Pedro the donkey didn’t take kindly to rider

Farm Forum

Editor’s note: Farm Forum contributor John Papendick is spending his fall helping on the family farm in Faulk County. He is writing about his adventures in a series of columns.

Pardon the language, but sometimes farm talk can get rather crusty.

For example, when things have gone wrong on our Faulk County farm this summer and fall, people have turned toward me. And I don’t know why.

I suppose it could be because of my track record as a fake farmer. I admit it, I may have made one or two mistakes this summer (possibly a few more).

So, sometimes, I have been called a bad name. Such as a dumb donkey (aka another word for donkey).

Which is really an insult to donkeys everywhere.

How do I know this?

Well, not only did I grow up on a South Dakota farm in the 1960s and 1970s, but I vacationed on farms in Kentucky during those decades.

Every year, we made a 10-day trek to Kentucky where my mom was raised on a tobacco farm. Next to my grandparents’ farm was a relative’s farm belonging to Fred and my mom’s sister, Maggie.

Among other things, they raised race horses, donkeys and burros. In my sometimes misguided farm thinking, donkeys and burros are the same animal.

Anyway, Fred and Maggie had a burro named Pedro. Just as another South Dakota farm aunt and uncle of mine who raised an alligator for many years, Pedro was legendary in our household.

To this day when I hear “Kentucky,” I think “Pedro.”

Pedro was one of the smartest and most intuitive farm animals I have ever known. Even though I only got to see him once a year for about 16 years, Pedro always seemed to know me.

It was as if he smiled back at me when we reunited.

Pedro was not only my friend, but my competitor. The top summer vacation event each year for me was to try to ride Pedro.

During some of those vacation days, Pedro did not want to be ridden. So you would get on Pedro, and Pedro would not move.

You could try to wait Pedro out, but it was useless. On other days aboard Pedro, it always started as a slow trot.

But eventually, Pedro would take off. His mission was simply to get you off his back. He might rush to the corner of a building or head for a tree with low branches to accomplish this.

It was as close to being a rodeo cowboy as I will ever come.

Simply put, Pedro did not want me on his back some days. And so when some of my farm friends call me that bad name, I think of Pedro.

I think about how instead of Pedro being my source of entertainment, I was really his. Just as it has been this summer down on the farm.

Longtime South Dakota journalist John Papendick is a freelance writer, public speaker and seeker of new life experiences. Email