Edgar Moll hadn't had a set of mule reins in his hands for more than four decades.
"But I had a good feeling about this contest," said Moll, a Jackson, Mo., farmer who drove a mule-hitch through the twists and turns of an obstacle course Wednesday to come away the big winner.
Moll, who said he entered the Senior Horse/Mule-Hitch Challenge at the SEMO District Fair "to have fun and drive a team again," took the team through the paces in 1 minute, 55 seconds to emerge the champ by 1 second.
Marvin Seiler of Old Appleton, Mo., who says he has driven a team of mules "forever," did the course quicker, at 1:51. But Seiler lost 5 seconds when the wagon wheel nudged a pole during a turn, to finish with the runner-up time of 1:56.
"You lose 5 seconds if you knock one of the obstacle poles down," said Charles Mangels, master of ceremonies and a judge in the event, which attracted 11 entries ranging from almost 65 to well over 65.
Marvin Boxdorfer of Fruitland, Mo., who said he drove a team of mules for about 15 years early in his life, was involved in the aerospace industry for more than 30 years. "I put John Glenn in space twice," said Boxdorfer. "I helped build two of the space vehicles that Glenn rode into space."
Irv Berry of the Fruitland area has piloted everything form jets to tractors ... and a hitch of mules. "It was more than 50 years ago that I drove a team of mules," said Berry. In between, he spent 20 years in the Air Force piloting planes all over the world.
Moll quit driving hitches when his horse died 40 years ago. "But out here today I just wanted to drive a team again," he said.
And drive he did. Moll put the team of "Missy and Lucky" through some spirited paces, weaving right, then left, right again, and over a makeshift bridge. Coming to the final straight-a-way, Moll kept the team moving at a brisk pace. The final obstacle was a single board, and the wagon wheels on the right side of the wagon had to ride down the board. They did.
"When I got started, it was just like old times," said Moll, who recalled his young years handling a horse hitch and plow.
All entrants received a certificate, a picture and tickets to a fair grandstand event.
The Mule-Hitch Challenge was a grandstand event for the first time in its three-year history at the fair. Scheduled to be held in south portion of the fairgrounds, the challenge was changed to a grandstand event at the last minute.
The mule hitch was provided by Rocky Stroder of Jackson.
"We used Missouri mules," said Stroder, who raised the mules. The four-wheeled wagon was provided by Jerry E. Brown of Dexter, Mo.
Other participants were Walter Wyman, Essex, Mo.; Kenny Siebert, Jackson; Clyde Cook, Marble Hill, Mo.; Albert Aufdenberg, Jackson; Edwin Peetz, Jackson; Claude Estes, Jackson; and Dude Huey, Cape Girardeau.
Future Farmers of Amercia and 4-H Club members will take their turns at a hitch challenge Saturday morning.
335-6611, extension 133