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Sparksville inventor perfects his mule-tractor bio-diesel hybrid
First year of production is already high, with $400 in sales already booked
Photos accompany this article
By Ed Waggener
When it's a bright sunshiny day and you're at the intersection of Blue Ridge Loop and the new Highway 61 just south of downtown Sparksville, apt as not you'll be lucky enough to see an unusual hybrid vehicle, a bio-diesel in its own way, in action.
It's the kind of thing you'd look at and say, "What is Junior Walker up to now?"
In fact, it is Junior Walker in his latest invention, a hybrid vehicle. The primary power source is Juniors old 4000 series, 70ish, Ford tractor, with two snow white mules, the bio part, hitched in front, powering only themselves.
Junior Walker rides on the tractor, navigating with a steering wheel instead of reins.
He said the mulepower part is what makes this one special "They're matched sisters," he said. "snow white. Hard to get a pair like this." Them and the special floating, pivoting hitch he invented.
He'll own that he got the idea from a Casey County man. "I saw his and liked it" he said, "but I figured out a way to hook it up better." He shows off the double-tree hitch he uses, which allows pivots in all directions and yet provides steering like you'd expect on a rack-and-pinion system on an RX-7.
The mules are hitched to the double trees and the reins are attached to the steering mechanism on the tractor. Instead of vocalizing "Gee," or "Haw" and pulling the right rein, he just turns the steering wheel on the tractor right or left exactly as one would on a car.
"My system is easy to hook up," he said. "Just two pins have be dropped in," he added, "and you're ready to go. You steer and they go exactly where you want them to go."
"I can put them anywhere I want to," he said. "they can be coming up to a mail box on the side of the road," he said, "and there be no way you could get them close to it if they were pulling a road wagon. But with this, I could put them right over mail box," adding, "if I was of a mind to."
Two sets of the hitches are already sold, at $200 each
Junior Walker doesn't have much which isn't for sale. And the hitches are being promoted. "I've already got two of them sold," he said. The price is $200 each, he added.
Right now, he isn't a threat to Toyota's Prius, but he's just started.
The mules, a diesel tractor, and tack run a bit more, close to $8,000 for outfit
If a person is new to the mule business, Junior Walker can get him in it from the ground up. He'll sell the matched pair of snow white mare mules for $1,500. Add the tractor, and its $7,000. And you still need about $700 worth of tack. Still, the whole price is lower than any new car, and it challenges most motorcycle price, as well.
He didn't have any figures on fuel consumption, but he did have a political comment on the subject. "It's pretty good," he said, "But with Bush as President," he said, "I'm still looking for a better mixture."
Relationship between mules and men must be developed
There is a relationship between mules and men which must be developed. The Snowwhite Sisters are almost totally in sync with Junior Walker now. He says the training of mules takes not only time, but that maintaining the art means you have to practice it every day. "I can't do it like I used to," he says, "but I used to be good. I could make mules testify like a Nazarene and bow like a Baptist," he brags.
Has been around mules all his life, and he loves them"
Junior Walker has been around mules all his life. He's worked them. He's ridden them. He's bought, sold and traded mules. "For me," he says, "seeing a good mule is like saying 'sic em' to a rat feist dog."
"When I growed up," he says, "mules had a hard time. "Not everybody had a pair of mules. Neighbors would lend them to poor folks to break a garden. "They worked the mules into the ground."
But the economics of mules were always good, he says. "Years ago they said a man could take a pair of mules and farm and save up enough money to buy a tractor. But they said that it was hard for a man to take a tractor and make enough farming to buy another tractor."
Trading is a secondary genetic trait in a mule man, it would seem. It is with Junior Walker. "I've traded mules a lot over the years," he says. "In Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. I guess I've sold horsestock that went to every state." And to foreign countries: "I've sold jacks and jennets and mules in Nicaragua and Martinique," he says.
Junior Walker always said that if you wanted a child to do well, you wouldn't necessarily send him or her to college. "That's okay," he says "but you want to teach them to count money. That's worth a lot more than any college degree."
His college was from the best
He does believe in studying, in learning lessons, and he says he's learned from the best "teachers" in the country.
"Now," you take Dr. Steve Aaron. "He was smarter than me and he was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew. And he was a good man. He said Steve told him that he had learned from Bill Hudson how to trade. "Now," Junior said, "that was right. I traded with Mr. Bill Hudson, and he taught me a thing or two."
He acknowledges that Professor Harold Mouser is best teacher
Good as Junior Walker is and Dr. Steve and Mr. Hudson were, all their better is right here in Adair County. He's the best there is, Junior Walker says. "Let me tell you the best teacher in the country. I've traded everywhere and the best anywhere is right here in Adair County: Harold Mouser is the best trader here or anywhere," he said. "But, now," he added, "his schooling don't come cheap." Mouser is the acknowledge master of livestock traders.
Walker was once the biggest livestock exporter in Kentucky
At one time, he was called the biggest livestock exporter in Kentucky. That was when Tom Harris was Commissioner of Agriculture and he helped Walker sell the mules that went to central America. "Tom Harris didn't just tell people about my horses," he said, "he'd bring down here."
Maybe being a Democrat helped him
Walker admits that being a Democrat probably helped him with Commissioner Harris. He's been Democrat all his life, never mellowing; in fact, the older he gets, the more mulish he is in his politics. "Every day I get stronger," he says. "every morning I wake up, I'm a stronger Democrat than I was yesterday."
He says that the hybrid, bio-diesel vehicle may be dependent on current politics. "I've got a feeling that before Bush's next three years are up, we'd be pretty hard enough pressed that we might appreciate a good meal of horse meat." He adds, "Not that I've ever eaten any, or think I might ever."
Despite being on 'light' Social Security, he's still enterprising
Junior Walker says he's now on 'light' Social Security. He doesn't explain the term, but he says he remains the handyman in the community. "Somebody breaks down out in a field, and I fix it."
When extraordinary things happen in the Sparksville area. He rises to the occasion with an invention. Welding is a forte. "Back in the 60s, there was a big snow. It stopped a lot of vehicles. I welded a snow plow and cleaned roads where nothing else could. I cleaned the snow off Bird Road when graders couldn't get through."
It was a perfect day for a ride on the mule-tractor vehicle
Tuesday morning, April 11, 2006, was a gorgeous Adair County Day, and Mr. Walker was taking advantage of the good weather to exercise the outfit.
As he walked up to the hybrid vehicle, the mares were skittish. He said he'd had the team for about six weeks "Look at 'em," he said, "they're as nervous as a whore in church."
But they settle down as he talked to them. "I've got to get out and work them." He said, adding that the weather was nearly perfect for a muletractor ride. "They need the workouts," he said. "in this weather, they'll have the leather wet in no time." and off the went, from the junction of Toria Road on Blue Ridge Loop, down the Loop to new 61, on it to the north entrance to Blue Ridge Loop, and again and again.
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This story was posted on 2006-04-11 14:31:59
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