GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Anderson Mann worked as a cook at the Bright Angel Restaurant for 22 years before he switched to a position at the Grand Canyon Mule Barn. Mann's job is to care for the facilities and the animals at the barn.
Originally from Nazlini, Arizona, Mann grew up on the Navajo reservation. His wife of 18 years also works at Grand Canyon Village and his children, Francilla and Andrew have attend Grand Canyon School since kindergarten. After more than 25 years working at the Canyon, the Mann's call the South Rim home. In their days off they visit family in Sanders, Arizona, but most days they can be found on the South Rim.
Mann works at the mule barn caring for the massive, two story barn and keeping a watchful eye on the mules.
"Most of the time I stay here at the barn," Mann said. "Once in awhile I go down to Phantom Ranch or if they're short on guides I fill in for them."
Taking care of the mules, cleaning the barn and transporting both guides and mules back and forth from the trailheads is Mann's job.
"I take care of the mules, take care of the barns - everything," he said.
After circulating out older mules and bringing in 11 new mules late last year, the barn now has around 156 mules. The mules pack supplies and customers in and out of Phantom Ranch.
The mules are rotated every few days in order to give them time to rest before each trip. On average around 60 mules are kept at the main barn, located across from the Bright Angel Trailhead and the remainder are kept at Yaki Point parallel to the South Kaibab Trailhead.
"We got all kinds of mules - trail crew mules, guide mules, pack mules, Canyon Vista mules (at Yaki)," Mann said.
The Canyon Vista mules take tourists on the Canyon Vistas Mule Ride along the rim.
Every day Mann helps the wranglers groom, saddle and prepare the mules for the rides.
"Most of the time what I do is in the morning I come to work, help the guys saddle up and brush the mule and after that we go to the round corral and get everyone ready and on the mules," he said.
Guides will take up to 10 riders at a time on the trails. After the wranglers and their dudes head out Mann sweeps and cleans the barn - checking the feeders, checking supplies and replenishing the mule's food and water.
"I use a Bobcat (tractor) to feed them," Mann said. "We feed them hay cubes and they eat a lot, especially when they come out from Phantom Ranch."
Mann also monitors the general health of the mules, watching them for any unusual behavior and sickness of any sort.
"There has to be nothing wrong with these mules," Mann said. "We just really keep an eye on them. When you're walking in the pens you have to talk to them, they're understanding. Mules are really smart."
Mann gets help from the wranglers on his days off. On the weekends or whenever wranglers need additional hours or when there's extra work to be done, the wranglers can be found helping with barn duty.
"If we need extra hours we volunteer to take care of the barn," said Mule Wrangler Simmon Ashley. "Anderson is our barn guy, he cleans the barn, does whatever needs fixed -that's what he does. We just watch him and pick up whatever he does. So when it's our turn on Saturdays or Sundays they'll say, 'you're doing barn guy (duty)' and that's when we start working inside the barn and cleaning."
Mann started working at the barn in 2011 and his past experience with horses has come in handy over the years.
"I have some livestock, some horses at home, so I know about animals," he said. "That's why I wanted to do something at the mule barn."
Mann said he enjoys his position at the barn.
"Everything about it - I really like being in the outdoors at the mule barn," he said. "Riding the mules and being around the livestock is the best."