You know Mike Carroll as our singer, flute, and tin whistle player extraordinaire, but he’s also a surveyor for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He gets to spend many of his work days out in the woods and meadows of Upstate NY measuring and singing.
Well, one day in August he and his assistant Alina, found themselves working along the old Erie Canal near Oriskany. Suddenly, a metal detector Alina was using signaled that an object was under the dirt in a wet area near the boundary. When they investigated, it turned out to be an artifact significant to our new CD and program - The Irish and the Erie.
We all know the song that goes “I had a mule. Her name was Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal…” Right now you’re probably picturing a mule plodding along the towpath pulling a canal boat, and it’s not surprising that many of them threw a shoe from time to time.
The metal object that Mike and Alina found may have been one of those shoes. Since Alina has a horse, she showed a picture of the rusting shoe to her farrier who said it was the right size and shape to fit a mule’s hoof. There’s no way of carbon dating the shoe. That only works for organic matter. But it was in the right place to fit the story, and we can imagine it was once worn by a mule led by an Irish hoggee along the old Erie Canal.
Many of our newsletter readers and Facebook fans are historians and professors. What do you think of the mule shoe’s history?