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Monday, March 10, 2014


donkey jack siesta

The donkeys are resting in the meadow, lying down on patches of hay I spread on the ground for them to eat earlier. They munched on it all morning. It is donkey siesta time. The ground is so wet from a foot of snow a few days ago, all of it melting over the last two days until it's nowhere to be seen but in shaded places on the north sides of white pines, the donkeys enjoy the luxury of the spots of dry hay to rest upon. Nobody to say, "Get off yer hay! 'at's yer dinner, ya stupid ass!" Yesterday I carried some carrots into the meadow. Jack came walking in a hurry. Left front foot stepped on a spot of ground with a slope to it and I saw his foot slide maybe a foot and a half. He didn't lose balance. After all, he has four feet. I'd have been windmilling arms attempting to stay upright. It's just a slide for Jack. He didn't even notice, like when Jenny kicks him. No big thang. He noticed in that he caught himself at the end of the slide, but not the way one of us humans would have noticed, flailing. The warm the last few days has given me a chance to spend more time with the donkeys. When the temp is between thirty and zero, I have to come back to the house. One day when it was 20, I went out without gloves. By the time I returned, fingertips were so numb I couldn't unbutton my outer fleece-lined shirt. Had to leave it on for awhile. Above 30, the gloves are a nuisance for dealing with the pocket knife to cut baling twine, or the camera. Not a bad nuisance, I learned that day my fingertips freeze faster than they used to. I spent time with Jenny and Jack individually, talking to them while they grazed and listened.
donkey jen siesta
Jenny swung her rear end on me this morning, though it was Jack she meant it for. I'd put down some hay for her, picked some up and spread some in another place for Jack. Before I took the one for Jack, he came to me while Jenny was eating. I was between them. Jenny's rear end jumped around. I learned my trust is not 100% when I jumped out of the way. I put my hand on her rump to distract her, but used the gesture to advance my exit, too. I just stepped aside and saw it was Jack she was aiming for. She wasn't going to kick, was just positioning herself in case Jack didn't get it. He got it. I went to pick up another chunk of hay that was on the ground beside the hay she was munching. She swung her rear end at me again. She was saying to me, MINE, same as she said to Jack. I reminded her I don't eat donkey food. She didn't care. I picked up a different chunk of hay and took it to another place to spread on the ground for Jack. I came back to pick up the other chunk she wouldn't let me have, and this time it was ok. She was just antsy in that earlier moment with Jack so nearby. They are funny to watch. It's two kids in the backseat of a car. This morning at carrot time, Jack and Jenny came to me in a hurry, Jack playing his tenor sax, teeth and tongue showing. He looks like he's having a spasm when he plays his sax. The look in his eyes says he is the happiest donkey on Earth. After the bray, he took awhile to come down out of the trance blowing donkey grunts. He reached with his upper lip for the carrot. Jenny was right behind him. She came up beside him pushing him out of her way. She made a fake lunge at him with her head and he turned his rump to her, tail tucked between his legs like he does before he kicks. The chunk I gave Jenny was a little to big for her chewing comfort. She let it fall to the ground on my side of the fence, a signal to me to pick it up and hold it for her and let her chew it from my hand. I did. I held it with open hand and she bit pieces out of it until it was small enough she could chew it comfortably. I had the feeling she enjoyed eating her carrot out of my open hand like that as much as I did.
jenny's tongue
It has been so cold and nasty for so long, I feel like I miss the donkeys. I take carrots and hay to them and hurry back to the house. Staying with them a little longer this morning felt like old times. I find both their personalities charming. Their silence is almost like a vow of silence, like they choose not to talk. It seems like that because they understand everything I say. They've proven it to me over and over. It's about time I get it. And even though my trust of Jenny is not total, I believe her refusal to kick me is total. I just don't get it yet. She swung on me so fast and so by surprise this morning it made me jump. She might have done it for the fun of watching me jump. I know it made her day to see me jump. She's pesky like that. I've seen her make fake lunges at Jack and the calf just to see them jump. I think it's her Alpha status too. The impression I get when I see her make them jump is that she's reminding them who rules. The calf will run off. Jack just moves out of her range and positions himself to let her have it if she thinks she's going to get close enough to kick him. After carrot time, I went to carry the day's armload of hay through the gate. Jack was standing sideways against the gate and Jenny right up next to him from behind. If he moved backwards it would provoke her, so he couldn't do that. He just moved his head out of the way enough for me to squeeze through the gate. He didn't quite know what to do so he let me push him. It was his own fun of not getting out of the way for me, donkey play, making me push him for the laugh he gets out of it.
jenny's crystalline mane
Jack has been slightly aggressive with me the last week. He's started pushing me out of his way, lightly, not with force. He didn't used to do that. It's when Jenny is antsy and kicks at him every time he steps within range. He's been kicking back as readily as she kicks at him. It's not power kicks, just annoyance kicks, like we'll give a nudge of an elbow or a shove. He's been unusually aggressive with Jenny recently, discouraging her belief that Jack is her kicking bag. He will push up against her to make her move when he wants to. Not having language, they communicate through body language. Often it is tactile, not just for looks. This morning while I was putting hay down for Jack he leaned against me with his side and pushed me sideways. I go with it. They know I don't want their hay. It's an automatic defensive move that says, MINE. He would have snorted at Jenny and swung his rear end at her. I've sometimes wondered why they have such big jawbones. Their heads are like a horse's head in every respect except the huge jawbone. It's that jawbone that makes a donkey's head look so out of proportion to the rest of it. Natural selection. They kick so much, so automatically, so accurately, and so hard when they want to, I suspect the ones with lesser jawbones starved to death from shattered jaws. Eventually, the jawbones grew until they could withstand a donkey kick. They are called an ass, equus africanus asinus, the ass branch of the African horse, because they are so aware of their backsides. It's like they are as conscious from the ass end as from the front end. They have as much control over where the back feet go as a skilled boxer with his hands. It was one of the first things I learned from Jack. I feel affection coming from both of them. I'd have to break that affection before they could kick me. If I were to break the trust I've established, it would be on, and I would lose. Both Jenny and Jack only look at me with warm feeling in their eyes, even when they play a trick on me, especially then. They get a twinkle in the eyes that lets me know it's a donkey trick. For me, it's children's humor, the same. I play with children on a child level, and I play with the donkeys the same, on donkey level. It's a kind of pre-slapstick humor. It's pre-language humor. For me, it's insight into donkey nature, the nature of other four-leggeds, human nature as well.

breakfast in the snow
jack in front

1 comment:

  1. It was so nice to sit here with my breakfast and coffee and enjoy another jack and Jen story. I have really missed them. Thanks for posting one more good read...Looking forward to many more...