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"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas." - Alfred Noyes in The Highwayman.

One dark and stormy evening over two years ago, Perry left off eating and stood stock still with his ears pricked, staring intently towards the old oak tree at the back of the pasture. Then his hooves began to move, while he stood in one spot, and all his senses seemed to responded to what he alone could see in his mind's eye. From his miming it seemed possible, he was reacting to a scene of many years ago. He seemed to imagine he saw a ghostly train of donkeys sent by the Mission Santa Clara padres to take the local villagers to live at the mission. Perry reacted with excitement, as if to a string of ghostly donkeys was passing close by and he could not understand why they ignored him. Next he responded as if to the commotion in the village, this time he was an interested watcher, but keeping his distance. And then finally during the sad departure, Perry's ears drooped and he looked a very sad and sorry donkey. Sections of the above miming took place several times and that winter, it was often obvious to his handlers, when Perry was "seeing" the activities of the ghost donkeys.

Another winter, during a thunder storm, Perry jumped and pranced around and it was, as if, he was taking part in a cattle drive, with the thunder cracks simulating the crack of the whips. However, his reactions and miming never was anything nearly as dramatic as that for the "ghost donkeys".

As Perry has grown older, although his "acting" ability is still strong, his miming occurs seldom. His favorite act, even now, is a lovely little dance walk when he is happy.

Then also Perry loves to persuade middle aged, Miner 49er, to play games. He is particularly fond of waving a stick in front of Miner 49er, until Miner grabs the other end and the two go racing across the field together.

When Perry wants to get my attention he grabs my skirt and shakes it, until I respond. Usually he just wants some petting!!!


Our lovely standard sized Donkey, Miner 49er, was foaled about 17 years ago in the Mojave Desert. This makes him a "middle aged" donkey and he is starting to have a few white hairs in the grey sections of his muzzle.

When he was a yearling, he and many of his fellow yearlings were rounded up with the help of a noisy helicopter. This has left him with a lifelong fear of helicopters. One Sunday, last summer, when a helicopter was used to lift heavy equipment onto the roof of one of the commercial buildings near the donkey pasture, Miner 49er went nearly beserk. Although several of his handlers, whom he knows and trusts, tried to calm him down, the terror in this loving animal was pitiful to behold. At last, Perry came to the rescue. He got down, like a dog, in front of Miner 49er and said in donkey language, "Forget the noise, come play, come play with me!!!". After several attempts, the two very slowly began to play and each time the copter soared, Perry became more intense in his distracting playful dance. Slowly, ever so slowly, Miner 49er started to calm down. However, the copter pilot, as he flew away, swooped low over the pasture. The handlers shook their fists at him, Perry danced frantically and Miner 49er after 60 seconds of panic, decided that his friends would protect him and it was indeed a beautiful day!

When Miner 49er was forced to leave his dam and other friends in the Mojave Desert, he went to a lovely family up in the Los Altos-Palo Alto Hills. He bonded strongly with them, and came to think of himself as a 6ft 4ins male human! (Perry thinks of himself as a large dog!). When they went to Colorado, he came to live with us at the beginning of June 1998.

When he arrived by horse-transport on Laguna, he refused to come down the ramp!!! It took about half-an-hour to get him down the ramp and across a couple of feet of tarmac, which he also disliked. It went fairly smoothly on the grass across Bol Park and on the gravel pathways. But then he had to face a bit of tarmac, a wooden bridge and then some more tarmac!!! That took about 30 minutes!!! There are some hilarious, in retrospect, photos of Miner49er, with his nose touching the bridge planks and his hind-quarters up in the air, being supported by several, increasingly bemused, humans!!! (The story of how we slowly taught him not to fear tarmac, bridge planks and other things, is a tale for another day).

Miner 49er, at first, was not too delighted with his new donkey companions - a minature, Perry, and a sickly old guy, who thought he ruled the roost, Mickey. I mean the indignity, when you think you are a tall, good-looking dude, who by rights should mingle with some gorgeous jennies, even if you are officially a gelding!!!

Perry ignored him and stuck closely to Mickey, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at friendliness. Mickey, behaved as if he was saying, "I may be sick, but I am in charge and you are just a young arrogant whippersnapper!" There were many scenes, when Miner 49er attempted to issue challenges to Mickey. Mickey just stood his ground and totally ignored him, it was as if Miner 49er did not exist. In disgust and high dudgeon, Miner 49er would finally walk off, leaving Mickey, with Perry often at his side to stand or lie down under the eucalyptus tree, where the shed is now.


Perry, our beloved minature donkey, was born in Upstate New York in the Spring of 1994. Very early, he became the companion of two ex-race horses, turned polo ponies. Together with them, he made the long journey out to the West Coast. Over the next couple of years, his companions grew in number and became the nucleus of the Stanford Polo Pony string. Perry was no longer needed as a companion and playmate. Thus, in January 1997, it was agreed by all concerned, that Perry should come and live in Barron Park, as a companion to the aging and often sick 29 year old, Mickey.

It was a lovely sunny Sunday when Edith and LeIand Smith, Doug Moran, Jim Bronson and I waited anxiously for Perry to arrive and be introduced to Mickey! Finally, there was a joyous cry from Doug, "They are coming!" and down the path and over the bridge, pranced this beautiful minute donkey!

Perry inspected his new pasture with interest and turned to greet Mickey. Mickey looked at him and with great disdain slowly ambled off, with Perry following at a distance. Over the next couple of days, the distance between them decreased and after a very short period of time, they first became "buddies" and then inseparable companions, until Mickey's death 18 months later.

In the last 6 months of Mickey's life, he loved to lie down in a bed of pine shavings, under the giant eucalyptus tree, where the storage shed is now. Perry would browse around the pasture, checking on Mickey often and then return and lie down next to Mickey, to keep him company. Since Mickey's death, we have never seen Perry lie down again!

On Sunday mornings, while Mickey held "court" up in the pasture with the Smiths, in attendance, Doug and I would take Perry for a walk through Bol Park. We quick found out that he enjoyed the taste of our Mallow weeds and inspected most yellow flowers. We have a lovely photo, published in one of the Newsletters, of Perry presenting Doug with a yellow flower! We also discovered that Perry seems to think of himself as a large dog! He has numerous canine friends. Mutual sniffs, face to face and then, Perry presents his backside for the dog to sniff!!! From then on, tongue face licks, whenever they meet.

As many of you remember, Mickey loved to bray, but Perry was always a quiet donkey and it was over 2 years before we heard him bray. Even now, he only brays if frightened or separated from Miner 49er.

Originally, Perry was called Pericles, but since we never heard him bray, we changed it to Perry, because who ever heard of an orator who did not talk! My own private, pet name for him is Perrikins.

Perry is a very loving donkey. Several hours after Mickey died, he came up to me and cuddling against me, making little mewing sounds, which I have never heard before nor since. Yes, Perry, truly grieved for his pal.

When Perry wants to attract my attention, he pulls at my skirt, until he gets what he wants - food or just an ear or face rub! He will also stretch out his neck and turn his face in a curious begging stance. Yes, he has taught both "trick" to Miner 49er!


If one remembers that Perry thinks of himself as a big dog and Miner 49er thinks of himself as a 6ft 4ins man, what could be more fitting than going for a morning and an evening walk, particularly on lovely sunny days, both summer and winter!!!

Miner 49er, if asked, would say, "Well, if the Handlers are too busy, there is absolutely no reason why, such a fine fellow as myself, with Perry, for company, should not go for a run up Strawberry Hill and then go for a nice little browse, to add spices, such as mallow and wild berries, to our steady diet of grass and alfalfa."

Perry would chime in, " It is nice to to play "run the branch" (a game in which each end of a stick or branch goes into a donkey's mouth and they race across the pasture together), but it is much more fun to walk, run and sometimes, go for a roll in greater Bol Park. I love braying to tell Miner 49er where I am, when I get separated from him!".

Miner 49er would add, "Confidentially, I think the idea in some human's minds, that donkeys should only live behind a fence (however nice it looks to a human), be stared at by creatures of all sizes and sometimes yelled at and accept "petting" from those people, who just want to pull our manes and horrors, our tails, to see if they are real, has about about the same validity in this New Millenium, as the Victorian saying, "Children should be seen, but not heard!"

Perry would continue,"I love making new friends and teaching the kids about donkeys. I remember with joy, walking down next to a row of kids, who were sitting on a log and letting them feel the various parts of my face and learn what I like done when I am petted. Please don't rub my whiskers the wrong way! You did not know I had very sensitive whiskers? Well, even humans can learn new things every day!".

Miner 49er would conclude, in summary, "We are not virtual donkeys, we eat, we need plenty of clean water, we poop, we have a sense of fun, we are real live donkeys! We love making friends and we can train people (including kids and the family pets) what donkeys are all about. But please remember, we can crawl under fences, just like frustrated and/or bored dogs, we find chewing on wood, a good tooth exercise and gate bolts are for pulling. Let us have our turn at the things, we enjoy, and we will repay you, humans, a thousandfold with love and devotion."

Finally, Perry would like me to remind you of the age old legend, that tells of the one day a year, that between midnight and dawn, all animals, if they want it, are granted the power of human speech. In the Old World, many country folk believed that this occurred at the winter solstice or on the morning of 25 December.


One of my earliest memories of Barron Park in1965, this is before coming to live here, a year later, was driving up Barron Avenue and coming face to face with a procession of donkeys!!! Jenny, the momma, was in the lead and behind her, came 5 smaller donkeys, all her offspring, one behind the other, all very orderly! Momma and kids just out for a walk. I was rather surprised, wondering where they had come from, but it was obvious where they were going, when they turned right on Laguna - home!!! In those days, the donkey pasture included all of what became Bol Park and the fence along Laguna was just the usual country farm type. Later my dogs, a German Shepherd, Simba and a Boxer, Chaka used to have mutual "shouting" matches with the donkey string over the fence!! Usually this ended with the donkeys taking off in a flurry of hooves and clouds of dust, for the upper pasture and the barn.

It was this countrified acceptance of large animals (and dogs and cats galore), that made me want to buy into Barron Park. I met the donkeys, always well behaved and under the full control of momma, many times in the next few years. There were also horses, ponies, sheep, goats and at least one milk cow in Barron Park. Working dog trials were held on the grounds of Barron Park school (and we had a Saturday afternoon weekly bookmobile too). At one stage, there was an active 4H club. Horse, pony and donkey riding was a common site in Barron Park streets. It certainly cut down on the speeding of cars and served as a unifier of VILLAGE (Barron Park) PRIDE.

In those years, if the donkeys, under Jenny, wandered too far from their pasture, the various children of the neighborhood, some of whom (the lucky ones) owned shares in Jenny's foals, would be called out of class, to go round up the donkeys. This mainly consisted of catching Jenny and taking her home, with the rest dutifully following, but there were endless variations. I never have been able to work out who had the most fun, the 2 footed or the 4 footed or was in an equal match!!!

The years went by, the donkeys were given away or sold, Jenny eventually died, leaving her youngest foal Mickey (1 July 1967- 7 July 1998) as the sole Barron Park donkey. It was not much fun to escape on your own, so Mickey, mostly just stood around and grew old and then sick from being feed *very* large quantities of carrots and apples and other snacks and comparatively little of what he should have been eating. Eventually, Perry joined him and became he faithful shadow!!!

When Miner 49er arrived, his nose was put out of joint. He was going from a "petted only child" situation to one of 3 donkeys, where Mickey and Perry were already friends and companions. The second day he went under the fence! He then found himself in a strange world and wanted back in. The problem was to get him away from the fence, as he tried to break back in, rather than going in via the gate!!! The passing dogs and their owners were wonderfully helpful! The donkeys also got out one time, while I was in Bangladesh, and Animal Control got involved. Please remember, Handlers, school children and local canine pals are the quickest and the best people to return our donkey friends to their pasture!!!!!

During the summer, when Miner 49er got out, Misha and his dog Rex, just put Rex's leash around Miner 49er's neck, while he was grazing and waited until the Handlers had been called by Bill and had arrived. It was also Birgit's first introductory day, before starting as a Handler!!!

Miner 49er is a very bright donkey and he has learnt to pull back the gate latch in ONE easy movement! A couple of weeks ago, the latch was closed, but the chain was off, since I was going in-and-out, doing pasture chores (water tub refilling). I turned my back and both donkeys were out and over the top of Strawberry Hill. I got the donkey halters and together with Harriet Moss and her dog Arthur, we went after them. We received reports from interested passersby and saw them when we reached the top of Strawberry Hill. Luckily it was lunchtime and some Gunn teenagers quickly blocked the 2 pathways and we were able, after a couple of tries, to attach the halters. Then began the procession back, 2 young women leading Perry, who revelled in the attention, 3 young men with Arthur, the corgi and Harriet and myself with Miner 49er, who did not want to go home, he wanted to enjoy himself in the big wide world of greater Bol Park. Several other people also joined our procession to asked questions, etc.

Please remember, the donkeys love their walks, jogs and runs and they get bored in the pasture, as is shown by Miner 49er's gate banging!


Most animals, including donkeys, have a favorite food. I think Mickey had several. He thought Mrs. Bol's home baked bread was heavenly, but in old age, he would do anything for a bowl of warm bran mash!!!

There were many funny scenes, when he would "attack" the person making up the mash from the dry bran in its 50# sack and water from the insulated container of hot water. He would attempt to wrestle the bowl of contents from you and if that did not work, he would use his head as a battering ram on your shoulders or head!!!

In the time between when the Barron Park Handlers took over from the Bol Estate (November 1996) and the arrival of Perry (January 1997), Mickey was a very, very sick donkey. He had, had several months, after Mrs. Bol's death, when his feeding was mainly treats, thus his physical health was not good. The Matadero Bypass was finished, so his pals the workmen, were not there for him to inspect and the weather had turned cold, so there were fewer walkers and joggers, so his mental health was not good. In addition, he felt old and lonely.

He would lie down and huddle and feel very sorry for himself. In fact, he was attempting to will himself to die. This wish was so strong, that several times we wondered if he would be alive, when we went up to give him his morning feed and brush. However, that hot bran mash always worked miracles!!!

Our aim was first to get him up, his to be fed lying down, with only his head up. The compromise was usually, first mouthful from the large dog dish, half sitting up and the next one standing up. Then began the long trek across the pasture, with the negotiations of how many steps between each mouthful of mash!!! On really bad days, Edith would hold the mash bowl several steps in front of him and I would push from the rear!!! At that stage, Mickey audibly creaked as he walked. However, what started so slowly at the one end of the pasture, very nearly always, ended as a very quick march, the nearer one got to the alfalfa feed trough!!!

The 50# sack of bran was kept in a plastic garbage container with a lid, which in turn was kept in a large latched garden box. Mickey on several occasions, broke into the garden box, no mean feat in itself, then upended the garbage container, knocked off the lid, dragged out its contents and finally shredded the double bagged bran sack. Most, if not nearly all the DRY bran was then eaten and/or spread around. After that, he usually was not hungary for 24-36 hours!!!

After Perry came, his loneliness vanished, but his love for bran mash continued. Perry likes bran mash, but is not an avid eater and Miner 49er can take it or leave it.


In Mickey's last eighteen months of life, he, among other ailments, suffered from joint inflammation. The Vet gave him various medications which he hated. It is difficult enough to persuade kids to take foul tasting meds, but try it on a strong willed donkey!!! So most had to be given as injections and some of these could only be given for a short time. When the Vet ran out of ideas, I hit my herb books and came up with Yucca.

The plant phytosterols of this plant, which were sometimes used in the manufacture of steroidal hormones, have been shown in some clinical studies to have been of use in the treatment of joint inflammation in several types of arthritis, functioning as an anti-inflammatory. I also found that the Plains tribes had used it not only for themselves, but for their horses!!!

The Animal feed stores stocked 2 types of Yucca - a powder and then a small stick form of yucca plus alfalfa. We tried the latter, since Mickey always objected to *anything* mixed into his bran mash. Wonders of wonders, Mickey went crazy for the Yucca!!!

In the end, we used the Yucca to get him to behave, while I worked on his bad hoof (cleaning, medicating and bandaging it). He thought his herbal med was a treat!!! We found that all donkeys love it and think it a treat!!! We then found elderly dogs liked it!!! I have stood in a circle of dogs and offered it, they taste it and then come back for more and more and more!!!

When Perry came, he had to join in the Yucca craze too, as did Miner 49er when he arrived. Some of you may remember a TV show, where Perry and Miner 49er performed beautifully for the camera. I had my wrist and arm in a cast, but the "boys" cavorted around me as if seasoned film stars. The answer was, I had a handful of Yucca!!!

There was a picture in the Barron Park Newsletter, of Perry and Miner 49er nearly touching noses over my hand (in the next photo, they did actually touch), a thing which they DON'T NORMALLY DO. The answer was a handful of YUCCA!!!

Anytime we think Perry or Miner 49er will require a bribe or deserves a treat, their favorite is Yucca. However, not pounds of it (although I am sure they would gobble it down and get sick later), but in total, a medium sized handful, doled out, about a couple of dozen sticks (1/8" by 1") at a time.


I have really enjoyed Inge's donkey tales. I'll add one of my own. This happened during the time we had Perry and Mickey (before Niner's arrival). I went over to give Perry a run. Both Mickey and Perry were milling around by the gate expectantly as I opened it to get Perry out after haltering him. I was concerned about Perry bolting, but had no worries about Mickey trying to sneak out since I had not seen him move faster than a plod for months, maybe years.

As I tried to shoo Perry back, Mickey saw the gate open slightly and bolted out. As he ran by me I was able to grab him by the tail and slow him down, but he dragged me out with him. Perry, seeing the gate unattended and now more open, bolted through it and by me. I was just able to grab him by the tail as he whizzed by. I was now between two frisky donkeys pulling in opposite directions, kicking up clouds of dust. I tried to get the whole chain of us moved toward the gate, now widely open, but it was all I could do to just hang on. Fortunately, I was holding both tails pretty high up where they are thick and ropey.

The kicking and pulling went on for what seemed like five minutes, but was probably only a minute or two. Mickey was acting like a young donkey with his nostriIs flared, hooting and pulling vigorously. I was exhausted and just about to give up when a woman jogger came by. I talked her into taking Perry's halter so I could let go of his tail and get Mickey back through the gate. Without her help I was envisioning a donkey chase all the way to El Camino. Once I had a hand free to push Mickey's head around he went back through the gate easily. I'll never forget how much energy that old donkey had when he had a clear purpose in mind.

When I was in Paris this past summer I was touring buildings built in the Middle Ages and was told that the Church at that time had a special festival that they called the Assinarium. I was a day when the peasants could bring donkeys into the churches. They had choirs of donkeys. Also, one donkey was chosen to address the gathered throng. Of course, donkeys were given suitable costumes. The event would finish with the clergy blessing the donkeys and thanking them for their service.