We wanted to visit Mullin after learning they were an incorporated community to see what sort of businesses exist there. That, and it was on the way to Austin. We didn’t really have a choice.
Before we set out on a trip that seemed mundane, we asked ourselves “What exactly do we know about Mullin?” We knew there were tall reeds by the 55mph speed limit sign and a left hand curve leading into town. There was a tire shop. A cafe. A really long time after the town proper ends before you’re allowed to go 75mph again. That was about it. Much like the House and Senate, we went in blind yet confident that we would find something, anything, in Mullin.
We sat up camp at the Yokohama Tire Shop, and waited for customers to come in so we could ask them about Mullin. We waited for quite a while. Farmers and ranchers would drive by, wave, and go on about their business. The people were friendly, but not at all helpful in our endeavours to discover the truth of the town. It was at that point when we realized “Oh, we didn’t put our sign up” so we did.
A Kubota tractor slowly rounded the corner and stopped. An older gentleman got off of his tractor, walked up to us, and slowly read our sign aloud. He then sighed and stated in a reserved fashion “You boys are crazy, what the hell are you doing here anyhow?!”
We finally had someone from Mullin to talk to. After doing a quick 10 deep breaths to quell our excitement, we told him that we wanted to learn about Mullin and how the town kept afloat while many other towns, some larger than Mullin, have had to unincorporate due to lack of funds. “Well, we work hard. We don’t waste our money on renovating our old buildings like they do in Brownwood. Hell, if we don’t need it we just leave it behind for nature. No point in tearing things down. We have an old gas station downtown here in Mullin and if they tore it down you wouldn’t fixin’ to be seeing it now, would you?”
He had a point. We asked him his name, and like a true gentleman, he reached out to shake our hands. “Jeremiah Hendricks, much obliged”. Mr. Hendricks told us that Mullin was a lot like many of the smaller towns in our area, business used to boom but was focused on one or two industries and once those industries died, the town fell on hard times. He said this with a gleam in his eye, so we kindly prodded him to spill the beans. “Well, we have a few tricks up our sleeves here in town..” stated Hendricks. “Couple of us old timers meet at the Community Center, matter of fact, most of us meet there once a week and then we meet at the Lodge once a month. Always the same fellas, but we like structure. Keeps our wives from naggin’ at us too!” We asked what sort of things are discussed at the meetings, but he wasn’t allowed to discuss lodge business with us. However, he assured us that the Masonic Lodge in Mullin was doing well. In fact, they had one of the finest lodges in all of Mills County.
After hitting a dead-end with Hendricks, we went across the road and admired some of the old signs on the gas station that he had taken us to. After that, we went to the Post Office, another community institution where we might learn more about Mullin.
It was there that we met Hendricks’ wife, Estelle. “Oh, you must be the boys my Jeremiah told me about!” she gleefully exclaimed as we entered the refreshing air conditioned building. “You know, he wanted to tell y’all about how we keep growing but his lodge brother Moises passed away last week. He’s the only one left in the lodge, so he can’t blame others if the word gets out. I hate him going to that lodge. He’s so lonely that he conducts rites of Freemasonry to the air, to horned toads, to any living creature he can. He’s just so bored that he’s going to lose his mind. Y’all wanna know what he did last week?” Bemused, we nodded our heads. “He went and gave a goat the 7th degree initiations. That goat, Mister Nibbles, is now Provost and Judge!” Mrs Hendricks excused herself at this time, and her facial expression indicated that she had told us too much.
We decided that as any good journalism crew, we had the duty of investigating all sources, however bizarre they may seem. It didn’t take us long to find Judge Nibbles. Crunch. Crunch. trottrottrot.. the telltale signs of a goat echoed over the hills. In a town as quiet as Mullin, even the blackwing cicadas are deafening. We followed the sound and found a goat wearing a Masonic apron standing outside of the old grocery store. What struck us as strange was the fact he was a Spanish Goat. Most area ranchers had shifted to raising Boer Goats during the 1990s. We didn’t really know what to do at this point. Since goats can’t sign paperwork allowing us to use their photos, we couldn’t just snap a few shots and drive off. Goats can’t talk, so we couldn’t interview the goat. Matter of fact, goats don’t really do much of anything. We pondered our situation when out of the blue Judge Nibbles bleated and swayed his head in a beckoning motion. There was an old trailer behind the grocery store, and Judge Nibbles was hellbent on us visiting his humble abode.
“Did you put LSD in the Gatorade?” asked my co-editor. I assured him I had not, and we’d better follow the goat. We entered the home of Judge Nibbles and began interviewing him. Stranger things have happened, after all.
“Judge Nibbles, how do you maintain growth in Mullin?” Nibbles stared blankly, his slick coat reflecting the sun as he climbed the stairway leading to his trailer. “Let us rephrase, what do you do to keep Mullin around?” Nibbles stared blankly, and then spontaneously urinated on the floor. “Damnit Nibbles, can you even talk?” Nibbles stared blankly. “Nibbles, if you don’t want to talk to us on the record you don’t have to.” Nibbles stared blankly.
At this point, we had had enough with Judge Nibbles, Mullin, Mills County, and Freemasonry. We left, and we left as fast as we could. Nibbles followed us. We drove slowly in the hopes that, in the last hours of daylight, the Good Judge would show us something worthwhile. Nibbles stopped at a nearby house, and opened up the trash bin with his legs. We were shocked to see Nibbles pull out a box of Franzia, chew a hole in the cardboard, and quickly consume every drop of alcohol left. He repeated this 3 or 4 times. Maybe Nibbles wasn’t being shy or uncooperative, maybe he was just drunk! Nibbles the wino proceeded to enter a field and run around at blazing speeds, eating all foliage he could find. Content to drunkenly forage, we left Mullin for good. There was no pattern, no method to his madness. Just as there is no pattern, no method to the madness that is Mullin.
This was the pattern left behind by Judge Nibbles in the Franzia homeowners field.