The man, or more likely boy that drove the mules that pulled the canal boats were known as “mule skinners”. Probably the most famous “mule skinner” was our 20th President, James Garfield. As a young man he worked the Ohio, and the P&O canals. He quickly advanced from driver, to helmsman, and was known to be able to hold his own with the tough crowd.
In the months that the young James Garfield was working on the canals, he fell in the water, 14 times. The last time he grew sick with the “ague” (malaria like illness), developing fever, chills, exhaustion, and became bedridden for weeks. After which Garfield returned to his boyhood home and pursued his academic studies, leading to the military, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency of the United States.