Thursday, October 07, 2010


My friend Paul, who is a real Montana character though he lives somewhere around Bonner’s Ferry now, has a few donkey stories to tell. He gave me permission to print these.

We happened to be at the weekly junk auction one day, which ran concurrently with the weekly livestock auction next door. Someone collared me and told me about a "bullet proof" donkey in the line up, so the kids and I went out to meet her. She was a staid old lady donkey and even in all the confusion of the stockyard, took right to the kids.

We didn't have to pay much for her, but afterwards had her out in the parking lot, looking for someone with a trailer to take her home for us. As soon as we got next to the truck, she jumped right in back and laid down. Somebody worked with her a lot, but we never got a history on her. Brought her home and turned her out with the cattle who she took to promptly, other than her daily visits to the garden area where the kids would feed her goodies and let them ride her around a bit. Bonnie was a fat old thing, or so I thought until one day we discovered her little bundle of joy waiting at the garden fence with her.

The colt, Bojangles, much preferred people to cattle and at an early age took to going through the wire to come visit at the house and pretty much just slept on the porch with mom and son keeping in touch with loud brays. It really was like a big ol' dog and eventually I gave up trying to keep it in a fence. His only drawback is that he got pretty demanding and would persist until he got what he wanted.

Folks were always stopping on the road to watch his antics and someone must have fed him something he really liked, because ever after, as soon as he heard someone coming down the county road, he'd run out and stand in the middle, waiting for his treat. If you tried to go around him he'd just dodge over and block folks until they'd stop. Then he'd stick his head right in if there was an open window, or press his face right up to the eyeballs against the glass.

Folks thought it was cute for awhile and some tired of the game, but he never did. If someone honked their horn, he'd bray back just as loudly, so it got noisy around here. People complained, but there wasn't a heck of a lot I could do about it, I figured someone would eventually just run him over. He got pretty famous as the "hold up donkey" and folks would bring their kids all the way out here just to see him do his thing.

My youngest at 20 helps date the donkey years. He's my only ready resource, but I asked him for more donkey tales when I got home last night and he was drawing a blank. He was only five or six when the donkeys were sold.

I'd think there would be more donkey tales than I recall, but most everything was mundane. Occasionally noisy, meddlesome but always friendly.

At one point I envisioned using them for packing my camp while cruising timber. I had a contract that had lousy access as it was on a ridge line, but the worst problem was no water. Even conserving, I go through a couple gallons in 24 hours in August, between drinking and cooking. I thought I could pack four five-gallon cans on Bojangles and work a five day stretch at a time. It took most of an entire day walk into the job site, but the problem for the donkey is that it was very brushy and he kept getting high-centered in the Menzessia and Rhododendron. I finally gave up trying to lead him and just left him to figure it out. He showed up in camp the first night about an hour after I arrived, but half the water was gone from being poked into tree staubs. (They were plastic water containers.)

It worked fairly well as far as it went. I didn't trust my gear pack with him because losing it would have made for an uncomfortable night. We'd split up in the morning and I'd just go about my work. He couldn't take the same direct routes I was forced to follow, but managed to always stay near, either by smell or by sound. When we came back through town I bought some metal water cans for the following week and adapted the packsaddle for our next venture, but when it was time to go back to work, he refused to load in the horse trailer. Prior to the first trip he'd always jumped right up, but now even with his favorite treats and pushing, pulling and shoving, he wasn't about to take another trip with me. I never could load him after that, and don't think he even much liked me anymore. I told the kids it was probably my snoring he didn't like.

After that I tried to hire a helicopter to drop a couple fifty-five gallon barrels up on top, and could have even gotten it done for free since there was a logging helicopter builder at the airport that had just completed a rebuild and thought it would be a dandy test. The forest service got wind of it and shut me down unless I agreed to haul the barrels back out. I ended up hiring high school kids to ferry five gallons at a time to the top and stage them, which was a pain-in-the-ass and expensive, but got the job done.

I learned to scout my potential remote jobs for access to water after that experience.

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