Briggsey was one of the mules my Grandpa Prentiss used for general farm work many, many years ago when my mother was a little girl. Unfortunately for Briggsey, this story starts when he suddenly died. Now a dead mule is a dead liability and also a pretty big object no matter which side you’re looking from.
Apparently my grandfather delegated the responsibility of funeralizing Briggsey to his sons. It takes a lot of digging to give a mule a proper funeral. Not only that, it takes a lot of effort to get the mule in the properly dug grave. No question about it, funeral arrangements for a mule are very inconvenient and require thoughtful planning, considerable energy and many strong backs.
In view of the foregoing and since my grandfather lived near a tidal river and was not present when the final arrangements were made, it was decided to give Briggsey a burial at sea. At high tide he was pushed into the river. (He had been considerate enough to die reasonably close to the river’s edge). When the tide started going out, Briggsey began a slow, dignified trip down the river, headed seaward. From all accounts, Briggsey’s progress was watched by the small congregation delegated to funeralize him, and as he majestically sailed down the river, everybody was greatly relieved, lost interest in the whole thing, and turned their attention to other matters.
Tide went out, and tide came back in. On the horizon appeared an object. It was Briggsey, apparently reluctant to take to the open seas. He floated around leisurely until the tide changed. Again he sailed seaward, floating slowly out of sight around the bend in the river.
The story goes that for days Briggsey sailed up and down the river, homeward bound on each incoming tide. They appointed a watchman to check the river each time tide started coming in, and the call would go out, “Here comes Briggsey!” Finally, he left on an outgoing tide and did not return home.
Since his arrival and departure had become a part of each day’s routine, everybody sort of missed him at first but after a day or two it was business as usual. Animals on the farm came and went but Briggsey’s reluctance to leave home carved him a niche in family history. Everybody remembered Briggsey.