or the longest tunnel traversed by a skateboarding dog or any of the other thousands of world records, they require the candidate to jump through a lot of hoops before assigning them the record.

In the case of the mule plowing attempt, the organizers were required to keep fastidious notes. Each mule was examined by a veterinarian at check-in, and the teams were assigned entry numbers. They were filmed individually as they entered the field, and each teamster announced their name and home address for the cameras.

95 mules plowing - guinness record
Mule Powing Contest - Guinness World Record


 

Once the teams were all assembled at one side of the field and ready, they began plowing. As the last plow was lowered and turning over soil, a flat was raised indicating all plows were in the ground and all teams were plowing simultaneously. A loud air horn sounded to indicate the start of the 60-second timing. At the end of a minute, the air horn sounded again to signal the completion of the attempt.

grady george jr
Grady George, Jr., of Woodbury hosted the event.

Observers wearing orange vests and holding orange flags were stationed throughout the field to ensure all teams were moving with their plows in the ground. After the one minute was over, the observers conferred to confirm what the teams were all plowing simultaneously.

The entire event was filmed from a variety of vantage points to document its authenticity, including being shot by three drone cameras covering the entire field at one time.

Even though the organizers were confident they got it right on the first pass, they decided to do it one more time, just to be sure. The contingent of 95 mules were driven back to the other end of the field ,where they were started again for a second pass. For those couple of minutes of plowing, a lot of time had been spent preparing for the event, making the site accessible and convenient for the participants and spectators. Many of the mules and their teamsters had come from considerable distance and arrived a day or two before the event.

grady george jr
Kelli Kraft and Danny Vaughn

The Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners club has a long history of hosting events for their members and others to come together to enjoy their working mules. They host two wagon trains, a mule show and several field days throughout the year.

The MTMS club members first got the idea to go after the record when they learned about the Albert City (Iowa) Threshermen and Collector's Show try at beating the record for the most horses plowing at one time in one place. While the participants and their 120 horses certainly did break the previous record of 84 horses set in the U.K., their successful bid was eventually denied official status by the people at Guinness due to a lack of video footage documenting the attempt. A surprisingly fast-forming and unexpected thunderstorm with dangerous lightning had stymied the organizers' efforts to launch drones and film from a tall cherry-picker platform.

dr  mark roberts dvm
Dr. Mark Roberts, DVM, checked the mules before they were allowed to participate.
One of the primary organizers of that attempt, Kelli Kraft, of Albert City, was recruited by the Tennessee group to help them get their ducks in a row for the Guinness people. She and event organizer Danny Vaughn of Cookeville, Tenn., explained the elaborate process of validating the record attempt to the participants at a meeting before the plowing commenced.

She explained that the plowing was just part of the struggle to set the record—the documentation was just as critical when submitting it to the Guinness officials. The Guinness rules mandated that each team have one person walking alongside each hitch during the plowing, ostensibly for safety. This safeguard seems unnecessary given the high degree of plowing proficiency most of the teamsters and their mules possess but explains why there are so many people walking in the photos from the day’s event.
95 mules plowing guinness world record
Most of the 95 mules that set the record can be seen here getting in position to start plowing.
Because four of the plows that showed up were left-hand plows whose moldboards throw the soil to the left rather than the traditional right side, the organizers had to give them their own specific row from which to plow. They can be seen at the top of the photo below.  rh house logo
Author
This article appeared in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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