Skip to main content

Smart Donkey – 1936


It was the year of the Texas Centennial, the middle of the Great Depression, and I was 10 years old. My Dad had accepted a job as manager of a lumberyard in Otto, Texas , about 25 miles east of Waco . Otto isn’t on the map any more, but some vivid memories still exist. Here is one of them.

It was summertime, school was out, and 10 year-old kids look for things to do. There were no parks in Otto, and soccer Moms didn’t exist. But a friend’s family had a donkey, and we decided to take a ride—even though his folks were not home that day. We got a halter on him (or maybe her), hopped on his back, and he started down the road in a slow walk—with a couple of happy, barefoot kids.

We decided to ride over to the school and see what it looked like in summer. Well, it was not much different than in winter, except the grass and weeds had grown up. The sun was hot, so we decided to go into the horse stall where it was shady. (Yeah, horse stall. Kids still rode horses – and donkeys – to school.) Here we amused ourselves for 30 minutes or an hour trying to catch doodlebugs.

In a while, both we and the doodlebugs got tired of the game, so we got back on the donkey to go home. But the donkey liked it there in the shade, and wouldn’t move. We pulled on him, we pushed on him, we talked to him, but he still wouldn’t move. We really wanted to get him back before my friend’s folks came home, since we didn’t have permission to take him out. Maybe he knew this, and that’s why he wouldn’t move.

We finally tied him in the stall, and decided to come back for him later……..but, when we started to walk out, we learned quickly that the ground was covered with stickers—goatheads and grassburs. Every step had to be cleared of stickers before we could move a foot. It took about an hour just to get out of the schoolyard.

I quickly headed for the house, about two blocks away, because I felt that it must be close to lunchtime, and Mom would be looking for me. She was. I explained our situation, and she wasn’t all too happy with my participation in an unauthorized activity. To tell the truth, by this time, neither was I. I’m not real sure what the consequences were, but I did learn never to ride a hot donkey barefooted.

Vic Mathias – August 10, 2006