Since the weather stayed on the lousy side for pretty much the entire month of March, a lot of people around southern Missouri are at the ready to take advantage of every nice day that comes along.

My wife Wendy and I did just that during last Sunday’s outburst of warm, comfortable weather and spent just about the entire day outside, doing things like cleaning out old, dead growth from the big flower and shrubbery bed, sweeping a winter’s worth of floor build-up out the shop building, and painting a cabinet.

The weather was so nice that Wendy let our donkey Abe out of the pasture and allowed him to hang out in the yard, as is often the case when the time is right. On a side note, ever since we reduced our donkey collection from three to one (after a little networking, Joe Cool and Bernie each found great homes in donkey-friendly Missouri locations), the remaining constituent seems much less prone to escape than when he had a couple of accomplices. Maybe that proves that he was only following someone else’s lead, but whatever the case, Esquire Abraham appears to be content to calmly saunter around sampling succulent greenery in various sections of the property rather than clandestinely devise and carry out elaborate breakout plans like a four-legged Andy Dufresne (of The Shawshank Redemption fame).

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

The beautiful conditions inspired my wife and I to partake in an outdoor brunch, and we ate in the afternoon sun at our hexagonal picnic table next to the corral. Not long after we sat down to enjoy a meal featuring homegrown scrambled eggs provided by the hen set at our remote Texas County outpost, some apple wood smoked bacon, wheat toast and sliced oranges, we realized we had a guest.

It was 400 pounds of curious donkey come-a-callin’.

Being the overgrown dog he is, Abe walked right up to the table, carefully positioned his big snout near my left side, and seemed to ask (cue dour Eeyore voice), “got anything I might be interested in?”

Being the overgrown kid I am, I couldn’t help but assist him in finding out.

First, I held out a small chunk of eggs. Abe carefully and gently took it with his big donkey lips and it was gone in a hurry. Then I gave him another chunk.

“Eggs,” I said. “How about that.”

Next, I tried a piece of bacon, not sure if he would prove to be that omnivorous. He crunched it right up, and I handed him seconds.

“That’s some good pig, isn’t it boy,” I said.

Then came a piece of toast, and I just knew he was going to munch it down. He did.

Next, I put him to the real test, designed to see just how far he might go – an orange peel.

We were surprised when he chomped it up like it was going out of style, so I handed him another and he ate it up as if it was donkey food (which at the time, it was).

Finally, I tried a piece of uneaten orange, but Abe drew the line there and politely turned his head. Apparently, there’s something very tantalizing to a donkey about the outer cover of a citrus fruit, but something less attractive about the fruit itself.

Conclusion: the donkey is close to omnivorous, but not entirely.

After Abe finished the rest of the pieces of peel and we picked up our plates and walked them back to the house, I looked back and saw him sniffing the table and benches. It was just like a dog making sure there were no crumbs or tidbits in danger of going to waste. Good boy.

A little later, we saw that silly donkey put both front feet up on the little concrete porch at the side entrance to the shop building, acting as if he was about to set foot inside. We had the door propped open all day to let the building air out in the wonderful weather, and Abe’s motivation was clear: to embark on a mission to secure some of the horse treats that he knew were somewhere in there. But he was obviously torn between the potential quest for goodies and tending to his own well-being by not taking on the unknown of entering the structure.

His protective instincts won out and he stepped down. He still got some treats, though, so he probably figured the mission’s goal had been achieved.

A little later yet, Abe’s zeal for exploration took over again, and this time he did step into the same building through the big double doors on its front side. Before I got to him and showed him the exit, he had munched down a couple of bites of hay we have stored in there for snowy days.

Of course, his first official foray indoors earned him a few more bites of dried grass that he enjoyed in a more appropriate spot outdoors.

As the day came to a close and Abe headed back through the gate to rejoin his bigger, horsier pasture mates, I told him not to start expecting similar circumstances on a regular basis. But there’s no doubt he enjoyed his special visit to Davison’s Donkey Diner (a.k.a. Chez Donquez) and somewhere deep inside he’s probably hoping for an encore.

Here’s hoping for an extended run of the same type of fine weather, and I’m sure almost everyone in these parts is on board with that. If not, well, I hear real estate is going cheap in Siberia.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Abe. Not omnivorous, but almost.

Abe. Not omnivorous, but almost.

Abe like everything on this plate, except the meat of the orange. He did enjoy the peels.

Abe like everything on this plate, except the meat of the orange. He did enjoy the peels.

 

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I wouldn’t call it spur-of-the-moment, because we took a day or two to ponder the decision.

But when my wife and I decided earlier this year to bring three donkeys to our remote Texas County outpost, it was a bit of a leap of faith. We had for some time been considering getting a donkey, but we hadn’t envisioned more than one, let alone a trio.

But when we came across a threesome whose owner was desiring to move them as a package, we indeed took them in. And having three turned out to be a blast – at least, it was once we got their living area secured so they could no longer display their talent for escape.

They were hilarious to be around – a bunch of comedians with hoofs. And they were just so, so cute.

But as the months went by, various circumstances led us to realize that perhaps our original lone burro idea was more feasible for our particular purposes. So we set out to find good homes for two of the John-Boys.

The process didn’t take long, and I think the two who moved on did quite well for themselves.

Doug Davison

Bernie went first, and now lives on a farm in the Willow Springs area where he’s loved by a family with young children who consider him the special animal he is. A short time later, Joe Cool became a birthday present for a nice 80-year-old man who wanted a donkey to hang out with some sheep on his property near the Lake of the Ozarks, and the Amigo with the biggest head headed north.

We were very pleased and relieved to have the feeling that in both cases, the boys were in good hands.

That left Abe with us.

He was the chosen Amigo primarily because of his incredibly friendly demeanor and how completely approachable he had proven to be by any and all humans. The dark brown, happy-go-lucky burro seemed to be the man.

Sometimes a hunch is right.

We were a bit concerned at first that Abe might get lonely and mope around missing his mirror-image brother and his bigger, blonder friend. And maybe he did a little bit.

But it didn’t take long for him to truly blossom as an only-donkey.

Now it’s almost like we have no donkeys, but our dog collection increased from two to three. In large part because of his love of being involved in as many human activities as possible, Abe has sort of weaseled his way into being allowed to wander around on the people-side of the fence, while his larger equine brethren stay mostly on the animal side.

Regardless of what a person might be doing in the yard, Abe can be counted on to be right there observing. I always imagine him sounding like his famous cartoon cousin Eeyore – minus the depressed overtones.

“Whatcha doin’ over here? Thanks for noticin’ me, and I can’t thank you enough for that apple. Ohhh- kayyy.”

Not long after Abe’s counterparts left to pursue their appointed destinies, my wife and I had a few guests and we were all sitting around our hexagonally-shaped picnic table enjoying dishes of ice cream on a nice late-spring evening, prior to this year’s invasion of oppressive heat. Rather unexpectedly (that’s an understatement), a donkey’s head descends between two humans and rests on the table.

Eeyore again…

“So whatcha eatin’ there? Looks pretty good.”

The next thing you know, someone plops a spoonful of ice cream in front of him, and Abe went to work. If you’ve never paid close attention to how incredibly maneuverable burro lips are, let me tell you, the word “prehensile” comes to mind.

No dog could have done a better job of cleaning up that little pile vanilla ice cream than that donkey did. So he earned seconds, and probably would have enjoyed his own half-gallon if he’d had the chance.

More than once, as my wife or I have been walking on the little cement walkway that leads to the side door of the house, we could swear Abe is about to follow us into the kitchen. I’ve even held the door open and said, “you coming in?”

But he always stops at the wooden step, perhaps instinctively knowing that the chairs at the dining room table are too small for him, the couch in the family room is simply not his color, and that we have Dish Network while he prefers DIRECTV.

Another thing we couldn’t avoid noticing since Abe began his singular existence is that he has become way more vocal. He likes to talk about a lot of things, but food is his favorite subject. Like clockwork, every time he thinks my wife is about to pick up a bucket, he yells loudly in anticipation of hearing sweet feed being loaded into it.

And for the record, I believe that the old adage that donkeys “hee-haw” is actually backward. When Abe speaks, he clearly says “haw-hee.”

It starts almost like an engine cranking up, with a few relatively quiet grunts. Then he lets loose with a big honk. After delivering the big sound, his next move is to breathe in so he can blow his horn again. That’s where the “hee” comes in.

So it’s haw, breathe-in-hee, haw. And it usually concludes with a bit of low snorting, like an old car “dieseling” after its motor is shut down.

It never gets old.

While we no longer have the option of riding to town in a donkey-team-driven wagon, we may well have an animal worth bringing to all kinds of human gatherings and events. Why not? Folks sometimes bring dogs, and the only difference here is a few hundred pounds and some hoofs.

I’m actually serious about taking Abe places. He’s so calm and collected around people, I don’t think he’d feel out of place in any environment, as long as there are some bipeds with thumbs there to rub his ears and pet his rock-hard noggin.

And you never know, there’s always the chance of sharing some Breyer’s, Blue Bell or Blue Bunny. If you ever see him at an event, remember vanilla’s his favorite.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.