“The aged and withered member of an old donkey.”


The old Officer thought of his grandfather, on his fathers side. He and his wife lived in a village far from the city in a place where modern medicine had yet to find a foothold. His grandparents after a year of marriage had to conceive and gossip was rife. The grandfather, a no-nonsense sort with a temper that scared even the wildest of dogs sought the help of a local healer.

The healer told him to send his grandmother to him and within the year his father had been created, born and become the delight of his grandparents. His grandfather was perplexed, what could the healer have done? He went to talk to him. The healer aware of his grandfather’s temper; said nothing. Waving him away, he said he couldn’t share the secrets of the Elders.

This would not satisfy his grandfather, so he asked his wife what had occurred. His grandmother, although demure to the point of prudery, had an easily provoked temper over private matters and in no uncertain terms told him that she was unsatisfied and to say no more on the topic. Her eyes dared him to continue his persistence, but he relented, knowing the almighty hue and cry she would inflict on the household.

His grandfather could not contain his curiosity; so one day, while his grandmother was at market, he searched the bedroom. After turning bedclothes and pillows asunder he came upon a strange object; what looked to be the aged and withered member of an old donkey.

What magic did this member hold? His grandfather needed to know the trickery involved; so the spirit of science, he decided to try and procure the member of an old donkey. Fortunately, they owned such a donkey that lived alone in a small field. Wild and as bad-tempered as his grandparents and rarely ever put to use.

His grandfather armed with a saw made for the field. The donkey would in no way comply with his grandfather’s experiment and gave him an almighty kick to the temple. He was concussed for a month and at his grandmother’s strictest behest, pursued no further scientific experiments and became a man of devout faith.


“The aged and withered member of an old donkey.”

That is what he had called Pero. Loudly and clearly in front of the men, both experienced and new. Pero went red and started to fumble with his pants; the Officer thought he was going for his pistol and punched Pero hard, right on the nose.

A fuss his grandmother would have envied broke out. He even got a call from the Colonel himself. He didn’t need this, he was old. Looking at his hand he imagined that his bruised and swollen little finger was the withered member of an old donkey. The wrinkles and scar tissue, burnt brown from days under the sun, held quite a resemblance.

Ach! He didn’t want to be reminded of that wart every time he looked at his hands. All was quiet now; Pero bandaged and scowling, returned from his visit to the infirmary. At least now he would find a few days peace, until Pero’s nose was fixed and he could talk again, without sounding like a strangled camel.

In this spare moment, he returned to the book on his ancestor’s trip with Red-Headed Westerner to the Plateau:

To Chapter Eighteen – Charles and I