August 4, 2021

Who says donkeys are dumb?

             With all the summer rain, our pastures are green and Ireland-like lush. 

Our animals don’t need extra feed, but we ring a cow bell twice a day. The early 

and late ring-a-lings are the signal that snacks await in the barn. 

The four pastures are pie-shaped so that the different animals come to separate stalls in the barn. I’ve learned to let the critters “catch themselves” at feeding time. While they are snacking, I can close the gates to check for limps, cuts and other possible ailments.

That’s what I was doing Sunday night, working my way from one end of the barn to the other. As I was adding water to Maggie’s mule trough, I sensed something was behind me in the hallway.


Spanky was sniffing my back pockets. Who’s Spanky? He’s a 6-year-old spotted miniature donkey that must be kin to Houdini. I was sure that I latched his stall’s gate. As I reached for a lead rope, Spanky released a big blow, as if to say, “No way, Buster.” Whirling around, he scampered out of the barn.

Sure enough, his gate was open. Baby Llama Bean and five other donkeys—Charlie, Jenny, Prissy, Thelma and Louise—were, thank the Lord, still snacking.

With one eye on “Houdini” and the other eye on his buddies, I shooed the herd out of the barn and closed that gate. Leaving the stall gate open, I jumped in my Kawasaki Mule and raced after Spanky. His first stop was in the brown-top millet field, planted for upcoming dove season. He paused long enough to give the bright green leaves a few munches.

Spanky must have spied the recently sprigged Russell Bermuda grass hay field, 100 yards away. He shifted gears from a trot to a gallop. I gunned the gas and cut him off before he got to the opening in the fence. Spinning, Spanky sprinted back toward the barn. On the other side of the fence, Maggie matched him stride for stride.

Once inside the fenced barnyard, Spanky sniffed the plows and assortment of equipment. I abandoned my buggy and raced to trap the wayward donkey in one of the corners. Several times, I yelled, “Ah, ha!” thinking I was about to get a rope around Spanky’s neck.

If donkeys can laugh, that’s exactly what the barrel-chested, short-legged critter was doing, standing atop the dung pile. (Yep, we save the manure for organic fertilizer.) He figured I wasn’t about to climb that smelly mountain. Spanky was right, so I backed off. And when I did, he spied the gap and bolted.      

Miracles happen. I beat Spanky to the corner of the barn, hollered and waved my arms. “Houdini” made a sharp left turn and darted back into his stall.

With a huge snort, he plopped down. And I promise, Spanky winked, as if to say, “That was fun, wasn’t it?”

            Donkeys get a bum rap. Too many critics are quick to say, “That person is dumb as a jackass.”

            Those naysayers haven’t met our herd and certainly not Spanky.

            He’s no dumb jackass.

            But I do know one that is.

            The farmer who didn’t properly latch the gate.