Growing on the High Plains: Donkey Strong

Jul 26, 2018

The Vegetable Garden with Donkey, 1918 by Joan Miró.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, I’ll introduce you to a pair of donkeys who have captured my heart and brightened my commute along Highway 83 in southwest Kansas. The donkeys share a 15-acre pasture at the intersection of US Route 50, while providing a welcome bright spot where the fabled loneliest road meets the highway to nowhere.

Here on the High Plains, donkeys have long been employed as guardians for herds of sheep and goats, warding off predators like coyotes with a flurry of swift kicks. They are also remarkably sure-footed and make exceptionally agile pack animals. Donkeys aren’t fussy eaters but seem to prefer feasting on twigs and bark over grains—although they made quick work of a bucket of Jerusalem artichokes I brought them on a recent visit.

Other corners of the country may rely on outlandish statues and oddball museums to provide entertainment off the beaten path. As for me, I’ll find my roadside attraction in these beasts of burden, gently gnawing a fence post in the distance. Here’s a poem, inspired by my two friends:

“A jack and a jenny

delight the many

that drive the highway to nowhere.

They feed on sticks

and deliver kicks,

so rogue coyotes beware.”