How I am like my donkey Jethro
My donkey Jethro is like me: stubborn, defiant, cowardly, and unable to compete.
Here's how I ended up with a donkey. In August 2007 my daughter and I went to Bulgaria and I fixated on the donkey carts trundling down the road. The drivers were tan, leathery old guys in no particular hurry. The harnesses were cracked, dusty old leather, the carts were homemade out of what looked like driftwood. The carts were full of weeds, why were old guys driving weeds around?
We saw one of these hand-hewn carts by the side of the road and stopped to investigate. Through some trees we saw them, the guy and his donkey, hip deep in greenery. The donkey was eating as fast as he could and the man had a scythe. So that's it: they were ambling around the countryside gathering donkey dinner.
At that moment I decided to become a donkey owner. I thought: when Armageddon arrives I'll be ready with my donkey and cart, I won't have to compete for gasoline. I thought: I know places I can steal weeds and nobody is competing for them. I thought: nobody else I know has a donkey, no competition there. I thought: I would like to live my life at this tempo, rolling down the road looking for something nobody else wants.
I found Jethro through a friend of a friend of a friend and went to meet him in Iredell County where he'd been lazing his young life away servicing hinnies. As I walked across the field I saw in his body language and the cocking of his magnificent ears that he was rebellious and fearful. That's the opposite of what you want, which is brave and obedient. I bought him instantly.
Here's why Jethro is still lazing. If you ask a donkey to do something, he asks "Why?" and unless there's an answer that satisfies him, he refuses. Jethro can do anything I ask, but generally doesn't choose to. For instance, he happily carries stones, but if I ask him to stand still so I can unload the stones, he keeps going till he finds a place with better weeds. He doesn't mind pulling a cart, but he is going to pull it in the ditch, where there are weeds. He was ok with being tied to a big heavy chicken coop I wanted him to haul, but first he stood still acting like it was too heavy and then he galloped across the field with the chicken coop bouncing heavily along behind him until the thick rope I'd tied to it snapped and the coop was upside down in the woods. Eventually I gave up and so, he lazes.
A donkey shouldn't live alone. I made a website for a gentleman farmer and he paid me with a miniature horse named Superman. Superman came stumping into our lives, short and broad and unflappable. Jethro was afraid of him at first but they eventually became pals and Superman learned to like donkey games, which involve a lot of biting.
Superman really knew how to look out for #1. He got all the treats because Jethro, three times his size, moved respectfully out of the way when Superman nosed into the bucket. I felt bad for Jethro, he got no banana peels unless I handed them to him directly. It bothered me so, I finally gave Superman away to the little girl who lives across the railroad tracks - her daddy snuck up that Christmas morning and led Superman away with a big red ribbon stuck in his mane. Now he gets brushed every day and eats ice cream sandwiches.
Superman's replacement is a little donkey with unattractive brown fur like matted dirty dog hair. Hector was cheap because his owner had expected him to be born white and had planned to use him in living creches at Christmas time. At his first performance Hector dropped to the ground, rolled in the dust, hooked his hoof under Baby Jesus's cradle, knocked Him over, and gashed his own leg. So I got him cheap. Jethro was of course afraid of Hector at first but now they're good friends.
Still, if I put down a bucket of treats, Jethro dives in enthusiastically, then little Hector trots up on his tiny hooves and pretty soon Hector's snout is in the orange peels and Jethro is at his side, staring politely off into space. I can't tell if Jethro wants treats less than Hector does, or if it's that he's too afraid to stand up for himself. For years he was afraid, of strollers, bicycles, recycling bins, flags dangling from mailboxes - and he thought everything in the world wanted to eat him. He's not afraid of recycling bins any more, but he's still afraid of being eaten and he still always loses when it comes to the treat bucket.