“One time we were hauling long timbers for the railroad company. 30 ft. long and it required 2 cars to haul the timbers on, a car under each end and it was pulled with 2 mules, one in front of the other which was called a double team.
“I myself was driving one of the double teams and a fellow by the name of Keene Lancaster was driving a single team just in front of me. We had quite a hill to go down about one fourth of a mile long and where the trainroad started off the hill, it went over a wood trestle and it was about 200 yards long from where it started at the top of the hill until it came to the lower end of the trestle.
“The trestle was 35 feet high in the highest part. It was a gradual slant to the lower end of the trestle and as we were on our way to the station at Monica with six loaded cars of railroad timbers and as said before, there was one single car in front of me and four cars behind me and when we started down the hill, the car in front of me, I waited at the top of the hill for him to get to the lower end of the trestle before I started down the hill.
“It was late in the fall, about the middle of November, and it had fell quite a frost the night before and there was quite a bit of frost on the track, and we had brakes on the front and rear cars of their double cars and when I started down the hill I got a cousin of mine at the top of the hill to brake the rear car down the hill.
“The fellow on the next car behind me was Derben’s double car load and when I started down before him I said to him, ‘Allen, you had better wait at the top of the hill until I get down, and I will come back and brake your rear car down the hill for you.’
“But instead of waiting, he turned over the hill just behind me, and I saw he wasn’t going to hold his cars with only one brake and I knew if I didn’t get out of his way, he would run into me about the middle of the bridge, and I whipped my team up and let up on my brake, and before I got down the hill my mules was in a long lope.
“As soon as I got to the lower end of the bridge, I jumped off my car and whipped my mules out of the track and as the hook that the stretchers was hooked to was turned sideways and the stretchers came loose from the cars and my mules just trotted out in the field.
“When Derben saw he couldn’t hold his cars with only one brake, when he got to the other end of the bridge, he jumped off the cars and turned the cars loose on the mules. When the cars got to the highest part of the bridge, it punched the mules off the bridge and they fell 35 feet to the ground.
This photo is not from Wolfe County, KY where this accident took place; it’s from Nacogdoches County, Texas. But it approximates the scene of sawed logs brought to a railroad siding by mule teams described in this story. Photo by John Vachon.
“It broke the wheel mule’s back, and throwed the lead mule way up on the hillside and hurt it very bad. It trotted out in the bottom and went to picking grass, but the other mule was never able to get up. It had to be killed, and some of the mules didn’t jerk the heavy loaded cars off the track and they came down and rammed into the rear end of my cars and the two heavy loaded cars rammed into the rear end of the cars ahead of my cars.
“The fellow that was driving the front car just had got off to open a gate when the cars hit his car and he didn’t have time to get the gate open, and it rammed the car, mule and all through the gate, and then they started down a small hill and about 40 yards ahead there was another gate, and then it rammed the front cars and the old mule thru the other gate. By that time myself and the driver of the car behind Derben’s car jumped on the cars and broke them down and got them stopped at the foot of the little hill.
“The company was notified and they sent some men to kill the wounded mule and take it off and bury it. Then we coupled the 2 cars together and hitched 3 mules to the double cars and we hitched the mule that wasn’t killed in front of my 2 mules and pulled them to the station and unloaded them, and drove back to camp and eat our dinner.”
Daniel Boone Childers (1873-1956)
born in Wolfe County, KY, on Holly Creek