Arthur Bullington, lifelong resident of Cocke County, is also a lifelong “muleskinner,” someone who trades and trains mules.
No mules actually get skinned in his line of work, but the person who thinks he’s getting a deal off Arthur Bullington probably will be “skinned” on the trade because the odds are Arthur Bullington is a lot sharper than his buyer. That’s where the term “muleskinner” comes from.
He lives very simply in a little ramshackle house next to his mule barn, and he’s “never had no schoolin’” except for what he knows about mules. He’s been training mules since he was 15 and been around mules since his father bought him his first one when he was 12. “Never did own a car, always had a mule,” he says.
You might be able to read books better than Mr. Arthur Bullington, but I bet you don’t know how to read mules as well as he can.