Friday, July 28

The Tail of A Donkey & His Ratty Blue Halter

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.



  1. It might have been a longer story than you intended to tell but I got to the very end of it, which means your writing gripped me a little tighter than DDD's haltar I suspect.

  2. FG,

    I want a donkie now! lol ... Donkey Doodle Dandy is a mighty fine ass if I do say so myself, and once again, you have written this story so well that I feel like I want to sit outside and enjoy nature. In my neighborhood maybe I could scout out some bunnies...that counts as wildlife doesn't it? lol.

  3. great Donkey Doodle Dandy story! I never thought the halter looked that shabby... but I agree, DDD probably prefers life without it!

  4. ah....what a great tale of an ass from the little lady in overalls. This only makes Donkey Doodle even more adorable. Thanks for the afternoon entertainment. Loved the story.

  5. Well! That was my second guess, actually. No, really. All of it was right on the tip of my tongue. Except for the "you being sober" part. I didn't think anyone would believe that. Har har :)

    What a great story, Susan! I laughed, I cried...well, I laughed. I don't cry. I had something in my eye.

    Thanks for taking the time to share The Donkey and the Halter. Loved it!

  6. I felt sorry for DDD when the sheep ditched him. Sheep don't always choose their company with the highest of standards, so I felt he was being slighted. At least it all worked out well in the end.

    My husband thinks I'm an idiot for loving my goats based on their personalities and not their market value. I get mad when their pecking order seems unfair and I worry about their personal dramas. So I read your stories aloud to him. You're unwittingly chipping away at my tarnished "farmer" image, thanks!

  7. everytime i come here i leave wanting another animal for the home hubby and i dream about for "one day"

  8. I knew you'd work another cute ass into the conversation.

    Another great story from the Farmgirl.


  9. You know, I have never thought of a donkey as "cute" but after I started reading your entry today, he started looking cuter & cuter to me by the time I reached the end!

  10. Great story Farmgirl. You had me from the very first sentence to the last!

  11. Hee (Haw). A fine tale.
    Has the resemblance between the Dan persona and that of the common house cat struck you at all? (I have a collar lying around here somewhere.)
    The animals run the place here in my city apartment, too. And I do feel I'm the better off for it. Many people underestimate the worth (and benefits) of cuteness in daily life.

  12. I just loved the story~~ and i think the blue halter looks cute on DDD.
    thanks for the story and please keep them coming.

  13. Susan,
    When we were growing up we had ponies and horses (no donkeys). My sister's horse, though, had a major stubborn streak and she occasionally used reverse physiology on him -- she'd pull him in the wrong direction and he'd back up the way she wanted him to go. (Once she was on his back, his behavior was always impeccable.)

  14. It's lovely that someone can ask you if you want a cute ass and not get sued for harrassment.

  15. Love this story!
    *mentally reminding myself to add "donkey" to the list of things I want when we get our house in the country*

  16. Ahh, what a wonderful story!! Thank you for taking the time to write it all out!! I love reading anything you write, the longer the better. Looking forward to a book on your adventures someday!

  17. Great story! Dan is a darlin' and he wears his halter well. I am sure that if it really offended his fashion sense, he would have told you already! Can we try green next time we get a new one?

  18. I love Dan, with or without his halter .. I say if you don't need him to wear it, don't make him. He's handsome enough without it, after all.

    And I don't blame you for looking at the adorable-ness of animals. I do it too!

  19. We need more cuteness in our everyday world. I know I can get my daily dose of cuteness here!

    Methinks Dapper Donkey Doodle Dan needs some cute burros to keep him company. Burros are too cute also.

    Farmgirl, don't you knit? How about knitting Dan a new soft halter?

  20. After reading previous comments I think Dan's halter needs replacing but only used in cases where it's needed -- ie pedicures. (or for other reasons as needed.) In times of old to teach an animal to walk on a lead they used "war bridles" I think they were called -- a makeshift halter made from a lasso. It uses pressure points to get the animal to move -- and generally you start with circles. Anyway, Dan does need some work so that in the event you HAVE to be able to move him where you need him he knows what to expect and behaves accordingly. Otherwise, you could be chasing your donkey haphazardly thru things best left alone -- brambles comes to mind, as well as wire fences. Ouch.

  21. aww! i just love DDD, and yes he needs that halter taken off. if anyone is interested, here is another nice donkey story i read earlier this year about a guy who bought a donkey that was pregnant, and he didn't know about it. it's very sweet, but not as sweet as the mother's day tale :)

  22. Another lovely story - bravo Farmgirl!

  23. That's the best cute ass story I've read in a long time. Sure beats the kind that shows up in my spam mail. ;-)

  24. Lindy's right - there's something in common between donkeys and cats. Before our kitty went to live with my father-in-law, we sometimes tried to put a collar on her (e.g., when we took her to be boarded, etc.). But she was expert at slipping out of it...and doing so in a place where we would never, ever find the collar. I don't think she's worn one for eons now. :-)

  25. My salute to that fine creature, Dan!

  26. Aww- another great story that I also see being a children's book someday.

  27. Had to comment on this one. I loved the story. But it might not be a bad idea to halter train Donkey Doodle Dandy. (He's a bit old, but it's worth a shot.) You can't pull the halter because they'll just get stubborn and pull back. You have to tug lightly on the halter (which should have a lead rope, btw) and walk at his shoulder. doesn't seem like it's really necessary for him to have a halter except when you need to catch him. That's my two cents. Love your blog!

  28. FG - I totally understand the cute vs. market value label! We bought Hank 6 months ago, he's now 3 y.o. and has never worn a halter. And it's time to call the farrier...
    I've begun feeding Hank his apple treats with his new (blue!) halter looped over my wrist. So far he has politely ignored my "odd" new appendage! Wish me luck.

  29. Dear FG,

    I sure enjoyed your story about DDD. I regularly read your blog and enjoy your photos, as it has been my secret fantasy to have a farm of my own one day...of course with a lot of cute animals, especially alpacas. In the mean time, I am living vicariously off of your experiences. BTW, your photos look great as desktop wall paper! They give me a little lift in my paperwork-filled day!

    Keep the great stories and photos coming!

  30. Just today found your site. Where have I been? Thanks for the wonderful anecdotes of farm life, recipes and especially the donkeys.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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