Donkey Doodle Dandy all slicked out for summer.
Note: This post was inspired by this photo and this one.
It all started about two and a half years ago with a late night phone call from our young cowboy friend. I was home alone on the farm for a couple of days, totally minding my own business, and—this is important*—completely sober.
A few minutes into the obligatory small talk that precedes any country business, I was blindsided and rendered momentarily speechless by a seemingly out-of-the-blue question that landed in my ear:
"So how would you like a cute little ass?"
Less than five minutes later I had been sweet-talked into purchasing a two-year-old donkey for what seemed like a very reasonable price, although I knew nothing about buying and selling donkeys—or donkeys in general for that matter.
And that is how Donkey Doodle Dandy came into our lives. (The story of why he was leaving other peoples' lives will have to wait for another time). This is one of the benefits of living on a laid-back farm such as ours.
Even though the thought of owning a donkey had never crossed my mind, after only a few minutes—and absolutely no idea of what I was getting myself into—I was able to happily say, "Sure! I'll have the money—bring on the donkey!" Delivery was set for the following evening.
I could hear a truck and trailer rattling its way down our long, steep driveway, so I headed down to the barn in the fading light. The cowboy and his cowboy buddy hopped out of the truck as I peered into a giant, dark trailer.
Huddled at the far end (or possibly slammed into—this cowboy can be a rather reckless driver) was a smaller creature than I had envisioned who was regarding me with giant eyes and sporting a bright blue halter. I couldn't help myself.
"He's adorable!" I shrieked.
"Well of course he is," said the cowboy. "I told you he was cute." He knows that cuteness—which 'real' farmers do not take into consideration when it comes to buying barnyard animals—ranks high on my priority list.
The boys prepared to unload the nameless little donkey into the barn, but I said I wanted him in an adjacent pen.
"Why?" asked the cowboy. "He's going to live with the sheep, right?" And he pointed to the wooly mass in the barnyard that was staring over at us with one enormous look of fear and shock.
"Yeah, but I think they need to get used to each other first. What if I put him in with the sheep and he starts chasing after them and they freak out and everybody goes berserk?"
Cowboys who have been riding horses and roping cattle and dealing with livestock their entire lives do not conjure up or contemplate scenarios like this, but these young men knew better than to argue with me—and they were far too polite to laugh in my face. They simply repositioned the truck and trailer and deposited my darling new donkey into the appointed pen.
Then they casually made me look like an idiot.
"So when are you going to let him in with the sheep?"
"Tomorrow I guess."
"And how are you going to get him back into this pen by yourself if—how did you put it?—'everybody freaks out and goes berserk'?"
"Um. . ."
The cowboys glanced at each other and suppressed large sighs.
"The thing is," the cowboy buddy slowly and calmly explained to me, "we're here now. If we need to, we can move him right back out of the barn and into this pen. But tomorrow, we won't be here." Then he waited for me to get it. And when I did, they loaded my donkey back into the trailer and unloaded him into the barn.
And everything seemed okay, and nobody freaked out or went berserk, so they got in their truck and drove away.
The next morning everyone looked fine, but it was obvious that the sheep were doing their very best to act like there was not a donkey in their midst. As soon as I opened the barn gate they all shot off down the driveway at top speed—purposely ditching the donkey.
They then proceeded to do this for a couple of days, racing away when he wasn't looking, ducking under loose barbed wire fences where they knew he couldn't follow, and generally not being nice.
One time I went outside and heard a pitiful little donkey cry coming from the creek bed. There he was, standing next to a getaway hole, his blue halter stuck to the barbed wire. At this point I hadn't been allowed anywhere near his donkey body (which is yet another story), but he let me set him free before sulking back to the barn as only a donkey can do.
Not long afterward, the newly named Donkey Doodle Dandy liberated himself from his halter and left it laying in the dirt. I picked it up and draped it over a fencepost—and there it sat for a couple of years (because that's how it is around here).
Fast forward to a few months ago when the farrier and his son arrived to give Dan his very first pedicure.
Overall things went very well, but even though I had Dan in a tiny pen as requested, it still took an awfully long time for them to catch him up.
When the pedicure was over, the farrier kindly offered to reunite Dan and his old halter, which I'd been using to hold part of the makeshift pedicure pen in place—and which was by now pretty ratty looking after sitting out in the weather for two years.
I said that sounded great and was very thankful, even though I couldn't think of any reason why Dan needed a halter. It wasn't until the following day that I finally figured it out—so the farrier would be able to easily catch him up next time of course!
The halter didn't look too bad once they eventually got it on him. But it had turned brittle with age, and Dan, who was in the middle of his yearly Springtime Scratching Session (where he spends hours on end rubbing his body against things in order to rid himself of his fluffy winter coat) soon had the poor halter looking even worse than it already did.
That was when I realized I would need to explain its pitiful state if I was going to post any more close-up photos of him.
It was decided that we would buy Dan a brand new halter, and I was about ready to yank the old one off when I realized that there was no way we were going to be able to put a new one on him ourselves—which meant we would have to wait for the farrier to come back. Then we decided that Dan really doesn't need to have a halter on all the time.
He clearly isn't fond of wearing it, and (as one concerned reader pointed out) there is the slight but real chance that he could get a hoof stuck in it and end up very hurt or even dead.
Serious horse and donkey people will probably start shaking their heads and rolling their eyes in disbelief, but I am very lax with Dan. He pretty much goes where he wants, and if that coincides with where I want him to go—great. If not, too bad for me.
For instance, lately Dan has taken to spending every night locked in the barn with the sheep. He even races ahead of them at tuck-in time to claim his favorite spot by the fan. In the morning, I open the barn gate and he saunters out before I turn off the lights, feed Cary her bottle, and count the sheep.
If he is at the other end of the barn when I arrive, he muscles his way through the throng of standing sheep between him and the gate, looking like someone on a crowded platform at rush hour trying to make it to their train. If he's lingering at the gate and a sneaky sheep is thinking about escaping before the count, I speed him up with a friendly push on the rump, but that's all I do. The halter is not involved.
Last week, however, we were heading out for the day and leaving the sheep locked in the barn. I wanted Dan out. Dan wanted to stay in. Aha! I thought. This is what the halter is for! And so I took a hold of it and started to pull Dan toward the gate.
Dan pulled back. I pulled harder. Then I watched as he bent his legs slightly, cemented his hooves into the ground, and leaned his entire body away from me. I braced myself, pulled on the halter as hard as I dared, and realized how ridiculous I probably looked—and that I was never going to win. That old saying about donkeys being stubborn creatures isn't just hogwash somebody made up.
So there (in a much longer story than I intended to tell) is the reason Donkey Doodle Dandy is wearing such a pathetic looking halter. Since he won't need another pedicure for a while, I suppose I'll just go ahead and take it off. And when the farrier shows up and asks what happened to Dan's halter, I'll simply tell him I came outside one day and found it laying in the dirt.
I don't mind the head shaking and humiliation I often bring about by always choosing adorable over sensible, but once in a while a girl just needs to cover her ass.
Want to see more of Donkey Doodle Dandy? You'll find lots of photos of him here, and here, and here, and here.
* I'll have to explain this further another time. For now, let's just say that I got all of my money's worth and more during the first week Dan was here-in the form of the hysterical responses from the few people I told about my latest acquisition. And yes, I think I've pretty much heard every donkey joke and story out there. But if you know an obscure one, by all means tell it to me.