The donkey and the bicycle

October 24, 2018 § 9 Comments

Once upon a time there was a donkey who lived in a barn with a horse and five other donkeys. He was not bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, or better looking than the other donkeys, but not especially less so, either. He was average.

One day after Farmer Brown had let the donkeys out into the barnyard, he came out of the old farmhouse with a bicycle. “Hey, Flanks,” he said, because that was the donkey’s name, “this is for you.” He left the bicycle lying on its side and went back inside to watch Fox News.

Flanks picked up the bicycle, which was made of carbon, and trotted around with it a bit. Then he sat on the saddle, which hurt some, but he soon got used to it and was able to pedal pretty well. The other donkeys didn’t quite get it and didn’t pay much attention to Flanks and his new bicycle.

After a couple of weeks Flanks got bored riding around the barnyard and decided to take his bike out on the country roads, which were all dirt and devoid of cars. Soon enough it was part of his regular routine. He’d pull the plow all day and then afterwards go for a 20 or 30-mile ride. He didn’t have Strava but was thinking about maybe one day signing up for a free account, if he could ever get a cell phone.

Convo time

After each ride Flanks would hold court in the barnyard and talk about bicycling, and the other animals would all gather around. On rainy days he’d lecture them inside the barn. Even Cocky, the rooster, would listen to his stories about epic climbs and scarifying descents. But even though the animals all listened, none of them really understood. They didn’t understand donkeyspeak very well to begin with, and they understood absolutely nothing about cycling.

The goat, Billy, who was almost the smartest of the bunch, would occasionally look up from his tin can and shoot Flanks a kind of quizzical look, but Flanks always brushed it aside. Everyone looked so rapt. Surely they understood that although he was talking about cycling, he wasn’t.

The only time he ever doubted was one day when it was raining and they had all moved into the barn. Flanks was talking about how to calculate training zones when suddenly a bit of motion up on the rafters caught his eye. It was Barney, the barn owl, with his ghostly white face, staring down on the animals. Barney never moved during the day, and certainly never spoke, but he fluffed his feathers and gave Flanks a good, long blink and said, “Easy, there.”


The chickens went off to their coop and the other animals went to their respective sleeping places as the moon rose outside. Flanks, who had tired himself out with all his pontificating, ambled over to the other donkeys.

“What’s new?” he asked Jakeleg, the head jack.

“Nuttin’,” Jakeleg said, and went back to chewing hay.

Flanks turned to Bones, the donkey he’d grown up with. “Hey, Bones, what are you doing tomorrow after work?”

“Nuttin’,” Bones said, and kept on chewing.

Finally Flanks turned to Winsome, a very pretty jenny who had a silky gray coat with the softest white coat on her underbelly. “Do you want to go out for oats and hay tomorrow night?” Flanks had a crush on Winsome, but riding the bicycle had made him bolder somehow.

Winsome shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

Flanks’s voice trembled. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Why doesn’t anyone like me all of a sudden?”

Winsome batted her pretty eyelashes. “All you ever do is talk about bicycles,” she said. “It’s boring and no one understands it.”

Flanks went to bed that night very sad. A couple of donkey teardrops rolled down his soft donkey cheeks. It is hard when you realize that no matter how much you talk, sometimes no one understands. It is hard when you realize that sometimes you are simply alone.




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