His name was Figaro. He was a donkey belonging to my father’s parents, whose names to me were Marga & Grandpa (aka Evelyn & Bob Allen). They lived on the outskirts of Bethel, in a red saltbox-style house, its’ kitchen window overlooking the front yard to the road, & a red, 2-story barn adjacent. They also owned pastureland across the street where Figaro would graze, and from which he would escape regularly, traveling thru the woods as the crow flies to other outskirts of Bethel. This would prompt phone conversations such as this: “Hello?” “Hello, Mr. Allen?” “Yes, speaking.” “Sir, this is so-&-so, your ass is in my back yard, again.” “I’ll be there directly.”
My grandmother’s sister, May, owned the house next door to my grandparents’ house and summered there for many years. It was a small, white house, with a lovely patio ringed by a garden, perfect for the tiny, white-haired, old lady that May was in those years. You could walk up the hill & come to it via the road, or take the lilac path thru the woods, from my grandparents’ front yard, near the house. In the spring, when the lilac bushes lining both sides of the path would bloom the air smelled heavenly.
In the mid 1960’s, my dad, also named Bob, was staying in Aunt May’s house while between marriages. He long told a tale of being at home one evening with his closest friend, Terry, playing chess. Now, this was probably true, as far as it went, but there was also likely an excess of scotch involved. In any event, whilst playing chess, (& drinking scotch) both men heard a noise, outside on the patio. They were manly men, so they went to investigate. They were sensible, manly men, so they armed themselves. But because they were sensible, manly, & very drunk men, they armed themselves with…spatulas.
They stepped out onto the patio, gripping their spatulas, & crept cautiously thru the darkness. There, amidst the shrubbery, having escaped confinement yet again, was…Figaro. Considerably relieved, my dad put down his spatula, & approached Figaro, thinking to lead him down the hill to the barn. But Figaro had other plans, & bolted away, with my dad in hot pursuit, lit cigarette clutched firmly in his teeth. Down the driveway to the road, down the road to the barn, across in front of my grandparents’ house, up the lilac path & around they went. I estimate the distance on this to be about a quarter mile per lap. My grandmother happened to be at her kitchen window, & what she first saw was the odd sight of a single, tiny, orange light, bobbing in the darkness out by the road. The end of my dad’s cigarette, as he did the first of what he swore was 3 full circuits round until Figaro finally tired of his game, & allowed himself to be captured & led off to the barn for the night. My dad wheezed for 2 days.
I remember this story well, because it was one of my dad’s favorite stories to tell. I can see him across the dining table, & hear his voice as he spun it out. I hope I did it justice. I think he’d enjoy it.