Winston leaves behind a legacy of laughter by Emily Chetkowski
Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. As I sit here writing, I am struggling. I already know the ending to this tale and it's very sad. No amount of fiction or editor's correction can change that because it's also true, the pain from which sits just beneath my consciousness and will for a long time. I do not want to write it. But I've decided to get it over with, to write the ending first, a writing tactic I use sometimes. Get out what I know must be told then work around it, backwards, forwards, whatever it takes to craft the story. That said, with heavy heart I must say that Winston, my adorable mini donkey, was the victim of a freak accident and died on the eve of Hurricane Irene. Winston was infamous. Many knew him, but many more around the entire country enjoyed hearing my stories of his antics over the 16 years he graced us with his presence. Though Winston was not, the stories of his shenanigans are immortal and remembering him for the mischief and laughter he caused would be his preference. I got him initially to guard my sheep, but it immediately became clear that being a jokester was more his thing. When his pranks included pulling a Mike Tyson and biting my favorite sheep's ear off, I gave the sheep away and kept Winston; I loved that little ass. Over the years Winston managed to circumvent every type of fencing I used, gaining him a police record in three towns. His MO was dashing around houses and peeping in windows, startling occupants. He once led fire trucks to a neighborhood barn fire prompting some interesting comments on the radio between firefighters. And he would hide, behind trees and bushes to spy on us when we were sitting on the terrace. He was a smart ass no doubt. In a heartbeat, Winston could find that one vulnerable spot in the fence, often within 10 minutes of my spending hours repairing and reinforcing it. Most times he'd see me coming and walk over to the gate and wait for me to let him back in. It was a game with him, he escaped simply because he could and he enjoyed letting me know that. This went on for 16 years, but looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. As tenacious as he was, he was also very sweet. He loved everyone. He didn't bite, he didn't kick and he loved to hug, wrapping his neck around you. There was nothing quite like a Winnie hug. I got them most every day. Much to the dismay of his laid-back donkey buddy, Shaggy, Winston's favorite comic prop was a rubber feed pan. One gorgeous spring day, while Shaggy was standing in the sun, head hanging down, sound asleep, I spied Winston with the rubber feed pan in his mouth, quietly approaching his snoozing friend. He stood there for a moment then took the pan and smacked Shaggy right on the side of the head with it. Startled, Shaggy nearly fell over, and I swear Winston was grinning. Awake and totally ticked off, Shaggy wrenched the feed pan from Winston's mouth and proceeded to slap him silly with it. Winston kicked up his heels, braying and running from one end of the paddock to the other, but to no avail as Shaggy slapped him back about 50 times. Finally they stopped, head to head and out of breath. Shaggy placed the pan between them as if to say, "Go ahead, hit me again you little squirt!" But Winston declined. Over the years, Winston pulled stunts on Shaggy many times, but Shaggy learned to live with it, much as I had too. Winston was incorrigible. Hours after he died, I went to the place I find solace--my barn. Not only did I need to be with my animals, but they needed me too, or so I thought. Now at the scene of the accident, I broke down, sobbing while standing in the middle of my somber pony herd, minus it's shining star. Quietly, my alpha mare, Heather sidled over to me. She pressed her pregnant belly firmly against my heart, wrapped her neck around my waist and hugged me, much like Winston used to. I felt this incredible warmth, a surreal energy, come from her body and enter mine and it soothed my aching heart. I took this to mean we'd be OK; there was much life here, much to look forward to and I was comforted. Later on, a friend told me of her belief in reincarnation. She felt Winston would be in my life again one day. The it hit me; perhaps Heather was trying to tell me that Winston had channeled his soul into that of her unborn foal. If that's the case, come April when the foal is born, I am doomed. I am going to take the winter to rest up beforehand. We buried Winston in his favorite escape spot. As I placed his feed pan in the grave with him, I told him that when he gets to wherever donkeys go to after life, to take that pan and whack whoever is in charge, payback for taking him much too soon, when this earth needs to laugh more at the antics of a funny donkey.
Story originally published Sept. 27, 2011 by The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript