Sunday, April 9

Deep Donkey

You may have read about my mother and her gentle-lady farm. And on this farm she had an ass, E-I-E-I-O. Actually we referred to him as a donkey (sometimes a burro), and his name was Jose.

I loved Jose, and I think he loved me. When I visited the fence, he always trotted up. When I scratched his leathery ears, his lower lip quivered and went limp. When I joined him in his pen, we played the Push Game: shoulder to shoulder, lean in with all your strength, see who moves first. Jose always won. We played the Ignore Game: look away and pretend the other isn't there, see who gives in first and nudges the other. Jose always won that, too. When the day was particularly lovely, he would nose my spine, or I would slap his coarse mane, and we would meander the field that was Jose's domain, me stooping to peek at meadow flowers, Jose bending his head to sniff and/or eat them. I was the only person who could ride Jose. It lasted for twelve seconds before he shrugged his massive shoulders, flicked his Evinrude ears, and half-bucked to get rid of me, but it was enough to acknowledge our respect for each other.

Yes, I truly believe it was a mutual brotherly love. Kindred spirits are not always the same species.

But perhaps the most impressive of Jose’s talents was his prodigious output of crap.

It was a heap, a mound, a great sweetly stinking hill. Sparrows would visit it for the undigested seeds of various plants. Flies vacationed in the resorts of its peaks and valleys. Dogs acres away sniffed and fervently wished for a roll in its fragrant goodness. Oaks bent their branches lovingly, quietly whispering “Yes, my little acorns, soon this will all be yours.” It was the stuff of myth and legend.

Except for my mother and her husband. She didn’t know what to do with the stuff, and he had to shovel it. (We always thought he was good at shoveling it, but that’s a story for another time.) They came up with the only possible solution: fence off a piece of the property, pile Jose’s exhaust in it, and grow a garden.

And what a garden it was.

* * * * *

My daughter was at the age where she could rip off her clothes, run around naked, and all the adults would watch because it was cute. Little butt flashing in the morning sun, brown hair streaming behind her, arms outstretched, a smile as wide as the Milky Way, innocence and wonder bursting forth. With a jealous laugh, we went into the kitchen to refill our coffee mugs. When we went back outside, Daughter was nowhere to be found. But Son I said he had last seen her going into the garden. The family issued a collective gasp.

We mounted the search, supplied with canteens of water and walkie-talkies. I started by the zucchini, walking under the leafy green parasols of the rough plants, avoiding the knee-high ants who were creating apartment houses in the huge vegetables. After a mile or so, the walkie-talkie quiirped.

“Dad,” said Son I, “can we stop now?”

“Where are you?”

“By the sunflowers.” In the background I heard Son II yell “And the monkeys are throwing poo at us from way up there!”

“Any sign of your sister?”

“No. But it’s hard to see behind every sunflower tree.”

“Alright. Find your way back to the gate and check the sweet peas and string beans. Did you use the bread crumbs?

“Yes.” Son I shut off. I continued my hunt. The squash gave way to nasturtiums. Their large platform leaves were the site of numerous eagles’ nests. The pond was near by, so they had a steady supply of fish, the remains of which sustained the flowers in conjunction with Jose’s droppings. I hiked down the throat of each open orange blossom, but Daughter was not to be found. I started at a jog to get away from the nasturtiums, and into the area dominated by great windmills of cosmos.

!quiirp! “Kingfisher, you there?” It was Mom’s Husband. “No sign of Daughter in the corn. Good thing, too, ‘cause it’s crawling with rhinos.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yup. A close call with an anaconda that dropped from the corn silk about forty feet up, but otherwise nothing much. I’m heading over to the poppies now. Should be there in about a half hour.” !unquiirp!

The place where I now walked was brighter, cosmos stems being thinner than the other plants and allowing more sunshine, not much bigger in diameter than a sugar pine. The ground was tinted pink and red by the petals overhead, where great bumblebee blimps droned among the clouds. I hefted the walkie-talkie again.

“Wife, can you hear me? Any sign?”

“Nothing yet, Kingfisher. Took about twenty minutes to walk around the first pumpkin. The rest are smaller. Should be done before sundown.”

“Any problems?”

“Just an earthworm stampede. Climbed up a vine and threw rocks. Oh, that and a couple of grizzly bears. I can see the cosmos over the horizon.”

“I’m there now. I’ll try to hook up with you in about two hours.”

We were interrupted by a loud clanging echo. Gentle-Lady Farmer had rung the old school bell located by the house, a sign we all knew to heed. After some preliminary walkie-talkie conversations, we met at the garden gate. To everyone’s surprise, Son I was holding a large goose.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“You told us to look by the string beans, Dad,” said Son I, “so we climbed up and I found this goose."

"And I found these!” Son II held up two golden eggs.

“FE-FI-FO-FUM!” The heavens ripped apart, and a giant of a man tumbled through the sky, splashed into the pond with a mighty tsunami, and disappeared beneath the frothing waves.

“Cool! We get to keep her!” Sons I and II danced a jig and patted the goose.

“I found Daughter,” said Gentle-Lady Farmer Mother. “She was lying with the dog in a patch of sun on the patio. She’s fine.”

And that ended our family adventure. Mother closed the garden gate, Sons put the goose in with the chickens, Wife put Daughter’s clothes back on, Mother’s Husband put the golden eggs in a basket for sale at the end of the driveway, and I cracked a beer open, ruminating on the day’s events.

* * * * *

Which brings me back to El Rey Jose, who, with his Majestic Manure Mountain of Magic Meadow Manna, reinforced my life philosophy:

When Life Gives You Shit, Live Bigger


Squishi said...

Love it, just love it :)

Erica said...

This is officially one of my favorite posts ever - by anyone!!!!!
Good old Jose.

Anonymous said...

Now that's entertainment!

It sounds like my dog has an equal in "crap output". A few weeks back, I went out and cleaned up what was close to three months worth of dogpiles from our back lawn (snow had just melted). It halfway filled a 30 gallon garbage can. A week later, I was back out there again, and had to clean up nearly half that much again.

I wouldn't dare put her stuff on our garden, though...

tiff said...

O my KF.

This is genius. I'm going to read it again. And then again. How wonderful these flights of true fancy be!