From left to right, Cpl. John Williams, Sgt. Christopher Johnson, Spc. Quinton Witt and Staff Sgt. Carlos Robles stand with the new mule team, Patsy Cline (left) and Dolly Parton (right) outside Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard, Fort Riley, Kansas. Nov. 17.
From left to right, Cpl. John Williams, Sgt. Christopher Johnson, Spc. Quinton Witt and Staff Sgt. Carlos Robles stand with the new mule team, Patsy Cline (left) and Dolly Parton (right) outside Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard, Fort Riley, Kansas. Nov. 17. (Photo Credit: Kaitlin Knauer) VIEW ORIGINAL

Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline made the long journey from Tennessee to the stables of the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley, Kansas, in November. The two mules named after Tennessee greats are healthy and were deemed ready to join the herd.

“Oh, I thought that would be one heck of a name for a pulling team,” said Trooper Quinton Witt, wagon master at CGMCG and Tennessee native, about the naming the mules. “Of course, I got to take the Tennessee pride in the mules themselves being from Tennessee and being trained in Tennessee.”

Witt, who has worked with the CGMCG for more than a year, had been scouting for a new pulling team as the previous pair, Julie and Jane, retired in October. After working with Dolly and Patsy in his home state, Witt knew the pair would be a good fit for CGMCG.

“They’re a very well-trained team, and speaking for myself, I’m excited about the future with these mules on the team,” Witt said.

A pulling team is made up of two mules and a driver. Using verbal commands, the driver tells the mules which direction to go. If necessary, a driver might add a physical command. These “pinky checks” involve a movement of the driver’s pinky finger on the drive lines to reiterate which direction the mules should go.

At Dolly and Patsy’s first training, Witt used verbal commands, not once resorting to pinky checks.

“They’re incredibly responsive,” adds Sgt. Christopher T. Johnson, pasture maintenance and wagon master at the CGMCG. “Even with whichever gait you want them to be in … They picked up right into a trot and stayed in the trot until I asked them to stop.”

“They definitely have a bright future ahead of them,” Witt said, estimating Dolly and Patsy will likely be with CGMCG for seven to eight years.

Community members can meet Dolly and Patsy at CGMCG events.