Al Batt: The Flatulent Donkeys sang ‘Tears in my goulash’

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

“Do you like flying squirrels?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never flown one,” I told the inquiring caller.

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Flying monkeys are kind of creepy and I’ve never seen a flying cow or donkey.

While on the subject of donkeys, I shared my intentions with my wife who responded, “Have you gone soft in the head?” She mumbled, “Give blood, play donkey ball.”

I’d planned on riding donkeys during a spirited game of donkey softball and then, displaying a demented rate of recidivism, a donkey basketball contest. I know what you’re thinking, “What do you do with the space where a normal man’s brain would be?” Each game was a worthy fundraiser. As  money providers, the games were slicker than donkey spit on a doorknob.

To be safe or to tag another player out in softball, players had to be in a riding position atop a donkey. To achieve that, we pulled and tugged at the stubborn animals, dodging an occasional kick. When the batter hit a fair ball, he had to get on the donkey at home plate and ride around the bases. The donkey didn’t always agree on the route. I climbed aboard my noble burro and yelled, “Hold her, Newt, she’s headed for the barn.” If a base runner fell off a donkey three times or lost his donkey, he was called out. I was told my donkey dipped snuff and I learned to never tell a donkey she was just like her mother.

In basketball, players needed to stay on their donkeys to shoot, pass or steal the ball. If the ball was dropped, a player could dismount to retrieve the ball, but he had to bring his donkey with him. The hardest part of playing donkey basketball was the floor. There is a reason it’s called the hardwood.

Part of the registration fee covered an insurance policy. I managed to stay upright at all times. No one was injured in the games I played, other than minor bumps and bruises that could have been contracted while watching a football game on TV. Looking back, I feel sorry for the donkeys.

A cousin had a donkey ranch in Blanco, Texas. He worked with rescued and discarded donkeys. I’ve walked in Arizona where donkeys were used as pack animals to bring supplies to our campsite.

I knew just enough about  donkeys to be dangerous when I was privileged to be part of a group composed of 34 writers chosen from Germany, Great Britain, France, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Netherlands and the United States. We were in Hungary on a lovely day and stopped at a rural eatery for real Hungarian goulash.

The server took my order and said, “Do not give the donkeys beer!”

What donkeys?

My goulash arrived. It was delicious. I was on my third bite, when the server repeated, “Do not give the donkeys beer!” in a voice like a football coach having a bad year. I thought maybe it was a way of saying, “Enjoy your meal” in Hungarian. Or maybe everyone complained about donkeys drinking beer, but no one had done anything about it until she decided to remedy the situation.

I thought the wisest thing to do was to not complicate things with a “Huh?” or a “What?” It didn’t seem proper to pepper her with questions about nonexistent donkeys.

One of my fellow travelers got up to get a beer. I watched him leave the table and I watched donkeys come to the table. I didn’t know where the donkeys had come from. I thought perhaps they were busboys, but one donkey ate the absent man’s goulash. Flag on the play!

I’m not sure why a restaurant kept donkeys. Maybe the donkeys were dishwashers who worked for goulash.

A different server checked on our well-being. She was unconcerned that one of the donkeys had polished off a plate of goulash. As she grabbed the dirty plates, I asked her why all the warnings about feeding the donkeys beer? Did drinking cause them to eat goulash? She explained they weren’t supposed to guzzle beer because it made them flatulent. Mystery solved.

The tips were generous because the food and the entertainment were exceptional. I was among the last getting on the bus to leave because I wanted to wait until the cows came home.

I told my fellow scribes that we needed to form a band just so we could call ourselves The Flatulent Donkeys.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.