I remember when I was growing up on the farm that we had two old donkey’s, a jack and a jenny, which we gave the ever-original donkey names of Jack and Jenny. We only used them to plow up the garden in the springtime so most of the time they pretty much just wandered about the farm whenever and wherever they pleased. I remember they were inseparable, and they would stand for hours along the fence line out by the house and just nuzzle one another. Being meaner than a striped-eyed snake, I’d sometimes get so annoyed by them that I'd sneak away from everyone and throw rocks at Jack and Jenny just to get them to move. They’d just look at me with those big ol' sad donkey eyes and walk off to a more secluded location where they’d again nuzzle each other.
Cows on the farm.
Nobody ever knew where Jack and Jenny came from, they were on the farm when we moved there several years before. Mom and Dad asked the man who owned the farm about to how old Jack and Jenny were, and he said he didn’t know. He said he was 45 years old and from the time he was a kid, he always remembered Jack and Jenny being there. I also remember in the building out from the house, near where we had a doghouse for our Saint Bernard named Tuffy, there was hanging on the wall two old leather harnesses. The leather was cracked and the metal tarnished but I recall that someone, probably my granddad, decided to oil up the leather and clean up the tarnished metal so we could use the harnesses on Jack and Jenny. Well, when they were cleaned up, the metal turned out to be brass and boy did those harnesses ever shine. Even I realized just how pretty Jack and Jenny were in those harnesses, to me they seemed to step a little higher and seem a bit more regal whenever they wore them.
The building where the harnesses were found was near here.
But like I said, Jack and Jenny led a pretty good life on the farm, but Lord could they ever get on your nerves with the incessant nuzzling of each other. It was day in and day out, every time you'd see them, they’d just be standing around nuzzling each other. I remember complaining about them to my Granddad, and he would just tell me, “They’re old. It’s hard to tell how long they’ve been here. Just let 'em be.” They weren’t any fun to aggravate anyway so aside from the occasional thrown rock, I typically ignored them. That is until the one day when we found Jenny laying dead in the road. Jack was standing beside of her and was nuzzling her.
Well as you might imagine, moving a dead donkey is a chore. Whenever a large animal would die on the farm, we’d get the tractor and using a chain, we’d drag the carcass back into the woods to an out of the way location where the foxes and possums and buzzards would clean it up. We never buried the large animals, probably because have you ever tried to bury a cow or a donkey? But it just so happened that the part of the road that Jenny died in was in part of the road that we couldn’t get around with the tractor. And to get to the place back in the woods where we dragged the dead carcasses to, we had to go down this road. But it was blocked. The road was narrow there, and one side dropped into the holler and the other side was a steep hillside so there was no way to get around it. My granddad thought he could drive the tractor over Jenny but us kids wouldn’t hear of that, so he had to drive the tractor all the way to the other end of the farm, then down the main road to the gate at the end of the farm road that led up into our farm…and back to the spot the road where Jenny lay dead. It was about a 4 mile trip to go around the farm just to return back to nearly the exact same spot that you had just left.
The old farm road.
But that done, a chain was quickly hooked to Jenny’s carcass and it was dragged back into the far corner of the farm woods. Jack closely followed along behind, head hanging low the whole time. Of course, we felt sorry for the old feller, but to us kids, this was prime entertainment so we followed along behind Jack and the tractor and thus became a makeshift funeral procession for a dead donkey.
After reaching a secluded spot back in the wood to leave the carcass, it was quickly unchained and left there. A few of the kids jumped on the tractor for the return trip, and the rest of us walked back. But everyone noticed that Jack was not accompanying us back home, he just remained there beside of Jenny’s carcass, nuzzling her.
The far corner of the farm woods.
The next morning, Jack didn’t show up for his morning bucket of oats, so we all figured he was still back in the woods with Jenny’s carcass. Mom told us to take the bucket of oats back to him and let him eat, and she told us to get a halter and lead him up to the pond for a drink of water. She reminded us to be gentle with Jack because as she put it "ol’ Jack is probably going to worry hisself to death." Well, us kids took off up through the meadow by the house, which was a shortcut to the far corner of the farm woods, and we made our way back to the spot where we figured Jack would be. Sure enough, we found him standing there beside of Jenny’s now bloating carcass, still nuzzling her to get up. We hollered for Jack to come and eat, and we waved the bucket of oats in the air for him to see. Jack turned to look at us, and even took a couple of steps toward us, but then he turned back to Jenny’s carcass, nuzzled her, and then just collapsed. We then took off running to him, hollering like a pack of banshee’s, but as we found out when we reached him, Jack was dead.
The old farmhouse.
We ran home and told Mom what had happened, and she didn’t really believe us, I reckon she figured that Jack probably just fell over from exhaustion or something. But she and Granddad got in the truck and drove back to the far corner of the farm woods, where she discovered that Jack was indeed dead, and he had fell right beside of Jenny. Mom was quick to point out to everyone how Jack and Jenny’s muzzles were touching. Mom stated matter-of-factly that Jack had grieved himself to death, and she commented that old people are like that too. She told us that when an old man or an old woman dies after they have been married for a long time, the other one would soon follow them to the grave. She continued with how it just seemed like old people can’t get along without each other, and that they seem to lose their will to live. Then she looked back at Jack and Jenny and sadly said, “Jack just didn't want to live without Jenny. Well anyway, they are better off now.”
Appalachia Through My Eyes - Hoop Snakes
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