THE DONKEY’S SPIRIT: Colin Nichol

For a time I was, as actors put it, “resting”. So my brother asked me to caretake his farm high in the hills above Armadale. It was lush and large, nineteen acres (don’t ask me in digital) and was home to a large flock of sheep which I often pulled from the mud around the stream and dam. There were also three horses and a yard of chooks that produced a generous supply of eggs for family and friends. 

It is likely I would not have accepted but for my having my best friend Leo for company and protection. Being a mix of labrador and shepherd, and possibly a dash of kelpie, he was well-suited to farm life.

The house was large, old, mostly timber and built around the original brick cottage. On the side of a hill that sloped down to the stream and dam it overlooked the other side of the valley with apple and pear trees to the left. On the slope around to the right, the orange and Granny Smith trees stood in two large clumps where the stream swung down from its source. 

There were several stands of apricot which presented real work at picking time. I was allowed to help myself to figs from the venerable tree of the neighbour to the far left, only just visible.

It was quiet and isolated around the old homestead.

At a distance there were two other farmhouses. One further up the right side of the valley where its owner constantly sprayed fruit trees. The other, far around to the right above the spring, bred gilgies in his pool.

I can’t recall why there was a young donkey, nor when he arrived. A sweet soul I thought, he wasn’t there when I first moved in but he got along well with the horses and me, he was not lonesome and I made sure Leo and I chatted with him every day. His raucous, honking echoed around the valley, which I supposed meant he was pleased to see us.

It was different with the horses as I discovered when they decided we were friends. Standing on their left as you do, they showed their affection by trying to lean on me as horses do to one another, which meant having to quickly avoid being toppled, possibly crushed. 

But the donkey was ill. That was not obvious at first but a later examination revealed he had a mysterious complaint and nothing could be done. I was determined we would not lose him and that care would win out. I started giving him medicines and cosseting him in his shed with his favourite foods. 

In the middle of the night I would check he was comfortable on a clean straw bed and under his blanket and that his water was fresh. I reassured him he would soon get well but in his last distressing week I lost sleep and became ill myself. 

Tears didn’t bring him back. Now, sadly, I can’t even remember his name, only his spirit.

© COLIN NICHOL 2021

Colin Nichol was born in Mosman Park and spent much of his childhood in Fremantle. For nearly six years he was a leading WA DJ,  compere and station programme director at Radio 6PM.

He moved to England and became a DJ aboard Radio Caroline, the pirate radio station which changed the face of broadcasting in the UK.  Colin later worked  with Radio Luxembourg and the BBC before joining the British Forces Broadcasting Service, working from Gibraltar and Malta.

When he returned to Australia he worked with Radio 6KY and is currently the subject of a  WA State Library documentary which outlines his role in introducing Rock and Roll to WA. He became the president of the Hi Fi Club and is listed in the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame and local Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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