It made the most peculiar noise.
Donkey is having an asthma attack,I thought. It took me a while to realize it was her way of showing how pleased she was to see me, I had petted her a few days before. She remembered me.
She still makes her in between braying and hyperventilating noise now when she sees me. She regularly escapes while her owner runs after her ranting and raving, threatening it is the last time and she’ll sell her to the gippo’s, while I patiently go and fetch her, villager S isn’t so fast on her feet and her husband has an artificial leg.
I got to know all the donkeys in the village, 5 in total.
When we arrived here four years ago, three of them were still used to plough the fields. Things are different now. They’re slowly but surely replaced by tractors, although they’re still used for pulling carts.
Villager M had a temperamental grey one which she switched for a near mule like animal with a name, Andres, which is unusual. Most donkeys have communal names , cooka being a favorite one, but more often than not they’re simply called simply burra or burro.
Andres is a bit like a teddy bear not exactly put together right. One of those kidspuzzles where you can mix one half of an animal with another. His bottom half is anorexic elephant. Part of me always expects a zipper to be unzipped and two persons stepping out of him. He’s extremely good-natured, which is quite surprising considering villager M’s legendary lack of patience. Trying to hint to her that in English we have a saying ”you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and that might be relevant to donkey’s too,” falls on deaf ears, while she stands with him at the water tank yelling for him to drink. “Drink donkey! For god sake Drink! DRINK.”
My favorite is family O’s donkey.
”He bites!” the family O warned me in unison when I walked up to him the first time. That made me wary. I was used to hearing ”he doesn’t do anything” in regards to snarling village dogs. This donkey, dangerous? He would look great on a poster for a donkey rescue centre, ”adopt me.”
Until I saw him in action attempting to take a chunk out of the teenage grandson’s leg. Oh yes. He did bite.
The O family is one of those families whose house you can enter at any time of day, and sit at their kitchen table. There is no need to wipe one’s feet. You have to be able to tolerate certain levels of shouting though. It’s all they ever do.
Donkey’s entire being reflects this, it’s as if he’s soaked it all up over the years, all the shouting, a sneaky little bugger who will bite when he gets the chance, just to get his own back. Really quick, a nip.
They O family now have the Eldest Tractor in the Village working for them on the fields, but there was a time when donkey still had to do everything. I helped them planting their potatoes when I hadn’t been here long and while donkey was having a rest I walked up to him, absent-minded. I had some sunflower seeds in my pocket. I held him by the halter to make sure he wouldn’t nip at me from the side, and fed the seeds to him.
”He bites!” they unison-yelled, while he was gently nibbling the sunflower seeds. I laughed.
It provoked some swearwords. “She’s feeding donkey. And he’s not biting her? What are you feeding it?” I showed them the sunflower seeds, raised eyebrows in response from all.
I could have left it at that. I could have gained the title of donkey whisperer. But I just couldn’t. So I showed them as long as you kept your hand flat, it wasn’t possible for him to bite me. They looked at me as if I’d completely lost my foreign marbles. And they weren’t willing to try it any time soon.
And donkey? If he could have winked at me, I’d like to think he would have.