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Liberty, Tennessee: Mule on a Cliff

A small black mule painted on a cliff has been there as long as anyone can remember. The adjacent highway was rerouted so as not to disturb the mule.

US Hwy 70, Liberty, TN
Maude the Mule is on the north side of US Hwy 70, just 1.3 miles west of the bridge at Liberty.
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Visitor Tips and News About Mule on a Cliff

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The Mule.

Mule on a Cliff

The story that we heard was that many years ago the creek flooded and someone in a boat painted the mule.

[Dennis Littlefield, 06/08/2018]

That answers the How if that were even true and the creek reached that insane height and then calmed for a leisurely boat art session. But the Why remains a mystery.

Mule on a Cliff

I have owned property next to the mule for over 25 years (I am 70). It is in Liberty, not Alexandria. Twenty years ago, an 80-plus-year-old man told me the mule had been there as long as anyone could remember (corroborated by two other 80-plus-year-olds). The mule never fades, and has never been redone. A real mystery. They did reroute the highway to accommodate the mule.

[Brad, 12/25/2016]

News reports clarify that when locals got worked up about the mule targeted along a highway obliteration path, the highway planners verified that, in fact, the work was never going to be near the mule painting.

Maude the Mule glyph.

Fabled Mule Glyph

There is a painting of a mule on a cliff wall that's been there for a long time. It's at Alexandria if I remember correctly.

Two stories out there: 1) Around 1900, a doctor was a student and he painted it as a joke. It was supposed to be of "Maude the Mule," a popular cartoon of the time [first published in 1904]. The doctor took and blew up the outline of the mule on paper and then traced it on the wall. This is the current story that is believed true.

The other story, which I liked, was about a mule trader who lost his mule over the bluff and then painted it to the memory of the mule. It is at least 75-100 feet above the ground, not easy to paint. When the road was going through, people banded together and forced the state to move the road. The state built up the other side towards the creek so they would have enough room.

I remember it as a child when I lived close to Memphis. It was about a 6 hour drive at that time to this area and when I saw the mule I knew I was close to my grandmother's.

[Willy Young, 06/01/2007]

Hard to believe the highway was rerouted to preserve the mule! But it's nice to have an occasional landmark where it's unnecessary to stop, or even slow down...

Donkey Painting

There is a picture of a running donkey painted on a rock near Smithville, Tennessee that has been there since 1951 and probably longer. The unusual thing is that it has been repainted regularly by someone who isn't afraid to climb up there. I have passed by there several times a year since I was in high school and I'm 64 now. Recently a roadside sign marks it's location in case someone fails to notice it. It is on highway 70, west of Smithville near Liberty.

[hmurrill, 09/19/1997]

Liberty (pop. 376) bills itself as "Home of the World Famous Mule."

Nearby Offbeat Places

Cato Caves: Area of Mystery, Famous Pot CaveCato Caves: Area of Mystery, Famous Pot Cave, Dixon Springs, TN - 27 mi.
Mayberry Cutouts and ThemesMayberry Cutouts and Themes, Granville, TN - 21 mi.
Army TankArmy Tank, Lebanon, TN - 23 mi.
In the region:
Bicycle Arch, Cookeville, TN - 29 mi.

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