We turned into our dirt driveway late one night, exhausted from a painting project that took much longer than it should have. There, in the headlights was a mangey, scarred and bloodied donkey, feasting on the spring grass beside the road. Afraid that he would get hit by a car, we spent the next three hours trying to coax him into our pasture "just for the night." Six months later, Flash, as he is now dubbed, is a permanent fixure at our little sanctuary in the country.
We consider him yard art. He really serves no purpose, other than to be the subject of laughter at his silly big head and oversized ears, or mocking his impossibly loud braying. Flash's redeeming quality is his affectionate nature, much like that of a large dog. He will follow us anywhere, and loves to be petted and groomed. He is a great conversation piece.
Not long after Flash established permanent residence here, we came home again to find three beautiful young horses, who had escaped from our neighbor's pasture, peacfully munching away in our front yard. It's like a circus around here. Tom rounded them up and put them inside our fence, called their owners, and we waited for them to be taken home.
Meanwhile, Flash could not believe his luck! Equine friends! Suddenly the fat old cows across the fence held no more fascination for him. He was entranced, starry-eyed, worshipful and full of self-delusion. His huge head came up, he squared his bony shoulders and joined the group of newcomers with a confidence that surprised us.
It was obvious that Flash thought HE was a young stallion, just like the graceful and powerful creatures in his company! The three horses, with their manes and tails flying like shining banners, ran and bucked and played in the sunshine, oblivious of the little donkey who trotted after them. They ran circles around him while he tried to keep up. The horses were a picture of perfection, followed by a picture of pure hilarity.
Poor Flash. With his short little legs and his disproportionately large head, his broom-like mane and floppy ears, he looked hopelessly laughable in the presence of such equine greatness. His funny, choppy trot could not begin to compare to the beautiful galloping movements of the visitors. But he didn't care.
For one shining moment, our shabby stray burro was a thoroughbred, and who could rob him of such joy? He was running with horses.
The neighbor's horses spent but a few brief hours in our pasture. But those life-changing moments opened Flash's eyes to another world. A world beyond the bored cows living in mediocrity over the fence. I think he realized that there is more to life than chewing cud. There is running, and bucking, and rearing up and living life for all its worth. It's looking for chances to feel your oats and maybe even making a grand escape. It's seizing the moment and feeling the sun, the earth and the wind all at once as you leap and prance with all you've got.
There's something different in those soft, brown eyes. He carries his head a little higher and picks up those goofy hooves a little faster. His encounter with the three visitors gave him a chance to soar beyond his mundane life into a world of greatness. When I see him now, I see the thoroughbred inside him. Flash isn't just your ordinary Eeyore. Housed within that clumsy frame is a heart that knows its destiny.
He was born to run with horses.