The Last Laugh: Donkey Baseball

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One pitch, one hit, and one big mess—it's donkey baseball as only this column could present it.  

“To be good is noble. To tell people how to be good is even nobler, and much less trouble.”
Mark Twain

Well sir, the weather here at Plumtree Crossin’ has up and got itself stuck betwixt spring and summer . . . an’ the days has been mighty dull and dreary of late. So much so, in fact, thet the ol’ loafers over to the Gen’ral Store has been hard pressed to come up with many subjects fit fer lyin’ about! 

Thet bein’ the case, I have to admit thet I’m hound-dog grateful fer a piece of down-home tomfoolery what arrived in the mail recently . . . from a feller name ol’ Ed Griep. In point of fact, of Ed’s narrytive is so all-fired amusin’ thet I aim to sit back, relax, an’ enjoy it right along with the rest of you.

Last evenin’ (Ed begins), me an’ ol’ Sally Lou went over to the annual Donkey Baseball Benefit game. As usual, thet contest figgered to be a toe-to-toe battle betwixt the volunteer fire department’s squad–called the “Foundation Savers”–an’ the American Legion Post 9, what took the name “Spitballers”.

Now as I’m sure you’ll recall, them fellers use a baseball nigh onto as big as an October pumpkin. The object of the sport, o’course, is to git a hit, lope over to some walleyed mizzerble excuse fer a donkey, hop aboard, an ‘try to git to first base in the shortest time possible.

As you know, although the donkeys is told the rules of the game jist like ennyone else–and despite the fact them critters is all assured thet they plays roles of the utmost importance–the beasts ain’t always overly enthusiastic about doin’ they parts. Iffen a batter manages to hit the ball in the first place, an’ iffen he’s able to git his mount headed in the appropriate direction, he jist might reach base after five er ten minutes of coaxin’ an’ shoutin'”giddyup” . . . more often than not, though, the critters manage to out smart the ball players in one way er another.

Now it seems thet one of the donkeys thet was brought in fer the contest went by the name of Clementine. She were a second-season player, too . . . an’ all the folks was happy to see ol’ Clem ’cause she’d been a real stellar competitor in the precedin’ year’s event.

So when the Foundation Savers won first ups, they naturally called out Callison Hawthorne (who had hisself a solid .125 battin’ average an’ was therefore the team star) . . . an’ their coach one Billy Bob Arnold drug out ol’ Clementine to give his champion ev’ry advantage.

After spittin’ a fair half-quart of tobacco juice ’round the infield, struttin’ back an’ forth across’ home plate a-wavin’ at his kin, an’ shoutin’ a few insults in the direction of Gunda Gray (the Spitballers’ pitcher) …Callison settled hisself next to the bag, all ready an’ waitin’ fer the first pitch.

I s’pose I should remind you thet though of Gunda is about the easiest goin’ feller around he don’t take to teasin’ too well. So, havin’ jist been called a “pointy-headed flatlander,” he loaded up with a spitball what contained more water than the Johnstown Flood of ’32 an’ flang it toward home plate. . . an’ Callison up an’ smacked thet wet cannonball in a spray spewin’ line drive to center field.

Now ev’rybody on Gunda’s team was familiar with his spitball prowess, so they was all wearin’ yeller slickers an’ rain hats afore they took to the field. An’ after hearin’ Callison call Gunda a “creampuff”a few of the fellers went so far as to don they swim goggles . . . figgerin’ the game were likely to het up some. In fact, the center fielder–Arlington Guenther–were rigged up with his nephew’s goggles (which had a crack in one lens from one of them rock fights thet young’un seems to inspire ev’ry day er so) as he trotted back under the still-droolin’ fly ball.

Meanwhiles, ol’ Callison flang hisself across Clementine’s back an’ commenced moseyin’ toward first base. Now thet donkey as a result of her particypation in the previous year’s game had figgered out thet the quicker she rounded them bases, the sooner she’d be shut of carryin’ players an’ able to settledown to munchin’ sweet clover agin. Furthermore, since the animal were a dang sight smarter than Callison (which ain’t sayin’ much), she recollected of Gunda’s spitball tossin’ ability, too. So, when they headed out fer the base, Clem kept one eye on where she was a-goin’ an t’other on the flyin’ ball . . . all the while stayin’ well aware of the location of the nearest possible flood shelter.

Well, Arlington hollered out, “I got it” jist like they do in the pro’s but the cracked goggles confused his vision an’ he dropped the soggy sphere. Ol’ Arl recovered quick, though . . . he picked up the ball an’ throwed it–as hard as ev’r he could–to Richie Lee Summerfield, the first baseman.

Now Clementine had, the year previous, contracted both swimmer’s ear an’ dishpan hooves from bein’ smacked by one of Gunda’s spitballs. So when she seed thet soppin’ missile headed toward where she was pointed, she up and lit out fer the bullpen. Callison (who were already soaked from hittin’ the ball) was determined to git on base come hell er high water, an’ took powerful exception to the donkey’s change of plans.

Though he pulled fer all he was worth, howev’r, Callison’s efforts was in vain. Clementine bored headlong inta the bullpen . . . an’ the bulls (what belonged to Marvin Coldfield, who was allowed to house ’em in the enclosure in exchange fer tendin’ the ballpark grounds) lit outa there an’ onto the playin’ field.

When the teams seed them cattle a-stampedin’ toward ’em, they hightailed it fer safety by auto, pickup, and foot. At the same time, Clementine was keepin’ a weather eye on the bouncin’ baseball what Arlington had throwed. She watched it roll fer a ways, an’ then come to a complete stop. Still–bean’ cautious by nature–Clem waited a bit, to be sure it were safe, afore headin’ back onto the playin’ field.

As she charged back outta the pen, ol’ Callison thonked his head a good shot, which caused him to swaller his chaw. Clementine didn’t pay no mind to her rider’s mishap, howev’r, an’ headed right over to first base . . .then to second, third, an’ on home.

Callison jist wobbled along astride her all the while . . . with a vacant look plastered on his face an’ seemin’ly unaware of an uncarin’ about where he was headed.

O’course, inasmuch as the ballpark were completely empty of humans, there weren’t no actual speakin’ witnesses to Callison’s home run. In fact, them bulls were so busy cleanin’ out Winslow Armbuster’s popcorn stand thet they didn’t seem to notice the triumph either.

Howev’r, I did undertake a little research this mornin’, an’ as fer as I kin tell they’s never been a home run hit in a donkey baseball game afore . . . nor a contest thet lasted fer only one pitch.

Callison don’t seem to care much about the fact thet he may well have set hisself some kind of unofficial record, though. It seems he’s still got the blind staggers from thumpin’ his head, an’ the chaw what he swallered is still a-crouchin’ mean in the bottom of his belly. So it’s a safe bet he’ll be off his taters fer a spell.

Clementine ain’t feelin’ no pain, howev’r, an’ has even become somewhat of a local heroine.. Leastwise, her owner Lem Fairfield has seed fit to retire her from the donkey ride troupe what he takes around to the county schools. . . an’ she spends her time happily grazin’ on red clover, jist a-waitin’ fer next year’s game.

“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” –Gelett Burgess

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