In which Jethro auditions for the role of Wild Equine.
BTW the Yiddish word for donkey is "eyzl."
While I was visiting my son Zed in Connecticut for four days, Jethro was just standing and standing in his round pen waiting and waiting for the donkey-sitter to come play with him. No exercise. He probably was pretty restless.
So today I hitched up the cart and off we went.
The first half hour of the ride went like a dream. Jethro was obedient, cheerful, malleable (i.e. when I said stop he stopped). He was so good and steady I was thinking about taking him out on the Big Road (the road he'll have to stay calm on if I am eventually to realize my ambition to take him to the grocery store) when suddenly a motorcycle came over the hill.
Jethro rolled his eye in an inauspicious manner. I could read his thought-bubble: he was trying to decide whether to hold steady or lose his *&^%. Unfortunately, he decided in favor of wild abandon. He reared way up on his hind legs, like the trick horses in the movies, made a very sharp U-turn, and GALLOPED full speed up a long hill. It was kind of fun in the cart bouncing along behind him, wondering where we were going. We'd never gone this fast before.
When Jethro loses it, he forgets the difference between road and not-road. We careened across a driveway, narrowly missing a flowerbed, towards a deep ditch. Again I saw him consider: "Jump or Not Jump?"
He voted for Jump and leapt across the ditch. The cart behind him (with me in it) plunged into the ditch and bounced up the other side. He landed more or less forehead-to-tree-trunk and that's when he finally decided to stop, his rear end all bunched up, like a cartoon character (cue the screeching brakes).
I got off the cart and saw he was still rolling his eyes. We had a long, quiet discussion. We agreed we would try again, now that the motorcycle was gone. I led him into another U-turn and we headed back down the road.
I walked beside him for a while, not holding his halter but protecting him by my presence. He is much calmer when I'm next to him. When he first came to live with me, I thought, "How sweet, he thinks I can protect him," but now I know that, as per this story...
A donkey and his owner are being pursued by a bear; the donkey stops to change into his running shoes.... he likes me next to him simply because he can outrun me.
The owner says, "You're crazy! There's no way you can run faster than a bear!"
"I don't have to run faster than a bear," replies the donkey. "I only have to run faster than you."
Anyway, his eyes were still semi-rolling and he was hyperventilating. He clearly needed some Valium, but he doesn't have a prescription. We weren't near home, so on we walked.
A car stopped, the window opened, the driver did something friendly in a sudden manner. Jethro reared up again and the tornado he stirred up as he reared knocked me over. I bounced on the pavement. I got up and we continued along.
Third time is the charm. I was still walking beside him when yet another friendly neighbor stopped to say hello.
Jethro yanked away, ran down the middle of the road, then crossed over and went across a ditch into a huge hay-field where the grass is more than a yard high. He galloped across it until he was as small as a penny and then disappeared from sight altogether. I could still hear his Bulgarian bell ringing.
I trudged after him through the high grass but slowed and stopped as I realized I would never be able to catch up with him.
Then, following the advice of a donkey-whisperer, I turned my back on him. And waited. The bell went silent, then got louder. He was coming closer! I looked, he stopped, I turned away from him again, he came towards me again. He veered and galloped, veered and walked, sometimes closer, sometimes farther...
When he was very close he stopped. I went to pick up his lead line. Usually after an "incident" he's perfectly happy to let me be boss again. This time, though, he decided he was enjoying the wild life and took off again. He galloped out of the field, crossed more ditches, the cart turned on its side, he dragged it a while, he made a wild turn, the cart righted itself, he made another wild turn, the cart bounced hard and landed on its other side, he dragged it that way as he galloped on.
The cart righted itself, Jethro galloped across the road, went through a ditch and found himself, again, face-to-trunk with a tree. This time he let me catch him. We walked on, what alternative was there?
We were quite close to home when the last great menace appeared - a baby in a stroller, with a nanny, we have seen this baby many times, but Jethro couldn't take any more. He reared one more time and, trying to catch him, I nearly tore off 1/3 of my thumbnail, so I almost fainted, I don't remember anything about the rest of the way home except that I was limping and Jethro was calm, even abashed. He's now back in the sensory-deprivation round pen.
I would like to thank my friendly neighbors for being so patient with my donkey, who has been bad in the past but never this bad. Now that he thinks he's a wild mustang, and now that the wheels of his cart are bent and wobbly, what next? I guess buying some new wheels comes next.
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