Tails from Beacon Hollow Farm: Radar and Dee

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 7:30am

We have two donkeys on a small farm on the island. They came to us out of necessity and as a primitive security system, so to speak. Having chickens, ducks and goats roaming free range (there are no real predators on this island other than dogs), therefore loose dogs are a real problem. Word came down that we needed donkeys or llamas and that would solve the problem. Both of these species have an innate loathing of dogs as part of their essential nature. We had no problem with getting donkeys, but llamas, on the other hand — let’s just say they look a little alien out here.

Our farrier was doing hoof care on the horses. While in conversation between his getting kicked now and again, he mentioned a lonely female donkey. She needed to be retired from her job as caretaker of a sheep herd (warding off coyotes) at an agricultural university on the mainland. Her name was Dee and, for whatever reason, she became unruly, disruptive, and, in general, a hazard for the school. No one wanted her because of that, and she was considered to be a psychotic animal and a detriment to the school. I made arrangements to go and see Dee.

My first impression of Dee was, “What a beautiful donkey.” A full-size northern burro with rather long hair, reported to be six years old. She ignored me at first, then tried to bite me — along with a little side kick; I guess for kicks. A university professor told me he was reluctant to give her to anyone without a “hold harmless retainer” protecting the school from any liability, which I now fully understand. I tried talking to Dee in jackass lingo out in a deserted field, and she finally admitted to me with her eyes and body language: “I hate it here.” We didn’t get into socio-donkey relationships, but I saw no other donkey anywhere around, just those llamas, and began to figure this thing out. I quickly decided to take her. 

Looking on Craigslist, our farm crew found a three-year old male full-size donkey — a southern burro with short hair. After traveling across the state we found him, and, Oh what a handsome equine. Radar O’Reilly was his name, a reference to “MASH” fame, due to his enormous ears, which looked like radar antennae. Radar reached over the fence and kissed all of us with plunger lips. He was happy there, but originally was thought to be a miniature donkey, which didn’t turn out that way, and they unfortunately had to find him a bigger home. Again there was no question: “I’ll take him.” The family wouldn’t release him to us without traveling to see our farm first. They have been coming back to see him for many years now.

Understand that our madness method here was to bring two donkey hearts together in, let’s say, a match made in alfalfa, clover, and bluegrass heaven. We trailered them together on the trip to the island, rough seas made it tough on non-seagoing donkeys, but the end game was about to begin. The two staggered out of the trailer with a bit of vertigo, but stopped in the corral and looked at each other. There was a long pause, and they stared each other down. Would there be a donkey gender battle, a biting, kicking, female Dee, nasty to the bone? Radar, on the other hand, was known to be a gentle, loving creature. Neither of these animals had ever seen another of their kind, and they gazed eye-to-eye without a move. Dee melted down with eyes that only I could see. (“Radar, where have you been all my life?”) She didn’t seem to care that part of his male anatomy was missing. However it was the ears, those giant ears, that overwhelmed her. Radar, a bit confused, initially thought Dee to be his mother, but all of that resolved quickly. 

The two have blessed our farm for over 10 years now, not a duck or chicken lost to a dog. We did have one hit by a car, but that’s another story. Radar and Dee are like salt and pepper shakers, never too far apart and for the most part side by side. They live here as inseparable animal romantics, have their own stall next to the horses and graze with the horses and goats. Dee doesn’t say much but still is enamored with Radar’s ears. Radar wakes us with the rooster in the morning with a loud, prolonged bray. If one were to get around the barn out of sight of the other, what a cry you’ll hear. These two animals are the epitome of the word rescued, although sometimes I think it’s us that are being rescued.

A donkey’s life span can be 50 years, necessitating a Donkey Family Trust to ensure their special long life of love and affection on this farm. Come and see Dee (doesn’t kick or bite anymore) and Radar with ears that indicate when New England Airlines will be flying over soon. They will be together, and you need to study them closely, maybe learning something about relationships that we all could appreciate a little better. My wife even now says to me, “I do like your big ears too”.