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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Resident Bad Ass

Well, that’s what I get for editing my own columns. I didn’t catch the mistake – but many of you did – and in this time of revitalization for downtown Kemptville, it would be a crime to misplace any historical landmarks. Anderson’s Ladies’ Wear was in the building now occupied by To Be Continued Consignment Store, and not Butlers’ Victorian Pantry as previously stated. My apologies. How could I forget TBC? It’s a personal favourite. In fact, when my husband suggested I buy some new boots, that’s where I went shopping. My new stiletto heels may not be quite right for the farm, but they sure look nice, and the price was right.
On the subject of the farm, it’s time to introduce the resident bad ass. Donkey, as he is fondly known, is a necessary evil on our sheep farm. Having grown tired of losing sheep to coyotes over the years, Farmer Fisher decided last year to add a new beast to his menagerie. Some sheep farmers employ llamas for this purpose. The sheer size – and smell – of the animal keeps the predators at bay. But Donkey was cheap (and he doesn’t spit), so he was loaded into the back of the pickup truck and added to the population at the farm.
At first, everything seemed to be running along smoothly. Donkey led the sheep out to pasture every morning, and herded them back to the barn at sunset. The coyotes stayed away, because Donkey gives off a scent, he looks menacing, and he leaves piles of droppings in strategic placements around the field. Then we noticed that Donkey has a mean side.
Allow me to use the analogy of a bad biker boyfriend. The gang is safe from enemies when they are around their fearless leader, but they aren’t always safe from him. When Donkey is in a bad mood or feeling sexually frustrated, or just plain bored, he likes to chase and bite the sheep. Occasionally, he causes fairly serious injury.
When under attack, a ewe will lie down and play dead. One day, the youngest Fisher was jumping on her trampoline, and Farmer Fisher was out on a duck hunt. The young lady called to me in the kitchen: “Diana! Donkey is staring at me. I think he’s trying to tell me something.” I went outside. Sure enough, there was Donkey leaning on the fence, staring at Amy. “I think he killed that sheep!” Amy suddenly yelled, pointing beyond the donkey to a pile of white fluff lying on its back in a gully. Incensed, I grabbed a piece of wood and let myself into the field, Donkey following close behind me, as he likes to do. I walked over to the sheep, to assess the damage. Donkey was a little too close, so I spun around and wielded my stick over my head. “Gaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!” I yelled.
That worked. Donkey headed out to pasture at a gallop, as the aforementioned sheep awoke from her trancelike state and sprung out of the gully, fully recovered. I marched back to the house, triumphant. But that was not the end of Donkey’s reign of terror.
Our bad ass likes to lure his prey with a sense of false security. He stands at the fence, looking cute and curious, and waits patiently for someone to fall under his spell.
My sister, a graduate of the Wildlife Resource program at McGill University, considers herself a lover of all animals. On her first visit to the farm, she decided to go wandering into the barnyard to meet the animals. About half an hour later, Farmer Fisher and I realized that an ominous quiet lay over the farm. “Have you seen Cathy lately?” I asked.
Suddenly, a low, billowing cry spread out from the field. “Jiiiiiiiiimm!!”
I panicked. My sister doesn’t scare easily. Something unspeakable must have happened. We ran to the field and there she was, holding Donkey’s muzzle away from her at arm’s length. The beast was gentle enough when she was petting him, but as soon as she turned to walk away, he got ugly.
The farmer showed the animal lover how to wield a stick, and all was well. Donkey took the insult and passed it on to an unsuspecting ewe.
But I don’t want to give you a completely negative impression of Donkey. He is a character, after all, and everyone has a good side. Donkey is very curious, and he loves to meet people and be entertained. The only wolf kill we had since we acquired Donkey, actually, was on Thanksgiving Day last year when Donkey spent the majority of the afternoon watching the teenaged relatives playing football.
When we take the ATV down the lane through the back of the property, Donkey likes to follow on our heels like a loyal pup. And if the farmer is working on the temperamental tractor engine, Donkey is right there, breathing hotly on the back of his neck. Having never been very comfortable around horses, the farmer would prefer that Donkey stay on his side of the barnyard.
The only person who seems to be completely unchallenged by Donkey is our middle daughter, 15-year-old Anastasia. Annie has the beast running up and down the length of the fence after her, kicking up his heels. He lets her get close enough to kiss his nose, and occasionally he will even bray on command. She is our self-proclaimed donkey whisperer, and her love and attention may just be the saving grace for our bad-tempered beast. If Donkey can learn to behave himself, we may not have to trade him in for a llama after all.

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