donkey jack at the lake
I went out with carrots for the donkeys this morning early. The thin cloud of morning dew glowed over the grass of the meadows in slanted sunlight. No donkeys. I called for Jack, hoping, knowing better, they were resting and being incommunicative. They were gone. The hole I fixed in the fence was not it. I knew then there is another hole and the hole is along the south fence. I went to the house, filled the grain bucket and took a bag of some carrots out of the refrigerator, picked up car keys and left. I knew by the way the fences around here go, the donkeys would be in the same place I found them the day before, near the lake, water. The land itself and the corridor of fences would lead them to the lake. I drove the two miles to the lake and there they were, happy to see me, like usual. I gave them carrots and fed them grain by hand. They like eating it out of my hand. They use their lips like fingers. They never touch me with their teeth. Their lips pick up the grain. Big soft lips, like camel lips, feel good rubbing on my hand, tender.
jenny grazes beside her friend catfish
I decided that today I am not walking over the mountain again. Still worn out from yesterday's trek over uneven ground and Christmas tree stumps under knee deep groundcover, the desolation of the once beautiful ground was too depressing to dive into a second time. I'd found a gravel road made by Christmas tree growers that bypassed the house with the dogs. This road made it possible to walk the donkeys out by way of road where I could lead them with the car, grateful they follow the car. I headed out and they followed. They walked the first mile fresh and spirited. Second mile, they grazed the sides of the road and took time outs. I allowed them. They are not used to walking steadily for so long at a time. I wanted them to be comfortable and to nourish themselves along the way. Twice we passed gates similar to the two gates to their meadows. They left the road and stood against the gates like they were home, they were done walking, waiting for me to let them in. No, this isn't it, we have a ways to go. It took some effort to distract them away from the gates. I shook the grain bucket, which always works. They don't see carrots from a distance.
jack examines the vegetation
The car's engine overheated in the first mile of idling, sometimes in N rolling downhill with foot on brake keeping it down to one to two mph. Rolling uphill, I kept it in low range, foot on brake, watching donkeys in the mirror. One time, they started running and I let the car roll a little faster, staying ahead of them. The running subsided and they were back to grazing along the side of the road. I saw they were both eating brown oak leaves that evidently fell from a tree, connected to twigs, after a wind storm. They stopped in a place where several of these leaves were lying in the grass beside the road. Jenny was chewing on them too. They acted like they'd found candy on the ground after a parade. Donkeys are particular about what they eat, though they eat almost as wide a variety of vegetation as goats. I could see they were more tired as we progressed, thinking two good morning walks in a row would enhance their stamina to a degree. I went through a range of emotions during our two mile journey. Even thought about saying something hurtful, like, "If y'all aren't good, I'm gonna sell you." It was too mean a thought to even think. They were better than good. It was my fault they got out. They followed me back both days so perfectly, so willingly, so by free will, I could not call them anything short of good donkeys, thinking that the moment I held the money for them in my hand, I'd fall into such despair I'd have to jump off a cliff like Judas. It would wreck my entire life.
I'm glad they had two very different walking experiences. First day over rough ground, up and down, woods to explore, new scenery. Second day they walked a gravel road and a paved road long enough distance to wear them out. Yesterday, they did not want to go into the first gate and I took them to the second gate close to where I park. This morning they were ready for the first gate. I could not unhook the chain fast enough for them. They had a lightness in their step entering the meadow. They were visibly happy to be home. I poured the last of the grain for them. They spent the day in the shade of their shed, resting. I felt good about them, felt like it was healthy for them to get out and walk a few miles, healthy for me too. It will give them a little more stamina to get through the winter. I rested throughout the day, dreading going out to look for the hole in the fence they went through. I called Justin and asked him, please, to come over and look for the hole in the fence for me. I can't do it. Too spent. It worked out just right. He and another guy were coming up here anyway to fish Willis's lake. He found a place the donkeys could get through and some hair on the wire, a strong suggestion. It was the only place along the south side that would lead them to the lake. The donkeys were so lazy I never saw them out grazing all day. They hunkered down in their shed, their energy center, resting in their barn while I rested in my barn.