After a good bit of effort last weekend, I’m pretty sure the situation is taken care of.
But for a while there, the Three Amigos were too frequently enjoying visits to a fairly expansive area in the neighborhood of the pasture that as of a couple of weeks ago was supposed to be their new home.
I always heard donkeys were smart, but I guess I underestimated to what extent. After staying put for the first several days following their approximately seven-mile, in-county move, the John-Boys apparently decided to venture out and take a look at what surprises and treasures they were missing out on that lay just the other side of pretty much every ridge in our neck of the woods.
Basically, they kept escaping (for lack of a better word). We always located them (sometimes in a neighboring pasture, sometimes on a dirt road), and by employing the sure-fire tactic of shaking a bucket of sweet feed in their vicinity, we were always successful in getting a lead rope on their commanding officer Joe Cool and parading them back to base camp.
But having to walk three donkeys any distance back to where they belong is too far (let alone a mile or two). So putting a stop to their Houdini-like antics became priority No. 1.
At first, I thought maybe they were ducking under the bottom strand of a portion of barbed wire fence where the contour of the ground creates a low spot midway between a couple of metal t-posts. I’ve seen deer that were apparently not in the mood to jump do that kind of thing a time or two, and I envisioned Joe, Bernie and Abe (Alex’s name has been changed) using a similar method.
But no, their escape route was much more clever and logical than that. And, of course, I found out the hard way.
Late last Saturday morning, after I had already added some lengths of wire to block off two such low spots along the east fence line, I was working on another on the south end of the pasture.
It was the last one I knew of and I was feeling all manly for being on the verge of winning this battle against three worthy equine opponents.
Suddenly, I felt I was being watched. Then I felt like I was being breathed on. I looked to my right, and sure enough Bernie was about two feet away acting as if he was wondering something.
He was wondering what I was going to do about the fact that Joe and Abe were also staring at me – from the dirt road side of the fence!
Dang it, how’d they get there?
Knowing I had no time to dwell on that question because a couple of donkeys were possibly about to head for Shannon County, I rapidly headed for the outbuilding that houses our Kawasaki ATV, fired it up and set out to round up the two loose Amigos.
Naturally, when they saw me coming they headed pretty quickly in the opposite direction from whence they had come. But as they made their way up the steep hill just the other side of the concrete bridge that spans the year-round creek that flows through the hills in our neighborhood, their mini-trot slowed to a walk. I seized the opportunity and blew past them before quickly making a u-turn in their direction. As hoped, the rogue John-Boys turned back and headed back down the hill to the west.
But when they reached the bottom, their desire to distance themselves from the internal combustion small engine that was making a racket behind them took over, and they began to pick up the pace.
A lot – I was shocked at how much.
In no time, Joe and Abe were in full gallop, kicking up dust and gravel like a pair of 750-CC dirt bikes. In order to keep pace, I pretty much kept the four-wheeler close to full-throttle. As the two equine speedsters and I maintained that status for a couple of hundred yards, I had a flash that I was pursuing Secretariat and Seabiscuit as we zoomed toward the entry to the driveway.
While donkeys more of less have a reputation of being lazy and spending most of their time hanging out being stubborn, I’m here to tell you that they can motor big-time if and when they feel led. Their well kept secret is that they can absolutely fly, and when they have the pedal to the metal, I’m not so sure they wouldn’t keep up with that quarter horse your neighbor says is the fastest thing in the Jillikins since Great Uncle Ned’s Morgan filly in the 1930s.
Stocky bodies and short, thick legs? That’s what speed looks like.
Anyway, with help from my wife’s timely use of our SUV as a roadblock, we caught the four-legged fugitives and got them back inside their fence-lined prison.
Next up was to figure out how they had made their latest break. It didn’t take me long to realize the answer, and when I did I could only shake my head and smile.
About half way from the road to the house, our driveway crosses a small concrete bridge that goes over what is usually a dry wash, but is sometimes a raging torrent of run-off. Based on hoof print evidence left in soil near the underpass, the Three Amigos had obviously been doing some passing under of their own.
The opening they had been using is basically square, and doesn’t offer enough room for a horse, which explains why our trio of those had never made their own visit to neighboring acreage. But said opening is plenty tall for a standard donkey, and no doubt required much less ducking than the under-the-barbed-wire technique I had given them undue credit for using.
Simply put, the problem is now a non-problem, as a couple of t-posts and a few strands of barbed wire now stand between the Amigos and any further usage of their tunnel to freedom.
What’s funny about the whole thing is, these animals are very content on a regular basis and don’t appear to be in any hurry to do anything, let alone escape. We’re having a ball riding them (particularly the attention-loving Abe), and they just spend most of their time wandering around looking cute, munching grass and chomping those annoying sticker bushes.
So in only a couple of short weeks, my wife and I have learned a lot about donkey behavior and donkey nature. There’s a lot more to these guys than big ears and funny voices.
But even if they are silly animals that have a bit of a wild streak and a zeal for exploration, I still think they’re still cool and I like ‘em just the way they are.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.