New Year to you all. We wish everyone a most successful 2007!
This next story is one
that is quite touching even though the language is older.
PETRONELLA by A. G.
I stood in the dusty
pound at Lydenburg, South Africa, and watched the
unwanted donkeys being put up for sale.
Most of the unfortunate animals were sold, and I didn’t like the way
their new owners took possession, trashing their purchases before ever a task
was set them and their willingness tested.
One by one, and in small groups, the little pilgrims were set on the
dreary road that leads through labour and starvation to merciful death. At last there was only one left, an old grey
jenny with one eye blinded and one torn ear hanging loppily from its
middle. She was covered with ticks, her
knees were bent and her head hung down. A picture of dejection.
A young native bid sixpence for her and laughed raucously. I was prospecting for gold at the time and
almost down but not out, for I still had my tools and six shillings in cash. I
had intended buying a bag of meal and supplementing my sugar and coffee
supply. But now I knew that I must buy
the aged jenny and sacrifice a precious cartridge as well. Between the eyes and a little above, and
she’d never know what hit her. I raised the bidding to a shilling and watched
my extra coffee go down the drain. The
other fellow bid one and three. I sent
my sugar ration after the coffee and upped it threepence more. My opponent made a scornful remark and
slouched off; the donkey was mine to release through the barrel of my old Smith
and Wesson, as soon as we could get out of town. For no reason at all I named her
Petronella. Getting her out of town
wasn’t going to be easy, by the look of her, so I dug into my pack for some
salt, which is ambrosia to asses the world over. Her good ear pricked up as I held the dainty
under her muzzle. Her nose wrinkled
ecstatically as she crunched it, and she emitted those curious,
death-rattlelike sounds which in the asinine etiquette indicate pleasure. With more salt on my palm, I led her away and
up the road. It is bad manners to carry
a gun in town, so the old Smith and Wesson was in my
pack. When we came, to a sufficiently
remote spot I transferred its holster to my belt. The action reminded Petronella of goodies and
she edged nearer ingratiatingly. I gave
her a little salt and then, for some inexplicable reason, I fastened my pack on
her emaciated back. She pricked her good
ear forward and started off up the mountain trail in front of me as a well-trained
pack animal should. Gone was the air of
dejection, and gone, too, the bent and trembling knee. In place of the sorry moke in the pound was a
frail but determined old lady, loved and ready to get back to the sort of task
she understood. She brought a curious
kind of dignity to her labour. I thought:
“Well, if she gives me any trouble or looks like falling, I’ll bump her
off, but it’s nice not having to carry the pack.” Even then I knew I could no more shoot
Petronella than fly. She gave me trouble
all right. The very first night she
chewed my pack about, trying to get at the salt inside. The next night, after we had made camp, she
disappeared. I thought: “Good riddance,” but then I started worrying
in case she had broken a leg, or a snake had bitten her, and so I spent half
the night searching. When I finally gave
up and returned, she was lying next to the ashes of my fire, chewing away at
the pack once more. After that I stopped
worrying, and in the year during which she and I fossicked around she often
went off on her own for a few hours, but always came back in time to carry her
load. She invented a little game after
she felt she knew me well enough to take liberties. Whenever we approached a spinney where the
bush was thick, she would gallop ahead and hide in it. Having found the sort of cover she needed to
fool me, she would stand dead still while I fumed and fretted, usually within a
couple of yards of her hide-out. After
half an hour of this kind of fun she would bray derisively, to show me where
she had been all the time, and then trot up and nuzzle
at my pockets, demanding a reward for being so darned clever. Those were halcyon days, for our needs were
small and the country supplied most of them.
Long, hot days and clear, cool nights, rain sometimes but always
followed by the drying-out sun and wind.
We knew thirst, too, but never badly, for Petronella’s instinct was
infallible and all I had to do was give her her head and follow her lean little
rump to a water hole. One day an old
fellow turned up with a whole string of donkeys, and one of them was a
jack. Petronella should have known
better, at her age. But
girls will be girls, and in due course the horrible truth became obvious –
Petronella was about to become a mother.
When her time was near, I had to go into Lydenburg on urgent business
and so I left her in charge of a boy I thought I could trust. I returned inside a week, late at night and
during a terrific storm. I went to look
for my boy to find out how Petronella fared.
He had disappeared, and so had most of my kit. I stumbled about in the mud and rain, waiting
for flashes of lightning to show me where the jenny was. And then I heard the jackals yip-yapping and
snarling on a plateau above the spring.
I got there just too late, for the brutes had torn at the little body of
the foal as it was born, and it died as I lifted it up. Petronella had fought them off for as long as
she was able. She was in a terrible
state, her muzzle ripped and her flank savaged.
Carrying the dead foal I led her back to the shack and bedded her down
where I had light to see to dress her wounds.
All next day she followed me about like a dog, and when I stopped she
pressed her head against my thigh, her misery too much to bear alone. She would not eat or drink and her one fear
seemed to be that I would go away and leave her again. She died on the evening of the second day
after my return, with her maimed ear pressed against my side and her poor, thin
flank heaving less and less, until it finally went quite flat and was
still. I dug a deep hole where no gold
would ever be found and cheated the jackals by laying heavy rocks over her body
and over the closed grave as well. I
buried the child of her dotage with her.
As I did so I remembered the black cross etched over her withers, the
beam straight down her spine and the bar crucifix from side to side. Coloured servants in the Cape
used to tell us, long ago, that the mark was imprinted on the hides of grey
donkeys because once The Man rode one in triumphant humility before mankind.
(Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
riding on a donkey is mentioned in all four gospels.) Also who knew about the
cross markings on donkeys? Check out
pictures on the internet.
MAY YOU HAVE- WALLS
FOR THE WIND AND A ROOF FOR THE RAIN
AND DRINKS BESIDE THE FIRE
LAUGHTER TO CHEER YOU
AND THOSE YOU LOVE NEAR YOU,
AND ALL THAT YOUR HEART MAY
DESIRE CELTIC BLESSING
There is a space on everyone’s bookshelves for
books one has outgrown but cannot give away.
They hold one’s youth between their leaves, like flowers pressed on a
half-forgotten summer’s day. Marion C.
I have been at the
bedside of many people in their final moments, when they stand on the edge of
eternity, and I have never heard anyone say, “Bring me my diplomas! I want to look at them one more time. Show me my awards, my medals, that gold watch
I was given.” When life on earth is
ending, people don‘t surround themselves with objects. What we want around us is people
– people we love and have relationships with.
In our final moments we all realize that relationships are what life is
all about. Wisdom is learning the truth
sooner rather than later. Don’t wait
until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that nothing matters more. In heaven God won’t say, “Tell me about your
career, your bank account, and your hobbies.”
Instead He will review how you treated other people, particularly those
in need. (The Purpose-Driven Life)
Sad but true:
A British company has developed a product
called “Spray-On Mud” so city dwellers can give their expensive 4x4 vehicles
the appearance of having been off-road for a day of hunting or fishing without
ever leaving town. The mud is even
filtered to remove stones and debris that might scratch the paint. According to the company, sales are going
If you knew for
certain that you were going to lose your voice and that you would never be able
to speak again, what would you want your final words to be? A man with throat cancer faced an operation
that would save his life but not his voice.
Just before surgery, he spent time with his wife telling her of his
love. He did the same with his
daughter. The he asked his doctor to let
him know precisely when the anesthetic would make him unconscious. As the man was slipping off to sleep, he said
distinctly, “Jesus! Jesus!” That was the
last word he chose to utter in this life.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, …
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Philippians 2:10,11
Sister Deena had just returned home from Sunday
evening service when she was startled by a burglar. With great biblical authority she yelled,
“Stop! Acts2:38”, which implies “Turn
from your sin.” The thief stopped dead
in his tracks. Then the woman calmly
called the police and explained what she had done. As the officer cuffed the man, he asked the
burglar, “Why did you stop your burgling?
All the old lady did was yell a bible verse at
you.” “Bible verse?
replied the crook.
“She said she had an ax and two .38s!”
all for now. Talk to you soon. Love and prayers,
Bar River and Echo Bay