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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Donkey's Halloween Costume

I didn’t know donkeys could read. The day after I filed my last column, about our not-so-well-behaved donkey, the main character decided to write a new chapter.
We had turned in early that night, because Farmer Fisher was planning to go duck hunting at sunrise. At 11:00pm, however, our rest was interrupted by Donkey braying a tune directly beneath our bedroom window. Thinking that the beast had busted a hole in the fence and led the sheep into the yard to eat the garden again, we bolted for the door.
There were no sheep in the garden, but Donkey had somehow made his way into the yard, and was standing at the foot of the porch stairs.
We looked for the sheep, but they were nowhere to be found. I put the dog leash on the wild-eyed Donkey, and coaxed him back through the gate into the barnyard. My husband started up the ATV and drove the fenceline, looking for any exit that the sheep might have used. When he returned to me, we both realized that Donkey had disappeared.
“Come on,” he said, and I swung a leg up over the 4-wheeled steed.
We drove back a couple of fields down the tractor lane and then suddenly we came upon Donkey standing beside his girls, who were on the other side of the fence. The sheep had found a hole in the fence that Donkey couldn’t pass through. They had grazed there contentedly until sunset, when panic began to set in. The ewes were not smart enough to find their way back through the hole in the fence when darkness set in. Their fat, fluffy butts were trapped in coyote territory, on the wrong side of the fence.
Slowly we came to the realization that Donkey had gone all the way back up to the farm himself, brayed for our attention, and then jumped the fence into the backyard of the house, just to “tell” us that the sheep had gotten themselves into trouble. He was a hero, of sorts. We had to admit that Donkey is smarter than he looks. He does serve a purpose. We gave Donk an apple, patted him on the head, and helped him herd his ladies into the barn.
A few days later, at 7 o’clock on a weekday morning, the neighbour showed up, leading Donkey by the halter. “That’s the first time I ever saw a donkey in my backyard!” he laughed.
Farmer Fisher searched the fenceline again, hoping to find the spot where Donkey had broken through. He found nothing. We decided that Donkey was either a descendant of Houdini, or he had summoned the energy and coordination to once again jump the fence.
The next morning, Donkey brayed at 3, 4 and 5 a.m. At 5:20 a.m., another neighbour led him home. “He’s making the rounds,” grumbled the farmer.
On my way to work that morning, I met the new neighbour who had just moved in a few weeks earlier, jogging down the road. I warned her about Donkey. “Oh, we’ve met,” she said. “He was standing in my laneway when I went to get the paper one morning. I drive the car down for the paper now.” I apologized for the behaviour of our unruly charge. Obviously, Donkey had a new hobby. He had developed a fondness for wandering at sunrise.
Farmer Fisher decided that Donkey needed to be handicapped with some sort of device that would deter him from jumping the fence. He hung a length of chain from Donkey’s halter, with the hope that the animal would knock his knees on the chain and therefore be discouraged from jumping.
That night, the farmer went out of town for a hunt, and I had a girls’ night in. Several friends stayed over, and we watched movies and chatted until the wee hours. We were none to pleased to be awakened at 7 a.m., by the sound of Donkey braying in the yard. There he was, attempting to drink from the swimming pool, covered from head to toe in burrs. He was a sorry-looking beast.
I scolded Donkey and removed the useless chain from his halter, along with the bulk of the burrs. He hung his head in shame, and wandered off to bite a ewe.
Later that day, my father showed up to visit Donkey. He and the animal communicate telepathically, I think. They seem to understand each other. Anyway, on this particular day, which started, if you remember, with Donkey being scolded for his behaviour, the beast decided he wasn’t feeling very social. He ignored the calls for his attention, and wandered off to pasture with the sheep.
I went to the kitchen to get an apple, and crossed the barnyard to the edge of the pasture. I held the apple high and waved it while calling Donkey. He can spot a piece of fruit from quite a distance. Donkey slowly wandered back to the house, and carried out a proper visit, for the price of one Macintosh apple.
When Farmer Fisher returned from his hunting trip, Donkey got a new piece of jewelry. He now has enough chain hanging from his halter that not only will he not be able to coordinate jumping over a fence, he also won’t be able to run after the sheep.
And he does a mean impression of old Jacob Marley, rattling his chains in the morning mist.

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