Showing posts with label donkeys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label donkeys. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blog post for the donkeys

When my computer beeped, a minute ago, I found that my surveillance camera had sent me a nice photo of my neighbor Jackie bringing back a trailer full of hay.

My immediate reaction, as an Internet user, was to say to myself that I must forward this photo to the donkeys, who’ll be so happy to discover that Jackie has a delicious big gastronomical surprise in store for them: a stock of fresh hay! Then I realized that this was a silly idea. I’m not even sure that the donkeys are picking up the Internet at present, because the phone lines are sagging under the weight of lots of snow. Like Jackie and me, the donkeys don’t yet have fiber-optics links.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Another baby donkey at Gamone

For a long time, Moshé (who’s over 20 years old) was the only donkey at Gamone. Today, on the contrary, he has no less than seven donkey companions. But he retains his independent character. Here’s a photo of him striding up the hill, brushing flies away with his tail, and using his ears as a kind of rear-view mirror.

The latest birth, a week ago, was a female.

Her name is Violette. The mother is Bella, and the father (a Provençal donkey, like Moshé) is Barnabé (French version of the biblical “Barnabas”). Here are the three of them, posing for a family portrait in front of my archaic shed:

There’s an opening in the fence between Jacky’s property and mine, so the donkeys can roam freely between the two. Here are some of them in my walnut paddock:

The presence of all these donkeys has cleaned up considerably the weeds on my land. This is an advantage for my dog Fitzroy, above all. When he dashes out on a tempestuous excursion aimed at reminding the donkeys that he's the boss at Gamone (a dozen times a day), Fitzroy no longer returns to the house covered in prickly burs, as was the case up until now. But don't imagine that my dog would ever get around to thanking the donkeys for that service.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Great weather for dogs and donkeys

This morning, Choranche received the first autumn snow. (Winter won’t start, of course, before a month’s time.)

And the view from my bathroom window proves that I’m unlikely to be dining outside on the front lawn in the near future.

Like last winter, I’ll soon be receiving a visit from Australian relatives who choose this time of the year to drop in on Europe. Inside the house, it’s not at all cold… and I haven’t even got around to lighting up my new wood stove that I’ve been installing over the last year. Outside, my dog Fitzroy adores this kind of weather, and he races around madly, burrowing into the snow whenever he halts. The donkeys, too, don’t seem to be troubled by the snow. Jackie and I had a look at them this morning, and put a small block of hay in one of my old animal shelters. But some of them preferred to stay outside, burrowing into weeds beneath the walnut trees.

The only way in which this kind of weather affects my daily existence is that it would be crazy to go out driving… supposing that I were able to get the car safely to the bottom of Gamone Road without sliding off into the creek. Between now and the arrival of my sister’s family (just before Xmas), I intend to get a set of four snow tyres installed on my car, to maximize the possibility that I’ll be able to collect them at the train station in Valence.

BREAKING NEWS: I've just received an e-mail with a warning for "level 2 snow" in our region.

Level 2 is an orange warning, one step below the red warning.

Click to enlarge

The weather folk explain that residents of an orange zone must be "very careful, because dangerous phenomena are likely". Do you find that clear? Me neither. So, I'll stay at home in front of the fireplace.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Donkey situation at Gamone

A few months ago, I deliberately refrained from indicating on my blog that my young female donkey Fanette had suddenly died. At the time, shocked and saddened, I simply failed to understand what might have killed her, almost overnight… so I preferred to remain silent. I shall never know, but donkey life goes on… and it looks like this, today, at Gamone.

[Click to enlarge]
Left to right: Bella [young Monaco female], Alice [black Monaco female], Victor [Alice’s son], Louise [gray Monaco female], Fernand [Louise’s son], Moshé and Barnabé [young local male, obviously gay].

There are seven animals: a donkey for each day of the week.

After the above-mentioned tragedy, my kind neighbor Jackie had the impression that Moshé was depressed by the disappearance of his female companion. So we decided to join our neighboring properties, donkey-wise. And the consequences are happy for all of us… particularly since the birth of the two young males.

For the moment, all these splendid beasts are grazing on my backyard slopes. Jackie has gone to the trouble of installing fine winter lodgings for his animals, but the chances are that they’ll spend the cold season outside. Tomorrow, Jackie and I plan to reinforce all the electric fences around our properties. Incidentally, I'm immensely happy to have a friendly neighbor such as Jackie who adores donkeys, chooks and my omnipresent dog Fitzroy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Baby donkey at Gamone

The day before yesterday, as I was about to set out on my usual early-morning stroll with Fitzroy, I was alarmed by a strident donkey bray from one of my neighbor's animals. Rushing up the hill, I witnessed the presence of a baby alongside the black female named Alice. The new-born donkey was struggling to get up onto its legs. No sooner had it done so than it toppled over and slid a few meters down the hillside. Reaching the Ageron home, I rang the doorbell frantically and yelled out to Jackie. Fafa appeared at the window, and I explained that a baby donkey had just been born. Within a few minutes, we were all down alongside the mother and her baby, who appeared to be in perfect shape.

Jackie announced that it was a female, whereupon Fafa proclaimed that it would be called Victoria. We looked on for half-an-hour to make sure that the baby Victoria had found her mother's teats. Jackie then picked up the baby and carried her down to the donkey shed, built on relatively flat ground.

Click to enlarge

Throughout the day, both Jackie and I wandered back to the shed frequently to admire the mother and her baby. Jackie was enraptured by the beauty of the young animal, and caressed it as if it were his own baby. All of a sudden, he yelled out:

"Victoria has balls!"

We laughed a lot. I advised Jackie to get his eyesight tested. In any case, as the old French saying goes: "If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle." From that moment on, the glorious baby donkey had a new name: Victor.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tricked by a donkey

Yesterday afternoon, when giving my donkeys a bunch of fresh thistles (their caviar), I was suddenly alarmed by the physical appearance of Fanette. Alongside the sleek silvery hide of Moshé, the 3-year-old female was terribly shaggy, and I had the impression that the forms of  bones were protruding in the region of her rump, as if she were becoming dangerously skeletal. The following photos, taken this morning, prove that Fanette is indeed shaggy, but they don't quite reflect the vision of my donkey that shocked me yesterday afternoon.

I jumped into the car and set off to St-Jean-en-Royans to ask the veterinarian for advice. When I explained that Fanette had not yet eliminated all her winter fur, the veterinarian told me that this has something to with the exceptional weather conditions over the last few months. Apparently he encounters a steady stream of owners of all kinds of animals—dogs, cats, horses, etc—who have observed the same phenomenon. In any case, the shaggy appearance of an animal that has retained a lot of its winter fur must not be interpreted as a symptom of any kind of health problem.

Have you seen any traces of diarrhea? No.

Are the donkey's rib bones visible? No, not at all, merely something that looks like rump bones.

Does the donkey appear to be eating well? Yes. Fanette gulped down the bunch of thistles so quickly that Moshé couldn't get in for a nibble.

Are you sure that your vision of "protruding rump bones" is not simply an illusion brought about by the presence of patches of thick fur alongside areas of bare hide? When I think about it, maybe you're right...

After leaving the veterinarian, I nevertheless dropped in at the local agricultural store to buy a bag of oats, on the off-chance that Fanette might be needing some kind of a boost in her summer diet. This morning, I had the impression that the donkeys looked at me as if they wondered whether I had gone crazy, serving them up fresh thistles and oats in the middle of their season of plenty, when they're surrounded by acres of luxurious grass and tasty weeds of all kinds.

In the following photo, you can distinguish the ridges of thick fur around Fanette's rump that looked to me like protruding bones, particularly when she was standing on sloping ground, and I was looking at her from behind.

You can also see the excessively fat bellies of both animals. The veterinarian told me that, ideally, I should be able to run my fingers over the sides of a donkey and feel the rib bones. For the moment, the main thing I feel on Fanette is fur. But how can you persuade a donkey to go on a diet?

OK, I was tricked by Fanette's fur. Now, when you've stopped laughing at me, let me ask you a simple question. Why do animals grow fur in winter, and then lose it in summer? Many of you probably said: To keep themselves warm in the winter cold. No, that's not a good answer. Keeping themselves warm in winter is indeed a favorable outcome of growing fur... but what I want to know is: What is the mechanism that makes the animal grow fur at exactly the time it's needed? You might have answered: Animals are designed that way. Fair enough... so long as you don't intend to say that God made them that way. Some of you might have added: Animals that happened to grow winter fur had a greater chance of survival (in the Darwinian sense) than animals without fur. That's true, too. But the answer I was looking for is the presence of genes, inside the donkey, that might be designated as a biological clock. A biological alarm clock, that rings a bell when the animal's fur-growing genes need to be triggered, in preparation for the forthcoming winter.

Geneticists have now identified precisely such biological clocks inside humans, and they are capable of studying the ways in which the operation of such devices can be upset by various external factors. We all know, for example, that some of our biological clocks become quite dysfunctional when we step onto a plane and fly to the Antipodes. And it takes a few days for the clocks to get back into a perfect operational state.

Getting back to Fanette, it appears that the internal mechanisms of her gene for shedding old fur have got screwed up by the weird weather. One day, donkey specialists with advanced training in genetic engineering will surely invent a technique for repairing biological clocks that have become temporarily unphased. Meanwhile, Fanette appears to be less upset than me about her shaggy appearance. And her old fur will inevitably be replaced by new fur by the start of the cold season.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hay for next winter

I don't usually purchase hay for the donkeys at this time of the year. But my neighbor Jackie took advantage of the fact that farmers are currently cutting their grass and transforming it into blocks of hay. He ordered a big supply, which was delivered yesterday. But there was more than enough for Jackie's animals, so I was happy to buy the surplus of 30 blocks.

I'm storing it in a corner of the house (just behind my carport), and I plan to distribute small quantities only when there's snow on the slopes. Otherwise, if the donkeys have free access to such fodder, they simply set up residence alongside the bale of hay, and nibble away at it night and day... which is not a good situation. Donkeys tend to overeat constantly. For example, at this time of the year, my two donkeys are frankly far overweight. At the height of winter, they need to be encouraged to wander around, turning up the snow, searching for tasty wet weeds.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My neighbor's donkeys

A few days ago, a bit of half-hearted barking by Fitzroy informed me that something slightly irregular was happening at Gamone. When I rushed downstairs, I discovered that we had received the visit, for the first time ever, of my neighbor's five donkeys. Fitzroy's barking only appeared, of course, to be half-hearted. The truth of the matter was that my dog was in total control of the situation. I would imagine that, in Fitzroy's mind, this meant that the donkeys were grazing contentedly, and gave no signs of attempting to enter my house. So, in a canine sense, all was more-or-less in order. During the minute or so that it took me to race back upstairs to phone my neighbor, the donkeys had moved down the road. By the time that Jackie appeared on the scene, his animals had discovered the nice patch of green fodder alongside Madeleine's place. Jackie borrowed a rope from his aunt and had no trouble leading the matriarchal donkey, followed by the others, back up to my place... where my own donkeys, Moshé and Fanette, looked down with curiosity upon all the movement.

[Click to enlarge]

With so many donkeys now present at Gamone (count me, if you so insist, in their numbers), I've often suggested to Jackie that we should set up some kind of a business. If and when my son François finds time to visit me one of these days, now that his huge TV series of moped shows is finished (the production, but not the airing), I'll ask him for advice in the spirit of the story of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894], author of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, evoked in one of my son's excellent travelogues [display].

Otherwise, Jackie and I might look into the idea of bringing our donkeys up to a cabaret level, like the smart donkeys of Emilienne d'Alençon [1869-1946], who performed at the Casino de Paris.

Besides presenting her donkeys, Emilienne was quite a talented young lady, generally described in French as a courtisane. This term (for which I can find no good English equivalent) designated an attractive female who had succeeded in imagining elegant ways of marketing her charms in the context of distinguished and wealthy admirers such as the Duke of Crussol d'Uzès, King Léopold II of Belgium and the jockey Percy Woodland. Even an aging donkey such as me could surely be infatuated by the splendor of such a trainer.

Of a sexually ecumenical disposition, Emilienne got on well with the famous model of Toulouse-Lautrec known as La Goulue [1866-1929].

Emilienne also got involved with a British lesbian poetess who called herself Renée Vivien [1877-1909] and wrote in French.

Nicknamed Sappho 1900, Renée died in a suicidal atmosphere at the tender age of 32, in the purest of depressive romantic traditions.

Talking about smart donkeys (as we once were), I happen to possess a remarkable but little-known bible on donkey wisdom (a precious gift from Christine) written by Victor Hugo.

Naturally, before making plans about their future education, prior to some kind of music-hall show, I asked my donkeys for their opinion on this project. Moshé seemed to like the idea, but Fanette reacted surprisingly (she's a young female) in a strictly negative manner.

I've told my neighbor that I would be happy to go ahead with some kind of a project aimed at bringing our donkeys up to a music-hall level.

We both agree however (at the risk of appearing as old-fashioned male sexists) that it would be unwise for the donkeys and us to get involved in any kind of fragile business context with romantic lesbian dancers and suicidal female poets, no matter how enticing they might appear.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Donkeys are fond of plum trees

Grass is great for cows, but donkeys prefer by far the fresh leaves and delicate blossoms of plum trees.

A tempest has been blowing at Gamone over the last 24 hours. Personally, the wind always drives me crazy. I wasn't born to reside in the Rhône valley, where the Mistral can blow for days and nights on end. I guess I wasn't born to be a yachtsman, either, or a glider pilot. Windy cities are the worst of all, particularly when the presence of tall buildings focuses the wind blasts upon unwary pedestrians. But the donkeys can thank the tempest for breaking this branch and offering them this unexpected feast.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Donkey neighbors

This is the first group photo I've ever succeeded in taking of all the five donkeys of Gamone.

From left to right: Fanette, Moshé and the three female donkeys acquired by my neighbor Jackie last year. The two donkey families are not in direct physical contact, because their respective paddocks are separated by a couple of electric strands. So, they observe one another at a short but respectable distance... which is fine for everybody. Donkeys are aware of their precise territory, and they prefer that things stay fixed at that level.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Donkey feed buckets

This afternoon, I installed new plastic feed buckets for Moshé and Fanette.

I purchased these buckets through the Internet, since they're much better than anything I could find in local stores. They're made out of heavy-duty plastic, they have handles so that I can fill them with oats back at the house and carry them down to the donkey paddock, and they have solid steel brackets enabling me to slip them onto a thick wooden plank that's bolted to a pair of upright posts. So, the system appeared to be foolproof.

Alas, donkeys are no fools. When they had finished gulping down their oats, Moshé (on the left) used his powerful jaws to lift up each bucket and remove it from the supporting plank. Then he kicked them down the slopes, meaning that I had to scramble down the hill for 50 meters to get hold of the empty buckets, and then carry them back up to the house. That's exactly what I would like to avoid, particularly when the slopes are slippery or covered in snow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Donkey fur, donkey thoughts

The state of the donkeys' fur is like a natural barometer indicating that winter is not far away.

In the following photo, Moshé's ears are pointing back down towards Fitzroy, sensing the dog's movements, and the donkey seems to be saying to himself: "If that bloody dog tries to bite my hind legs one more time, I'll screw him."

Maybe Fitzroy sensed that Moshé might even be getting ready to transform his thoughts into action.

In any case, the dog reckoned it was no longer a good idea to hang around in the vicinity of the donkey.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smoked donkeys

This morning, I started to burn some of the dead wood that has been lying around for ages down in the donkeys' paddock.

An hour later, I was surprised to find the donkeys standing out in the sun alongside the smoldering wood, with smoke often wafting over them. I think I know what's happening. The smoke from the dry walnut wood is not particularly acrid: neither for me nor, I suspect, for the donkeys. But it seems to keep flies and other insects away from the donkeys. The proof: they're not even wagging their tails, as they normally do, constantly, to brush away flies and insects. OK, it's surely not an ideal solution, but the donkeys appear to find it efficient, at least for a while.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ears, donkeys, a dog and birds

In 1987, on the sunny sidewalks of Fremantle (Western Australia), we often used to run into the mayor John Cattalini, who had the habit of strolling around his territory, soaking up the spirit of his electorate. My son François was amused by a facial detail. The mayor's prominent ears, protruding at right angles to his skull, seemed to flap in the America's Cup breeze as he strolled gaily through his city. "When Cattalini walks through the streets of Fremantle," my son used to say, "the city is being swept by a mobile radar system. The mayor's ears are detecting the pulse of his citizens."

These days, at Gamone, whenever I admire the marvelously mobile ears of my donkeys, I think of the mayor Cattalini in the Antipodes. Why didn't human evolution pick up this trick? With directional ears, we would know what people are saying behind our backs. As for my donkeys, the reason why they're preoccupied by what's going on behind them can be summed up in a single word: Fitzroy.

My smart dog is a cruel and cunning little bastard, who seems to have decided that those dumb donkeys need to know who's the boss at Gamone. And his technique of persuasion consists of darting in at dog speed and nipping gently the donkeys behind their rear legs, a little like leaving a business card. Fitzroy's business is simple, straightforward: "I've arrived at Gamone, I'm the new chief, the Boss, and you donkey folk had better understand it!" With the arrival of the warm weather, the Boss resides nightly in a luxuriant leafy straw-based outdoor residence that looks a little like a giant bird's nest.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to see that, for the second year, little tits (Mésanges) have made Gamone their nesting base.

Birds, still attached to our place, were darting in and out of the tree box this afternoon. Apparently, Gamone is a good address.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fine food for donkeys

At Gamone (and in most other places in France, I imagine), we're right in the middle of the dandelion season. That's to say, the slopes—including my lawn—are covered in yellow flowers, and they're about to be metamorphosed into spherical seed heads, ready to be blown into every available square centimeter of the neighborhood.

As usual, I've dragged out my electric lawnmower and made a valiant effort to remove the flowers on my lawn. But I can hear the vast hordes of dandelions on the outskirts of my lawn laughing at me cynically, since they'll be taking off shortly, in kamikaze squadrons, to make amends for their fallen brethren.

The green press often warns us that cattle fart noxious methane into the atmosphere, and that humanity would be much better off if we all resorted to eating kangaroo meat, since these Down Under beasts apparently fart more sweetly.

I don't know what my compatriots—not to mention the kangaroos themselves—might think of that great idea. It's a fact that the kangaroo appears on our national coat of arms, which—in the words of a militant vegetarian and nationalistic Aussie—must not be considered as a menu! Meanwhile, when I observe the huge annual stock of dandelions here at Gamone, I say to myself that it's a pity we can't all get around to eating rabbit meat, since everybody knows that they thrive on dandelions. Here's a photo (found on the web) of a champion Flemish Giant specimen, raised in Germany, capable of producing 8 to 10 kg of meat.

Admittedly, there might be an organizational problem in making sure that the herd of meat-producing rabbits settles down in exactly the places where you have a surplus of dandelions. And you would need to slaughter them all as soon as your dandelions run out… by which time the rabbits would have switched to eating the grass of your lawn. So, I'm not sure that my idea's well thought-out. Meanwhile, I've found that mowed dandelions and grass are fine food for donkeys, particularly when it's seasoned by a sprinkling of oats.

Neither Moshé nor Fanette needs such a supplement to their diet, of course, since they're both as plump as baby mammoths.

Maybe I prepared this fodder for the donkeys to symbolize my destruction of the dandelions… which was indeed a purely symbolic destruction.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring revival

In an earlier life, at an epoch designated communally by archaeologists as BF [BEFORE FITZROY], this excavated textile specimen was no doubt a sock… but my image is of poor quality, since I don't have the necessary photographic equipment to record forensic scenes.

Today, alas, in spite of our unbounded faith in the great annual revival orchestrated by the Creator and His Hordes of Heavenly Angels, there's no way in the world that I'll ever again be able to put a foot into a resuscitated version of that sock, which has clearly gone far too far beyond the Third Day. Be that as it may, I'm determined to make a massive spring effort to restore my Gamone house and property (maybe with the help of historical photos from the present blog) to something like the state they were in back in the BF era.

Talking about my second dear dog, here's a photo of the residence that Fitzroy has set up for himself (with a minimum of help from me) after his spontaneous decision to move out of the magnificent wooden mansion that I had built for him just a little further up the street.

An obvious advantage of this new place (I'm obliged to admit) is the fact that it offers an uninterrupted day-and-night outlook over the valley: that's to say, primarily, the Cornouze. You'll understand that, for an esthete such as Fitzroy, the constant presence of this beautiful view is essential, indeed vital. Dogs do not live by bones alone.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy's sporting interests remain as usual. In that domain, I have to correct remarks I've made in the past about his activities in hose handling [display]. Maybe it's because I'm growing old—or maybe simply because because I'm not a dog—but it takes me time to understand certain things. I had imagined the case of the long hose wound around my young plum tree as a screwed-up session of hose running [display]. It is in fact a totally new sport, named hose curling. It was only this morning, thanks to the persistence of my dog, that I became fully aware of this.

Any old idiot (such as me, now that Fitzroy has made it clear to me) can tell at a glance whether we're observing hose running or rather hose curling, because they're played with quite different lengths of hose. And hose running doesn't require the presence of a tree.

Talking of plum trees and spring revival, you may recall the January anecdote about the horses of Will the Welshman and my donkeys devouring the bark of young trees down in front of the house.

Following the departure of the horses, I modified the position of the electric fence in an almost certainly vain attempt to save these trees. Well, I prayed fervently to my compatriot saint Mary MacKillop [display]. It's still too early to believe in a miracle, but this photo I took this afternoon seems to suggest that the good old sheila might have heard my pleas, and acted upon them. If so, thanks a lot, mate!

Meanwhile, since the sunny weather is, in itself, a mini miracle at Gamone, I decided—as I said earlier on in this blog post—to get stuck into cleaning up Fitzroy's winter mess. Sophia, of course, couldn't give a damn about whether or not the lawn is strewn with sticks. She's even more Zen, more of a lazy existentialist, wise but unworldly, than I am… which is saying a lot, particularly in the domain of spring cleaning. As for Fitzroy, he's clearly shocked by the idea that I might be about to get rid of all his stuff.

To be perfectly honest, for the moment, I've left the tangled twigs lying there. Fitzroy will have a chance of deciding, during the night, whether he should make an effort to redistribute them all over again. As I always say (and I'm sure my two dogs agree with me): Live and let live.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Horse lessons terminated

Yesterday, I told my Welsh friend Will—seen in the following photo at Gamone with his pair of splendid friends—that it was time for me to terminate my horse lessons, which I mentioned briefly in my article entitled Learning a thing or two about horses [display].

Two aspects of the situation had gotten out of control. On the one hand, unlike donkeys, these great beasts need a constant supply of fine hay in winter, and it goes without saying that I'm not in a position to obtain such a supply. Two or three local farmers have been prepared to sell me a bale of hay from time to time, but it's generally hay that they themselves have purchased from other farmers with rich pastures in relatively remote localities. Besides, that goes to explain why there's no longer much serious agricultural activity in the vicinity of Choranche. In our commune, there's only one remaining dairy-farming family: our mayor Bernard Bourne and his son Frédéric.

The second problem is a consequence of the first one, but more annoying. When the horses decide that they're not getting enough good fodder, they take action. The day before yesterday, towards the end of the afternoon, the black horse found a weak corner in the barbed-wire fence at the top of my property, and it succeeded in bursting through. When I saw it wandering around up on top of the ridge above my house, I immediately scrambled up there and cut away the dangling barbed wire, so that the animal would not injure itself if I managed to coax it back down the slopes. By that time, the piebald horse had discovered the hole, and it promptly climbed up to its mate. Night started to set in, and it was no longer possible to intervene in any way whatsoever. So I decided to postpone operations until the following morning. Besides, since there wasn't much that could be done at this point, I decided that there was no point in phoning Will, to tell him what had happened.

At 5 o'clock the next morning (yesterday), the barking of the dogs woke me, and I discovered that the two horses and the two donkeys were wandering around in the yard in front of my house. Once again, I decided that nothing could be done until daylight. Two hours later, when I went outside to evaluate the situation, all four animals had disappeared. I jumped into my car and started searching everywhere, but there was no sign of them. Around 8 o'clock, I finally got through to Will, and described the situation. He and Sylvie arrived down at Gamone a little later, and we decided to climb up to the top of the ridge to see if the animals were hanging around on the land of my neighbor Gérard Magnat. They weren't in sight. Suddenly, we glimpsed the donkeys running up from the main road, pursued by a yellow van, along the winding track that leads to Gérard's house. Will only half-believed me when I discouraged him from scrambling down in a straight line towards the house. Although it seems to be close at hand, there's a messy creek with steep banks, which can only be crossed easily by sheep (as I've known too well for several years). So, we started back down towards my house, with a view to going down the road to access Gérard's place. Within half an hour, Will had met up with his horses, on the outskirts of Pont-en-Royans, and I was able to lead my donkeys calmly back to Gamone.

Trying to grasp what had taken place during the dark hours of the night, I told Will that the donkeys, when they escape from their paddock (as has often happened), are capable of hanging around the house for hours or even days on end. Why was it that the horses ventured rapidly onto the busy road down below Gamone, in the hours before dawn, and followed it blindly towards Pont-en-Royans? Here, Will gave me another lesson on horse psychology, which might be summed up in this famous logo for Johnnie Walker whisky:

Once a horse has moved stealthily (or almost) out of its usual yard, and found freedom in the wide, wide world, it's sole desire is to keep on walking, up until it runs into a gate or some kind of barrier. Well, between Gamone and Pont-en-Royans, there are no gates, and the only barriers are a few fences around the yards of private properties.

This escapade of the two horses, accompanied by my donkeys, was an extremely dangerous excursion, which could have brought about a road accident. Obviously, I cannot tolerate this kind of risk. So, I told Will that it would be preferable if he took his horses up to Presles. And that is what he did, immediately after. As for me, I'm a little wiser about horses than I was before. Meanwhile, I've asked folk who know me (my daughter, above all) to give me a sharp kick if I were to evoke, ever again, the idea of inviting horses to Gamone as guests.