Feb.7, 2024 – The Donkey

I suppose we all have interesting stories to tell. I have a few due to my free range childhood and different family and work environment as a child.

We had recently lost our lease on a large restaurant that we had for ten years due to the dreams of the owner’s son in law. Our lives were changed by his decision so we had to look for another restaurant for lease.

The building we had leased was eventually torn down for a car wash that never materialized. The lot sat empty for years. So sadly, the man’s dreams didn’t come to pass for reasons unknown to me.

My father was a resourceful man. We were soon headed to Oceanside to find the “proper” building to start over in. He found it between Vista and Fallbrook, Ca.

The area was very low in population, very rural and seemed an unlikely place to start over. We ended up near Bonsall which had a population of five hundred people at that time. It was mostly flower farms and horse ranches back in 1964.

Our new home was now a beautiful white, Spanish styled building with its many wide arches and covered veranda. It is still there and is usually an antique store, when in use.

We all lived in the many rooms in the back.

My parents had a room with a bath room as did my brother. I had my own apartment at the far end of the building with a private bathroom while I was attending 8th and 9th grade. I was very happy there.

The parking lot was huge and made dirt with lots of weeds and grass around the edges. I could see my future working often with a hoe and shovel. There was no doubt about that.

I quickly came up with a great idea.

On my many long bus rides through the country side and past all the farms around us I had noticed a sign offering a donkey for sale.

“Hum,” I thought. “Perhaps I could persuade my father to buy the donkey and save me some work.” Amazingly, he agreed.

It cost us $17.00 to purchase the donkey. It seemed like a good price.

“Donkeys usually sell for much more,” or so the man told us.

My father had owned horses in the past and knew a good deal when he saw one. He walked around the animal and looked at the donkey’s teeth and smiled. The donkey seemed to be in fine shape and rather young.

My father offered up all the money I had. It amounted to $17.00.

“Donkeys usually sell for much more, but I’ll take it,” the farmer said, with a sly smile.

We bought a long length of chain on the way to the farm to keep the donkey where we wanted him in the truck.

My father led him up into the rear of the truck and the donkey settled in quickly.

He seemed comfortable there. It seemed that this was not the first time he had sat in the rear of a strangers truck.

These thoughts come to me now, but they didn’t back then. I had donkey fever, perhaps.

We took the donkey home in our truck and used the chain to tie him up next to a dead bull dozer. The dozer offered shade and shelter from the wind. The donkey had plenty to eat and seemed quite comfortable.

Did you know a donkey can eat a dead, dried out tumble weed with out any issues? Their mouths are very tuff and they eat just about anything they find near by.

In the morning before going off to school I would take him out front and tie him to our large sign and put a sombrero on his head and a colorful sarape over his back. It was a fine advertisement for our Mexican restaurant.

He stood content and ate his fill of lush grass and a wide variety of weeds. He seemed to be in donkey heaven.

It seemed too good to be true and it was.

When I returned form school, I always had many chores to do around the restaurant, as you might imagine. But I did look forward to riding my donkey at some point.

One day when I had the time, I found a length of cotton close line somewhere and wrapped it around his neck. We had a chat and I climbed up upon his back. He was a perfectly behaved donkey, at first.

We walked through the parking lot and turned toward highway 74 and headed north when we reached it. The direction and speed were out of my hands. A bit and bridal would have come in handy at that time. I think he was heading back to his former abode.

After some distance and a very bumpy ride, I hopped off and used my weight and strength to stop and turn this little beast around. I pleaded with him face to face and finally got him turned around. He did not try to kick me, at least.

I managed to do that somehow and we headed back to our parking lot. He then took me through it at his bumpy gait with me holding on with my legs and rope as best I could. He then headed for a long line of trees.

He tried to brush me off on a tree as he passed closely by it and then headed for our goat. I was in a little deep, by then.

The goat looked up with little interest. They are not very smart and will eat until hell freezes over.

I jumped off, held the rope wrapped around his neck in my hands and walked him back to his spot at the bull dozer and tied him up.

“That ended better than one might have supposed”, I thought to my self.

Well, it turns out that trying to brush me off into the trees wasn’t his only bad habit.

He woke early each morning with loud braying that could be heard for miles. Did I mention that we had a few neighbors near by?

To add to that, his digestive tract created a good deal of gas which had to be “released,” each and every morning. It sounded like a large, powerful thunder storm, overhead.

Alas, my parents soon decided that their sleep was more important than my freedom from pulling weeds and cutting the grass that stood all around the parking lot.

The farmed didn’t seem very surprised when we came up to his little farm in our truck about a week later with the donkey in the back.

My father talked to him for a little while and the donkey was, sadly, removed from the truck and resettled on his home soil. My father handed the chain to farmer as well.

I’m sure I missed that donkey more than he missed me as I stood out under the hot summer sun cutting the grass and digging out miles of weeds, wearing the sombrero meant for him.

I suppose one could argue that I got off cheap.

I got my seventeen dollars back minus what the chain had cost me. My father tossed the chain in to sweet-in the deal.

I was uninjured and had another story to share.

If you like my stories, why not have a look at my novels available on Amazon.

“The Adventures of the Smith Family” and “Sailing Away” are two of a saga about the Smith family and their rise to power and wealth in 18th century England. The third book is forming in my head at the moment.

Take care and be nice to each other.