Sheridan King talks about her 36 years as a packer in Yosemite
Sheridan King has been a packer in Yosemite National Park longer than any other, with 36 years under her belt. She is a pioneer among female packers—she started working with mules in a time when women were delegated to doing little trips, while the boys did the fun stuff.
“When I started, women weren’t packing much, we’d would do the two-hour day rides, that are deadly, they’re so boring,” King told The Sheet.
Decades later, women are considered by some to be better packers; treating mules with respect and a gentle hand that keeps them docile.
Women calmed down the cowboys, too. “Having women on the pack team, guys weren’t quite as wild [and didn’t] beat the mules as much. Mules are much gentler when they’re never beaten,” King says.
Ticking off a mule is not a good idea. They’re smarter than horses with memory of an elephant. “The mules are really smart and if you mistreat them, a mule will wait until you’re vulnerable, sometimes two weeks later, and they’ll kick. And they kick with precision.” King said she’s been kicked plenty of times, but suffered no serious injuries.
The cowboys treated women with the same respect they would give each other, said King, but it was management that pushed back until it realized women were just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts.
She said people always laugh when she shows up for a ride in Western attire and people ask her where she’s from. She said she’s a little embarrassed to admit it, but she’s from New York City (New York City!?!)
Sheridan is an Irish name, a culture with a long equine history, but she’s named after Sheridan Square in beatnik Greenwich Village.
“I had a horse as a child,” King explained, “but the horse cost more than the mortgage on the house and my father had no real interest in riding but knew it was so important to me, so we sacrificed. I washed cars, mowed lawns, anything I could to go to horse shows.”
She moved to the West coast to live with her mother and never went back.
She’s worked as a college and high school counselor for 36 years, and that left her summers wide open. Tired of the horse show circuit, she started investigating mules.