Saturday, 25 October 2008
Donkeys for Dumb-Asses
We´ve owned a donkey for less than a day, and it´s already tried to kill one of us. I hereby volunteer to write the first edition of “Asses for Dumb-Asses.” If I survive.
I know a bit about horses, but donkeys, no. Just what I read in the heartwarming “Brighty of the Grand Canyon,” back in fourth grade. There is surprisingly little hard information out there about donkey-owning, and we honestly tried to do our homework beforehand. We probably have no business keeping a creature of such size and caliber. But after a merry Thursday afternoon session in the little house of Julio the Leek-Grower in Sahagun, (wherein I realized I know his wife – she´s the cook at the Madres Benedictinas) we handed over a couple of hundred Euros in exchange for their sweet-faced brown burrica named Gelatina.
Gelatina´s never lived in a barn. She´s never eaten anything but pasture grass and straw and the occasional loaf of stale bread. She´s never had a vet give her any vaccinations or microchips or worming treatments, nor has she ever had any kind of training. Her hooves have never been shod nor trimmed. She´s tough as nails, and she is cool. She´s kind to children, and as proof Julio and Maria showed us snapshots of the grandkids using Gelatina as a furry Jungle Gym. She´s accustomed to dogs and trucks and cars and roosters. She´ll be fine in Moratinos, they said.
And so today she came to us, trotting all nine kilometers tethered to the rear of Julio´s tractor. (Julio doesn´t drive cars any more, but he rides his battered little John Deere tractorin everywhere, and parks it right up on the sidewalk. You always can find Julio when you want him.) A couple of the neighbors immediately showed up to consult. We used some mule-tying chains we found in the barn to stake her to the little lawn out front... we´ll try getting her into the barn after she settles in, we figure. After her long trip from Sahagun I figured Gelatina would be worn out and ready for a rest, but she wasn´t having anything to do with that barn.
I said g´bye to the men and drive off to Leon to retrieve the computer. Paddy pulled up a chair and the latest New Yorker magazine, and settled in for a nice morning sun-bask with Murphy Cat and The Donk. (He was all grins and giggles, ol´ Pad. It was delightful to see.)
It was even more pleasing hours later, when I returned: Both dogs were sprawled on the grass with the burro grazing nearby. Murph skittered round Gelatina´s heels. A true Peaceable Kingdom picture... until I saw Paddy.
He was perched on the little ramp up to the barn door with a strange look on his strangely pale face. It should have been funny, what had just happened... it took a good five minutes for him to tell me. He still was panting, trying to catch his breath.
Paddy had gone into the kitchen to make up a fish curry for our lunch, when he heard the dogs barking, barking, and the barks fading into the distance. He went out to the gate. Only the cat could be seen. Donkey and dogs were gone.
He ran down the driveway, quickly realizing he was bare-footed. Gelatina was headed up onto the N-120 two-lane, turning west for Sahagun and Julio and home. Una and Tim were right with her, either trying to turn her back or perhaps egging her on... in any case, they got her safely over the highway and onto the pilgrim path alongside. Paddy took off after them, using God-knows-what kind of language. They stayed just ahead of him, at an easy trot. After a few hundred meters his left leg went out from under him. He watched them disappear from sight, over the little rise. He cried out in despair (I assume).
And that´s when Segundino´s little van came over the hill, and Angel jumped out and chased down the donkey, and the kindly carpenter picked up Paddy and hauled him and the dogs back to the house. Paddy couldn´t speak to him, he was so winded. He could hardly walk. Segundino said he would take Pad to the health center in Villada, but Brave Steadfast Dumbass Paddy refused... Just please get me home so I can tie up my donkey, he told him.
And that´s what they did. And that´s about where I came in. Pad still refuses to go to the doctor, and the donkey still refuses to go in the barn, so I can only hope she stays safely tied-up throughout the night. Both dogs are covered in burrs. Paddy´s leg is wrapped up in a pressure bandage. His pain assuaged by a strong gin & tonic, he lies snoring in his bed.
(The curry was great, by the way. After all.)
It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. Another one like this and I might not survive the stress.
I´ve been away from you a long time, Blogsters. I´ve missed you. I tried to make mental notes of interesting events and people and details to tell you about, until I realized that´s a lot like being in love. With a real person. And even though I have met some of you in the flesh, I still view you all as very Virtual, if not virtuous.
Since I finally passed the driving test on Monday the big news has been Pilgrims... a really excellent Australian/Norwegian couple, followed by a very strong German girl who helped us move the yurt out of our barn. (Yes, we´ve had an unassembled Mongolian yurt tent lurking in the corner of our barn for more than a year. Now that we need to space for living creatures, we drafted us some help and loaded up the great mound of yak wool and canvas and hauled it all over to be stored safely inside the Alamo, where its owners may someday return for it. It is a sad place, the Alamo. I hope to someday see it full of life again.
Almost as sad as learning that yes, the old Mac hard drive really is completely and totally kaput, that all my photos and music and unreadable drafts and tax records will never again exist. (Miguel at Mac Leon gave it his best shot, using all manner of Digitational Phomagzipmatron Technology, but it was not to be.) Another lesson in Letting It Go.
I write this blog on the “new” Mac, which is really the same one, but with a brain transplant. I am trying to prepare the house for Nicholas, my little godson, who on November 1 will be the first small person to visit here since the house was finished. I´m trying to make it safe, but bits keep breaking off.
And as for breaking off... I learned also this week that a clerical error at the Armstrong County (PA) Elections Bureau has effectively disenfranchised me for this year´s presidential election. (They bust their chops trying to register the apathetic, and the people who really WANT to vote are bumped off the other side!) I was all ready to get medieval on somebody, but then I thought it through. I´m an absentee voter, whose ballot isn´t actually counted til a week or so after the election´s decided. And I´m an immigrant, someone who´s got to, at some point, leave behind the Old Country and start integrating into the New. It was hard, but I let that go, too. (And may God bless Barack Obama with a long, healthy, positively history-making administration!)
Let´s just hope the lead rope that´s holding Gelatina to that iron stake decides to NOT let go. And meantime, we have GOT to get a new name for this donk. “Gelatina” is the Spanish equivalent to the English “Gluepot.” Poor old thing. Paddy likes “Bessie,” for Bessie Smith, the singer who gave us the classic “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl,” but I think Bessie is a better name for a cow. I´m thinkin´ Rita, or Carmen, maybe. Something Spanish and passionate, for a femme fatale? What will you name your burro, when your time comes?