The Cowgirl poet

children's Author, cowboy poet

​Photo Credit, Merilee Mitchell

“Liz Hughey’s enchanting little tale of a delightful little mule will not only make her young readers smile, the story of Barney’s efforts to be the best little mule he can be will motivate boys and girls to pursue their own potential. From seeking the friendship and approval of their friends to becoming a sought after teammate, children will realize that, Yes! I can do that, too!” Laine Raia – Author/editor and proprietor of The Ponderaia, an equine boarding facility, North Reading, MA 

Barney stars as the lead character in Liz's first children's book, published March 2017.  Illustrated by Bonnie Shields,

'The Mule Artist', Barney the Lopsided Mule will make children and parent's grin and laugh with his tall, wide ears, and lopsided saddle.  It's a great introduction to the backcountry and the animals that can take you there.  

This is a nice story and it is very funny. My Gramma read it to my Baba, me and my little brother. We were all laughing. The story lets you know what pack mules really do and who gets to work with them. Cowboy and cowgirl lives seem cool. I like how the story rhymes and the pictures are interesting. Thank you for sharing this book about mules and how smart they are. I learned a lot and will be able to help my Baba better. -Maddy Brant, 7, author of Torey the Turtle Finds His Way

Madison Brant (Maddy) is a seven year old grand daughter of Horse Tales, Dog Tales, and Happy Endings author, Cindy McElrea. Like her grandmother and grandfather (who is a farrier), Madison has always loved animals. She rides and shows her reining mare, Irish. Madison can often be found with her grandfather "Baba" as he is working about the countryside shoeing and trimming his equine clients. One of her favorite places to be with him is the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary in Roseneath, Ontario, Canada where they help injured, neglected and abused donkeys and mules. Madison loves to read and be read to.


It's hard to believe a story about Barney, a fictional mule, can offer so many positive messages relating to issues young readers face today, such as bullying, friend choices and lack of confidence.  But Barney's whimsical tale of going from scrawny, awkward mule to prideful pack animal is uplifting for young readers.  The author, cowboy poet Liz Hughey, spent time as a packer and guide in northwest Colorado.  Her kinship with her pack string cultivated this book.  The story reads like a poem, divided into simple stanzas with rhythmical rhyme and meter.  Colorful water color illustrations by Bonnie Shields bring Barney and his story to life.  Entertaining and educational, the book is suitable for beginning readers with its large type and simple words.  Occasionally, however, the author introduces a packing or horse related term some readers might not know and offers a definition at the bottom of the page.  The back of the book has pack saddle and equipment diagrams.  If this story doesn't inspire an new generation of packers and mule enthusiast, it will surely help them realize that they can reach their full potential with the right attitude and good friends.  -Western Horseman, World's Leading Horse Magazine since 1936, July 2018, pg 52.   

Do you know what sawbuck saddles are?  Packers?  Outfitters?  Paniers? The story of Barney the Lopsided Mule will introduce you to all things connected to mule packing in delightful verse penned by Liz Hughey, “the cowgirl poet.” Liz writes from firsthand experience, having worked as an outfitter out west for nearly a decade.  She is a great fan of the United States National Forests and encourages all people to get out and enjoy nature. The charming illustrations that accompany Barney’s story are by well-known artist Bonnie Shields, the “Tennessee mule artist.”  Bonnie had the great honor of illustrating the last book ever written by Marguerite Henry. -Colleen Rutherford Archer, author, Deep River, Ontario, Canada

​“Liz Hughey & Son’s, Barney The Lopsided Mule, is a wonderful, whimsical story that poses solutions to some simple, yet important issues that often plague children. Barney meets a new friend with a new perspective that positively changes Barney’s  life forever. Bonnie Shields’ illustrations engage the reader and complement the author in teaching children valuable information about health, happiness and safety with pack mules while exploring some of the mos

t amazing options that our country has to offer. Truly a delight and a “must-have” for your children’s library!” -Meredith Hodges, television personality, author of Jasper the Mule, trainer, founder of Lucky Three Ranch, Inc.


​​Everything about Barney is adorable! The story is so true regardless if it is a human or an animal.  The illustrations are perfect for the story! It's just wonderful! Liz definitely nailed it!" -Cindy Hotz, animal lover and author

"This is a delightful book that not only carries a message about healthy eating, but introduces children to the outdoor world of pack trips and our precious National Forests.  The humorous illustrations are on every page and are the perfect backdrop for the narration."
-Adrien Synnott, Horse Tales Author

barney the LOPSIDED MULE