Here's the answer, from the horse's (or mule's?) mouth:
"What is a government mule and why do people beat them?
A wrestling fan doesn?t have to listen to Jim Ross' announcing for
very long before realizing that JR speaks a different language than
most of the world. He's an Oklahoman, as you know, which is why I,
also an Oklahoman, translate his reports every week. It?s been fun,
but I really never imagined that I would uncover the answer to the
'What is a government mule and why do people beat them?'
Funny you should ask.
I was sitting in the geology laboratory at the university on Monday
when the answer came to me. We were studying topographic maps which
are divided by the federal land survey, which was conducted in the
late 1800s, into quadrants known as 'townships' and 'ranges.'
With me so far? Good.
When you divide these squares in quarters, you have 40-acre plots.
This is where it gets interesting: our teacher informed us that
Arkansas once had a policy known as the 'forty acres and a mule
promise.' Turns out the state offered black settlers forty acres and
one mule at no cost shortly after the Civil War as a tenet of the
Basically, the government started giving people 'government mules' to
aid in the plowing of the fertile Arkansas soil. Here's the problem:
recently-freed slaves would come to Arkansas and get their land and a
government mule, but received no money for seed, housing or land
In short, these poor people ended up with nothing but a chunk of land
and a government mule. Which, of course, pissed them off.
According to my instructor, government mules became the scapegoats of
the settlers' frustrations (and appetites). Hence, the people would
sometimes savagely beat their mules in defiance of the two-faced
government and when times became lean, often the mules would become
So, when JR alludes to the beating of government mules, he is
essentially saying one person is beating another person with no
respect for his humanity or position in vengeance against his
oppressors, crazed ravenous hunger, and frustration for his hardships.
In conclusion: to be 'beaten like a government mule' is to get a major
ass-whipping, rural Arkansas style. Now you know."
(SOURCE: Wienerboard, " The Government Mule Ethos"
I hope this answered your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it. The search strategy:
after just searching for "government mule" and then for
"definition:government mule" with no answer (There is also a band
called "Gov't Mule"<http://www.mule.net/> and most of the pages and
all of the definitions refer to it), I began to search for terms that
might appear on a page that would include an explanation: "what is a
government mule" (here's the answer); "government mule is a" "the term
government mule". The answer is of course dedicated to my favourite