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Hi Ho And Away We Go

Story ID:666
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Only Here
Location:Butte Mt. USA
Year:1988
Person:Six Handicapped Children
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Hi, Ho, And Away We Go

by Kathe Campbell

"Welcome to Broken Tree Ranch pardners. I'm so happy to have you here. Are y'all ready to learn how to ride donkeys?"

A rousing cheer echoes throughout my arena from special young guests and parents. Everybody sports jeans and checkered shirts. Some wear baseball caps and others sit restlessly, fidgeting with their western straws.

"Wonderful! I sure like your enthusiasm. We have Broken Tree Ranch kerchiefs for everyone."

As parents tie on scarves, hay allergy seeks refuge in one child's nasal passage. Although cowboy kerchiefs are worn about the neck, one such hanky catches an explosive sneeze with mega force. While mom wipes her child's face, a river of tears burst forth. Luckily, bright red kerchiefs practically breed in the ranch tack room

"All seven donks are here at the hitchin' rail for you to get acquainted with. They're used to being around kids and will stand patiently while your parents help you bridle and saddle them. The girls are Sweet Pea, Rosemarie, and Blossom. The boys are Sam, Stormy, Gabriel, and Smart Ass."

And with that, roaring gales of laughter fill the air.

"Oh, really dear? That's what your mom calls your dad? You see donkeys are also called . . . well, never mind."

"These are not little burros, they're very large and they don't whinny like horses. They heehaw and whistle.

"Oh, you like the shortest one? That's Rosie. She's all yours today, darlin'"

"You're so welcome."

Parents secure helmets and hitch donks up to a half dozen rails.

"Let's settle down everybody. Now this is the bridle or headstall. The curved metal rod is the bit. It fits into the donkey's mouth while the headstall goes over his head behind his ears."

"No, no, young man, that's backwards. We wouldn't want our donkey to walk backwards now, would we?

"What's the matter darlin'?

"Yes, I know, but the inside of everyone's mouths are wet and gooey. Just give the bit a push with the palm of your hand and the donkey will open his mouth. Good job, mom!"

With parental help, our little buckaroos are learning outfitting skills. Faces beam as they eagerly embrace each task.

"Just bend those ears forward, one at a time, and slip the bridle over each one. That'a girl, you did it!"

"Now bring the reins up on each side of the donkey's neck and hang 'em loosely around the saddle horn. Good job, son."

"Ah . . . no, saddle horns don't honk."

"Can anyone tell me what these are? No, not mattresses, but yer close. Saddle blankets!"

"Blankets first and then we'll learn to saddle up. There's a saddle for each of you. Your parents and I will toss the saddles up onto the donkey's back and you can do the rest."

Jumping up and down and clapping of hands begins as this will be a first in the lives of a few. My young guests are attentative, mannerly, and full of questions. I'm absolutely loving my day and wondering why I didn't do this years ago.

"See where you place your feet? Those are stirrups. Let's toss those stirrups up onto the saddle horn while we're learning to cinch up. Thanks dads."

"See those straps hanging from the saddle on each side of the animal? That one is the cinch. The one nearest you is the buckle. Now, reach under the donkey's belly and bring the cinch toward you and place the end of the strap in the buckle. Good, you're doin' fine."

"Now, has everyone pulled up on your cinches as hard as you can? Get in there and give those cinches a big tug, parents. Good, we're almost there."

"Oh don't panic darlin', he just let out extra wind when you pulled up on the cinch, that's all. Yep, I'm sure it's much louder than what yer daddy does."

Side-splitting laughter from all.

"Can anyone guess what's next? Right, the stirrups. Bring them down."

"Now pardners, always mount your animal on his left. Put your left foot in the stirrup, hang onto the saddle horn tight. Raise yourself up into the saddle as you throw your right leg over, just like I'm doin' "

"Here little one, I'll give you a boost. Great, you're doin' it. Wha - - hoo!"

"Now everyone, hold your reins, but not too tight."

"Y'all look jest like real cowpokes fixin' to round up them doggies."

"Let's commence a few turns around the corral before we open the gate. Give your donk a little kick. Mercy me, yer ridin' just like a bunch of Hopalong Cassidys."

"Who was Hopalong? Oh, he was a famous cowboy." (Hee gads, I'm showing my age.)

Parents attach lead ropes and indulge in morning work-outs as their wranglers insist upon a fast pace. The sight brings tingles down my spine and a song to my heart watching these special kids having the time of their lives. Some scream in utter joy, others are silent in the wonder of it all. They demand parental attention to brag their success, then beg to circle the corral again.

"What darlin'? He won't go? He has to take a pee break dear. Just sit and wait. I know you're embarrassed, but just look the other way."

"After lunch we'll mosey out onto the prairie and lasso them ol' steers. I'm so proud of you!" (The prairie in this instance being a fully fenced grassy pasture.)

An authentic chuck wagon is served to young guests in all phases of their development. But not before they learn how to make hamburgers. They don surgical gloves and pat out beef chuck filled with onions. Others take turns at the campfire where simmering beans are stirred with a long-handled ladle. After hearty vittles, somores delight every sweet tooth.

"Well, fan my britches, buckaroos . . . someone didn't tie up their cayuse! Just look who's bushwhacking the buns?"

Donkeys rein differently than horses. Don't ask why, that's just the way it is. Some children are born different. We don't ask why, that's just the way it is. And if one doesn't feed one's soul spending time with those born different, the best part of living passes them by. This precious group taught me how savvy they are, more so than I ever imagined. They became the teachers, and I the student. 'Twas the filet mignon of my life several summers in a row.

"Everybody got their helmets on?"

"Yes, hon?"

"Oh, those are called donkey puckies. It's okay if she poops along the road. No darlin', I don't believe we need to clean them up. Donkey puckies are recycled hay and make beautiful wild flowers!"

"Lets sing our donkey song for your parents now, okay? I'll get us started with the Jew's harp."

"Why?"

"Because I said so!"

"Hi Ho And Away we go, Donkey Ridin', Donkey Ridin', Hi Ho And Away we go, Ridin' on a Donkey."