Why the Donkey Never Runs (Part 1)

Above the pine forest east of Butterberry Farm, puffs of cloud dappled the sky, each one a floating canvas for Dawn to cast her exquisite pinks and purples and oranges. In the south paddock the big round hill glistened with a hundred thousand shimmering pearls of dew, as two friends climbed up to view the morning’s splendour. They were an unlikely pair: Samson the donkey, with his sturdy, relaxed stride, and Henry the piglet scampering to and fro like a podgy, wingless hummingbird; Samson, the wisest of the farm’s large beasts, and Henry, the noisy, nosey runt with a ten-second attention span; Samson, who could pull a fully laden cart from sunrise until sunset, and Henry, who once ate a lipstick he found near the rubbish bins. They stopped at the top of the hill. “Wow,” said Henry. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“It sure is,” said Samson. “There’s nothing so pretty as a sunrise.”

“The sky looks like a fat, ripe peach.”

Samson smiled. “Everything looks like food to you, doesn’t it?”

Henry thought about it. “Yes. Yes it does.”

Samson stood like a statue (that occasionally flicked its tail), watching the sun creep higher and brighter into the sky. Henry wandered around, examining dandelions and chasing butterflies, and then tried to dig a hole with his stubby trotters.

Bored with digging, Henry went over to the young willow tree and began gnawing on it and growling. “Henry!” called Samson. “Henry, what are you doing?”

“I’m being the cattle dog,” said Henry, and growled again.

“Don’t chew on that tree,” said Samson. “Do you understand? Let it be. And most important, Henry—you must remember that tree. Watch it as it grows; learn its shape and the way its leaves hang. Learn to recognise it from afar, and when the light is dim, and through the haze of rain. Whenever it rains, Henry, wherever you are, look for the willow tree.”

“You mean like a game?”

“Sure. Like a game.”

Henry studied the tree as he paced around it, never once blinking. Had the tree been animate it might have felt self-conscious. After two laps around the willow, Henry released his stare and nodded to himself. He darted back over to Samson.

“Oh, the sun is already over the trees,” complained Henry.

“I tell you every morning,” said Samson, “if you want to see the sun as it peeks over the trees, you have to keep watching—you can’t run around.”

“Humph!” A small flock of silhouettes glided across the now pale gold horizon. “How wonderful it must be to fly,” said Henry. “Birds are lucky.” After a moment he looked up at his friend. “You know,” said the piglet, “you don’t look like food to me, Samson.”

His eyes on the sunrise, the donkey inhaled a deep, contented breath. He turned to the little piglet staring up at him. “That’s very reassuring, Henry. Come on, I expect everyone else is up and about by now. Let’s get some breakfast.”

“Wee-hee!” squealed Henry. “I’ll race you to the pigsty!” He scurried down the hill and away.

“I’m not going to the pigsty,” called Samson, “I’m going to the stables,” but it was too late: Henry was out of earshot, just a pink speck zipping up the paddock. “Every morning,” chuckled Samson, and he walked back down the hill.

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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