Friday, April 5, 2013

My Three Mules

My day did not start out as well as I hoped.

I had planned to go to a somewhat-local estate sale that had horse-shaped objects, but morning came with a migraine that did not subside until about noon. (You’ve elude me yet again, Hagen-Renaker Cutter! You can’t keep running from me forever.)

(Long story. Funny one, though.)

When I was feeling good enough to get out of bed and get some other work done, I logged onto the Internet to catch up on the news, and found out about the passing of both Roger Ebert and Carmine Infantino. (I never met Roger Ebert, but I did meet Carmine Infantino once. Another long and funny story.)

I seriously thought about crawling back to bed and just forgetting about the day entirely, but then I realized I’d be leaving you guys hanging for yet another day on the Balking Mules. So here they are, in situ:

I used to have quite a few variations of everything in my herd, but I was running out of room real quick, so I pared them down to ones that (a) I really, really liked, (b) had some historical significance, or (c) came with an interesting backstory. The Mules, obviously, fell under (c).

And a little bit of (b), too. Like most Breyer models in the 1960s and through most of the 1970s, they were designed to come in both "lighter" and "darker" colors, to minimize culls. The lighter-colored ones would get painted first during a production run, and any that were messed up would get painted over with the darker paint job, if possible.

The painter that I talked to - one who had worked at the Chicago factory from the early days, forward - told me that the Balking Mules "lighter" and "darker" colors were going to be Chestnut and Seal Brown. She didn’t know why they switched the Chestnut to Bay, especially since the colors were not all that different.

So similar, in fact, that sometimes it’s difficult to determine where a "dark" variation of a Bay ends and a "light" variation of a Seal Brown begins.

Every once and a while I'll run across Mules that are on the very light end of the Bay spectrum, and make me wonder if that particular painter had anything to do with it. Probably not, but it’s still fun to imagine her tweaking somebody’s nose at the factory about that decision.

It didn’t occur to me to ask her what kind of Chestnut the Balking Mule was supposed to be. Flaxen Chestnut, like the Belgian? "Chocolate Milk" Sorrel, like the Five-Gaiter? Or more Red Chestnut, like the Man o’ War?

A few years later, we did get a Special Run of the Mule in the Five-Gaiter Sorrel color, as a part of the Black Horse Ranch set. That I have, along with all of the other Balking Mules, save for the Gloss Charcoal (never got around to it) and the Raffle Model Cactus (didn’t win, can’t afford.) No test colors, either, but considering that the mold was out of production for over twenty years, their scarcity shouldn't be too surprising.


draelynkhar said...

I keept fixating to the left of this photo --- is that a CLEAR version of the modern buck or are my eyes goofy?

Kirsten Wellman said...

It is, but it was not released by Breyer in that colorway. The molds passed through several hands and were issued in a variety of colors and opacities before Breyer acquired the molds and produced them in gold. :)

T Phillips said...

Is it safe to assume that the odd "charcoal" that appears on a model officially released only in smoke is a result of a flawed smoke being overpainted?