Wed. May 09, 2001
My Donkey Ball Memories
Donkey ball heading out to pasture [subtitled, My Donkey Ball Memories] – The linked article is about the passing of a rural fund raising tradition that dates back to the Depression, a tradition whose participants have included yours truly. If your cause needs to raise funds, why of course, the first thing that comes to mind is slapping eight well known locals on the backs of donkeys, throwing them on a basketball court, and charging people to watch. The problem is finding the right fools to ride….
Well, I can’t tell you the name of the charity (this was almost 20 years ago), but they decided it might be easy to con some local disc jockeys into composing one team. It seemed like a good idea at the time (so did mud wrestling women, but that’s another tragic story for another time). So we four radio fools showed up to meet our mounts.
”Tim Whitmer of Buckeye Donkey Ball holds court in a classroom, delivering a crash course on the rules of the game: four players to a side, 10 minutes to a contest. You must be on your donkey to shoot, but you can dismount and lead your animal down the floor on fast breaks. He calls this the ’dragging your ass rule.’ ... He tells them the donkeys are well-trained but will buck, duck and kick. He is fully serious.”
Indeed he is. The fact they made us wear helmets was a dead giveaway. We seemed to have two basic kinds of donkeys, and a couple who had ”special tricks.” The players are instructed to line up at one end of the court to start the proceedings with … I know, it’s somewhat blasphemous … The National Anthem. Special Trick #1, upon the start of the music, one donkey takes off, dragging one of my coworkers the length of the court. The crowd loves it. I’m beginning to get the idea that my humiliation will be their entertainment.
Despite my fears, our pre-game encounter with the donkeys was calm (other than poor Lisa, the Star Spangled Draggee). At the time I was co-owner of a quarter horse, so I tried to ”bond with my ass,” establish some of that human-animal rapport that I knew might be vital to my safety, and it seemed to go reassuringly well. At any rate, we are all able to mount up fairly easily in preparation for a most bizarre tipoff.
When the whistle blows and the ball goes up, these previously docile beasts suddenly manifest multiple personality disorders. Donkey Type One will allow you to get on, and will not buck, or kick. Or move. Or allow himself to be dragged. Or do anything at all other than doggedly stand where he was when that whistle blew.
I had Donkey Type Two. When the tipoff whistle blew, suddenly I realized that I was flying, and I had somehow left my donkey behind. After appropriate introductions were exchanged between my helmet and the hardwood floor, I, certain this flight was a fluke, attempted to reboard. I never again sat on that donkey for longer than about 2/3 of a second, despite my best efforts. Mostly, I hopped in circles on one leg, while desperately trying to throw the other leg over the circling and occasionally kicking beast. He knew what he was doing. And he was very good. When I would pause for breath near exhaustion, he would stop, too, with a look that was a cross between pity and laughing his ass off.
In the end, the scoreboard might have read 2-0. But we all knew the donkeys had kicked our ass. I was exhausted. And smelly. Confused about whether I had contributed to charity, or needed it. And certain that Dick Clark didn’t start out this way.
I’m glad it’s an experience I had, a memory bouncing in my head, and now across the Internet. But in today’s PC world, donkey ball has apparently become an anachronistic target, with the obvious charge that the donkeys are mistreated. ” ’The donkeys mistreat the people, I guarantee that,’ says Spicer of Buckeye Donkey Ball. ’You talk to anyone who’s seen a game, and they’ll tell you the donkeys control the situation.’ ”
You bet yer ass.