Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This quote sums up exactly how the folks around the Thurman farm have been feeling this week. The legendary, elderly, clever, entertaining, dirty, scruffy, arthritic donkey, Festus, gave up the ghost yesterday and took a little piece of our hearts with him.
Festus was my hero from day one. It has been nearly five years since our family left the town life and migrated to life on my husband’s family farm. The horse and I got off on the wrong foot and I had a turbulent relationship with the mice who invaded my kitchen. There was the incidental barn cat breeding fiasco, the introduction to the electric fence, and there remains a cow who stalks me and constantly tries to start shit with me. But Festus, we were tight from day one. Upon being introduced, I was told how his main function on the farm was to keep the coyotes away from the cows. I don’t know if this is just crap they were feeding me because I don’t really know the truths and myths of farm life, but I didn’t care. There is only ONE thing I hate worse than that bitch-ass mean cow and that would be coyotes. I knew right away Festus and I were going to be fast friends.
Festus was old; at least 35. He was an old ass, but also a wise ass. He couldn’t get around very well the last few years, his old bones were stiff. The spring may have been gone from his step, but that ornery twinkle was there until the end. Here are just a few of the highlights of our friend, Festus:
- Peppermints were the way to his heart. The old ass loved apples, carrots, and sugar cubes, but nothing made him happier than when someone trudged out to the field with pockets full of cellophane wrapped peppermint goodness to share with him. And nothing pissed him off more than when you showed up empty handed. He was an ass with expectations. After nuzzling pockets upon approach, he would quickly determine if you were bearing gifts worthy of his company or if you were a human disappointment to be ignored.
- He was well equipped. When the little twin cousins, Carter and Caden, were visiting the farm, they excitedly announced to their mom, Jody, that Festus was having a baby. In additional conversation with the little fellas, they announced that “Festus had a leg sticking out of his belly, so he MUST be having a baby.” Imagine how hard it was explaining to them that is was not a leg but rather his giant donkey dong. Old Festus set the bar very high for these youngsters.
- He was not afraid to use what the good Lord gave him. Festus was really old. He walked stiff-legged and preferred to lay around in the sun most of the time. His range of motion was limited and so he didn’t move around a great deal and he certainly didn’t move anywhere fast. Except that one time…when the neighbor’s Jenny (that is what they call girl donkeys FYI, not her actual name. I don’t think Festus even got her name) was all hot and bothered and prancing her fine ass on the other side of the fence. Perhaps in his prime he would have jumped the fence for this fine piece of Jenny, but he was way past his prime. He did, however, manage to barrel through the fence, have his way with the sultry temptress from greener pastures, and then collapse in his post-coital bliss. The only thing he was missing was a cigarette. He was so tuckered out by his escapade Uncle Bob had to drive to the neighbor’s farm and load his bad ass on a trailer and haul him home. Festus was not ashamed and he got more than one, “Atta boy, Festus” from my son, husband and other male inhabitants of the farm (filthy animals).
- He sometimes had to say he was sorry. On not one but two different occasions, Jody encountered Festus when he wasn’t on his best behavior. She claims that she was giving him treats and he bit her. Jody is a farm girl and knows how to saddle and ride things and drive tractors. She knows how to round up cows and raise steers and all that jazz. So, she definitely knows how to give an ass a treat. I talked to him after the first incident and he said he was sorry. After the second time, I started to think she was either showing up without the proper treat or using peppermint scented hand lotion. Festus wasn’t mean, but as stated above, he had expectations.
- He always was excited to see you. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t visited in a day or several weeks, Festus greeted you with his one of a kind, high decibel, uniquely his own, welcome bray. While I could try to explain it to you, there really aren’t words to adequately do it proper justice. You can click on the video below to experience a greeting Festus style. Loosely translated, he is saying: Hello, my friend. I have missed you. I love you. You better have peppermints. Get over here and hug my shaggy ass”:
Festus, you were one fine ass. Thank you for making us smile. You will be missed.