06 September 2008

Donkey Hoadie Eats My Mail

I came home the other day and got out of the car to open the front gate. We live down about six miles of gravel road, on 20 acres that are home to (in addition to us) eight horses (five of which are mustangs) and two wild burros. Because we live so far from town -- and that is a very small town -- I do most of my “shopping” online. UPS, Federal Express and DHL almost always find us, and the USPS carrier will leave a parcel if we notify her that we’ll be home. There are only three or four properties past ours on a dead end road, so even if a parcel were to disappear, the list of suspects would be short.

On this particular day, however, it was not a missing parcel that got my attention. It was a parcel lying on the ground, not near where any delivery person usually leaves a parcel, and the cardboard box had sizeable holes torn in it, so that parts of the merchandise, the invoice and the directions for using the merchandise lay on the ground nearby. The merchandise was unharmed, as it was metal (those old-fashioned pants stretchers that our mothers and grandmothers used to use for their husbands' work pants and jeans, to attain a nice crease without having to iron them). But I could not fathom what would have destroyed the cardboard so thoroughly. The holes were much too large to blame on cockroaches, ants, delivery service mishandling, or any of the first things that came to mind.

In a flash, I recalled two incidents involving our burros. The oldest, Janet Reno (so named because she is a jennet from Nevada), is about nine. My husband was cleaning out a shed last year and came upon some plaster board that we would never use. He placed it backside-down on the graveled driveway near our carport, hoping to give that surface a bit of smoothness and to seal the rocks in place, particularly since our overweight, overfed retriever-mix dog named Cocoa likes to fetch rocks (thrown or not) and chew on them, far from where they originated. We also (before the ‘herd’ became so large) used to allow some horses and Janet to graze in the yard, especially since grass became scarce in the pastures during the dry summer months. Janet, the burro, decided the paper covering on the plasterboard would make a tasty treat and proceeded to peel it off in strips until we threw her out of the yard. Every time she was allowed in the yard, she would head straight for the driveway and her paper treats. She never suffered any ill effects from this, which is a good thing because she isn’t tame enough for us to put our hands on, much less tame enough for a vet to minister to.

My next thought involved our other burro, newly acquired only months ago. She is three and named Donkey Hoadie (because my husband has a strange sense of humor). She is very tame and loves to have her head and croup scratched, enjoys having burrs combed out of the hair on her underside, and amuses herself by chasing the rock-chewing dog and any of the cats. Her “barn name” is Bunny Ears because they are long and fluffy, and she has a very cute face, not unlike a bunny’s. However, this summer, we strung a fence along the driveway to the house, about 600 feet worth, along which my step-daughter tied strips of old bed sheet to serve as a warning for the horses, so they wouldn’t run into the new fence before they got used to it being there. The same day, I watched Hoadie, aka “Bunny Ears,” pull nearly every strip of cloth off the fence and munch them down. Again, she seemed to suffer no ill effects, but there are not many of those pieces of cloth left.

So my thoughts returned to the parcel on the ground, at which I had been staring during this reverie, and with a sense of ‘Eureka!’ I said aloud, “Hoadie!” She was nowhere around, but I knew she had been the culprit. I figure now, we’ll have to buy a metal trash bin in which delivery people can place our purchases, as sometimes they place the boxes inside the gate, hoping, I suppose to discourage would-be thieves. Outside the gate, Hoadie could not reach the cellulose treats, but inside, where they are allegedly safe, they now represent a between-meal snack for this strange little donkey.

I know donkey breeders, lovers and aficionados who read this will reel in horror at the digestive risk at which our donkeys find themselves. Or perhaps they are merely nodding understandably, thinking, I could have told you so. I did not know donkeys vied with goats in their nondiscriminatory diet. I might have guessed, having seen both the burros munching happily on prickly pear, live oak leaves, buckeye leaves (and tender twigs) and brush that we clear from yard and pasture while the horses cast about longingly for a delectable blade of grass.

When one orders parcels on the Internet, most merchandisers offer a chance to leave special instructions or requests. Now I will have to include: Please leave box outside the gate so my donkeys won’t eat it. Thank you.