Lee Pitts: Who’s who?
November 10, 2011
Recently I was trying to explain to an urban relative the confusing genealogy of donkeys, mules, hinnies and burros, and it all reminded me of the classic comedy routine “Who’s On First?,” made famous by Abbott and Costello. For you youngsters, Abbott and Costello were a great comedy team and their version of “Who’s on First?,” which kept confusing the names of ballplayers as answers to questions, was voted the funniest comedy routine of the 20th century. One comedian would ask, “Who’s on first?” and the other would answer, “No, Who’s on second. What’s on first.”
Or something like that. If you’re under 30 years of age and have never seen it you can watch the routine on YouTube. For you oldsters like me over 50, I’m told that YouTube is like a television station on something called the Internet.
The conversation was between myself and a shirttail relative we call “Silly” because, quite frankly, he is. So you can imagine the difficulty I had explaining the genealogy of the mule to him. Our conversation went something like this:
Silly: I don’t understand the difference between a donkey, a burro and a mule.
Me: First of all, you must understand that a mule is a hybrid. Kind of like the Prius.
Silly: But I thought a Prius is a car.
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Me: Of course it is, Silly. But think of it as a crossbred, or hybrid, that gets better mileage, is more complicated, and liberal Democrats like them because they have a smaller carbon footprint. That describes both the Prius and the mule, only in the mule’s case you get the hybrid by crossing two members of the Equidae family.
Silly: Didn’t we grow up with the Equidae family? I think I dated one of the Equidae sisters and come to think of it, she did act like she was a little inbred. Remember?
Me: No, Silly, the two members of the Equidae family are the horse and the ass, sometimes referred to as the donkey. Donkeys were derived from the Nubian Wild Ass.
Silly: Yeah, I think I saw that movie on HBO. It was a riot. Was Will Ferrell in it?
Me: I don’t think so. I mean, no a Nubian wild ass was an animal. If you cross a Jack, or Jackass, which is a male ass, and a female horse, a mare, you get a mule, which is usually infertile.
Silly: Yeah, thank goodness the Equidae sister was too.
Me: Pay attention. Because they cannot reproduce on their own it is said of the mule, “It has neither the pride of ancestry or the hope of posterity.”
Silly: Sounds like our cousins out in Bakersfield.
Me: Can we stick to mules please? Anyway, you can do it the other way around and breed a female ass, which is a Jennet, with a male horse, and you get a hinney, which is smaller than the mule. Understand?
Silly: About which part?
Me: Any part?
Me: Let’s start over. First, you take a member of the ass family, which can also be known as a burro. Think of the burro as an unimproved member of the Ass family.
Silly: I thought we weren’t going to talk about our Bakersfield relatives?
Me: Urggh! Okay. We’ll do it your way. Think of the Bakersfield relatives as the members of the Ass family. Those relatives are more crude, less cultured and refined than we are, and are probably either in prison or in politics. Now you take them and you breed them to our relatives in Missouri, in this case represented by the magnificent horse. Now, what would you get?
Silly: A social climber? A socially transmitted disease? I give up. But which one drives the Prius?