VERNON COUNTY - Doing chores after our ice storm last week was like walking a frayed tightrope. Every step had to be planned and precise.
Poor Diego and Carlos, my donkeys, couldn’t make it over to the fence where they usually get their morning hay. Carlos, bless his heart, kept trying. He’d place his perfect tiny hoofs delicately on the slick ice, his eyes focused downward. He’d stop to look up at me and make a soft guttural noise, as if to say, “I’m trying, Mom. I just can’t do it.”
My own progress was just as cautious. Step, slide. Step, slide. Stop. Step, slide, slip! Stop. I made it to the gate, carrying a flake of sweet-smelling hay.
Think. Lift one foot, crouch down on the other, seeking a firm stance on the frozen earth. One leg over the bottom wire. Concentrate. Both donkeys watched me, their heads lowered. Success! I made it over the fence, my confidence building.
I skated toward where the donkeys stood in trepidation. As I smiled they both lifted their heads and started pawing the ground, but they made no attempt to get closer.
I couldn’t quite reach them. I would have loved to stroke their soft ears, whispering, “It’s okay. It’s only ice and it will melt. Spring will come. I promise.”
I tossed the hay toward them. It landed on a patch of crusty, dirty snow.
Both donkeys sighed and started eating.
Today, a new morning, only a week later, I’m standing at my bay window watching Diego and Carlos play. At first, I didn’t even see them running, because their long, shaggy winter coats blend in with the dreary background. They’re romping in the back pasture across the creek, which is swollen with spring runoff.
No signs of snow or ice remain from last week’s storm. The sky is pale blue, cloudless, and the sun is brilliant. The trees stand bare, and the earth beneath them is thick with leaves and winter debris. Everything is dressed in shades of brown, gray, and dull green, reminding me of the camouflage that hunters wear.
The donkeys’ carefree antics pull me out of my work funk. Diego runs with his head lowered, repeatedly kicking out with both of his hind legs, as Carlos chases him. The kicks look powerful. Carlos seems to know just how close he can safely get.
At the fence both donkeys turn, and now Diego chases Carlos. But Carlos does an amazing pivot, despite being winter chubby, and grabs Diego’s furry neck. He bites down and hangs on while they turn in circles. I’m feeling dizzy just watching. Diego tries to break loose, but Carlos won’t let go! Finally, either Diego cries uncle or Carlos gives in.
Diego lowers his ears and gallops away at full speed. His spring fever bray of happiness echoes through the valley. The sound reaches my ears, filling me with joy. Back and forth they go like two Energizer bunnies instead of the miniature Sicilian donkeys they are.
Spring has sprung. I told you so, I whisper, still standing by the window.
Their frolicking over, Diego collapses on the muddy ground. Soon, I can almost hear him snoring. Carlos stands protectively over him, swaying gently in a standing snooze. Neither donkey needs to throw his head or switch his tail—it’s too early in the year for pesky flies.
Shoulders drooping, I drag myself back to my desk to finish my work. But first, giddy with spring fever, I decide to check the weather.
Snowstorm coming on Tuesday!
I hurry outside.