Oh, those pesky donkeys.
I guess, because of their recent fame through the blog GoodMorning Gloucester, the donkeys in our barnyard suddenly think the rules of the farm no longer apply to them. To say their heads have swelled is a mild exaggeration. It used to be just their bellies.
Today, for example, after pretending they were eating regular grass in the regular field as they regularly do each regular morning — and as soon as I had left them to trek up for the regular morning paper — they headed straight into the bush where they had been stealthily working on an escape path for days, tunneling through to freedom on the other side of their patch of woods.
One donkey, Abe — the mellow one — always leads the excitable other, Zack, wherever they go. So it’s always his fault, I suppose, when they pull their equine escapades.
There’s only one method that really works to recapture them in the field. Out come the peppermint candies that we save up from Christmases past just for these occasions.
They can hear the crinkle of the plastic wrappers the length of a football field away, get curious, interested, then greedy and you can hook ‘em up and return them to the now-secured paddock. Except on this day, Zack decides that the crinkle of freedom is sweeter than the crinkle of candy and he bolts for the other end of the field in a kick-stepping, high speed gallop.
This, naturally kicks the formerly well-behaved farm pooch to throw off his best behavior and charge off after him, barking and grinning and joining in the mayhem. Off they go, the donkey kicking in the air with his hind legs as if he was in some old time cartoon show, bellowing away as if he was really in a panic. And who can tell, because they are soon long gone — the whole insane, barking, Hee-Hawing parade heading off down the country road towards the sea, completely ignoring our calls.
Abe, the lead donkey, doesn’t care for this action one bit and begins his own air raid siren brand of Hee-Hawing in donkey panic display mode. He hates it when Zack does this and he can never remember how it works out.
My sneaker is untied but there’s no way one can tie a shoe with a distraught donkey on the line. Abe now pulls us on a recovery mission beyond our control. We go at his pace which is cruise missile-like, to say the least.
At this point, I should just hop aboard because I am no longer determining our destination —that’s up to Abe. He comes up short at two specific target locales that he seemed sure would work. Back we come, this time with me leading the unpleased leader. Much donkey angst flows forth.
Now my farm wife’s infinite wisdom steps forth to return Abe to their regular overnight turn-out paddock in the barn and let him do the calling — which he immediately does, like an angry cell-phoning parent looking for a late child.
The trick is to keep the gate open at the near end while Abe is at the far end, acting as the lure. He doesn’t have to bellow long, because the roar of hoofbeats and the cloud of donkey dust shatters the mystery of his whereabouts.
Zack has triangulated his way home from Abe’s calls. Here, timing is key because administering the peppermint to Abe is what draws Zack into the trap and the gate closes behind him. They nuzzle for a second, then turn grinning as if nothing ever happened. Now, their faces say, when do we eat?
Yes, say the goats, chickens and Mr. Piggie, when do we eat? They just finished breakfast but, hey, when did that stop anyone from taking advantage of a little excitement?
So we all have another round of snacks just to calm the scene down. In fact, the donkeys score bonus flakes of hay because they are best left in the barn paddock for a while to get over all this excitement.
Abe turns to Zack with a look that says “nice work, kid” as they both settle down to their extra morning rasher.
To us, it sure seems like they are pretty pleased with themselves. Now, where is the media when you need it, they wonder? I’m ready for my close-up!
Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, and producer of “the Chicken Shack” community access television show.