When the circus comes to town and sets up the tent in your neighborhood, there is no choice. You have to go.
That is what happened to me last week. I got word that Greenon Athletic Boosters were hosting a Donkey Basketball Game not far from my house. I had no choice but to go.
Now, I had heard of this legendary exposition for years. In old yearbooks, I had seen the black and white photos of full grown adults riding donkeys in high school gymnasiums. The yellowed newspaper clippings told of fun evening years ago, but I’d never had the opportunity to see it in person.
The high school I had attended had strict rules regarding gymnasium floors. We were not allowed to set foot on the basketball floor in street shoes. We all walked neat squared corners carefully avoiding the polished wood of the court.
And so of course the first thing I wondered was how do they protect the floors from the hooves of a thundering herd of donkeys and the awful possibility of donkey droppings? My second question was how do you dribble the basketball?
Nothing I’d ever seen before could prepare me for what I was about to witness.
I slipped out the back door of the gym to see how the teams were preparing. Two teams were made up of teachers and staff from the high school and Indian Valley. The other two teams were Greenon seniors. I don’t know which team was more nervous.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m scared,” said Indian Valley science teacher Katie Miller, who also confessed she thought it was going to also be fun. Her little sister Jennifer being on the senior team added some fun to it.
Outside, the riders put on their helmets and grabbed the reins of the shaggy donkeys, which had no saddles. Pat Barthem, the wrangler for Buckeye Donkey Ball, out of Orient Ohio, gave the riders some pointers and told them to lead the donkeys into the gym.
But the herd stopped at the door.
“How do we get them up the stairs?” Someone asked.
Barthem started laughing.
“We are going to have fun tonight.”
Then the donkeys jumped up the steps and led the riders into the gym, which erupted with laughter.
As soon as they hit the floor, my first question was answered. The hooves had rubber horseshoes that didn’t even squeak like a Converse. I also found out that there was no dribbling involved. Riders just had to hold on to the reins at all times even when they were reaching for the ball. And there was a shovel, bucket, and mop sitting by the door for emergencies.
The first two teams lined up along the foul lines and faced each other for the ball drop, and the chaos began.
What followed was an evening of absolute hilarity. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.
The donkeys did not run. For the most part they plodded, slowly, while the riders frantically urged them on. Sometimes the donkeys refused to move, and we got to see a row of four riders pulling on the reins of donkeys exhibiting classic stiff-legged behavior. The football players were actually able to drag the donkey. Then there were the donkeys that rolled on their backs and the ones that bucked off their riders. I remember one senior that was never able to sit on his donkey. It was so funny to see a donkey buck a rider, then stand there looking like an adorable stuffed animal that could do no wrong.
Two thirds of the seats in the gym were full, and I think I can safely say a good time was had by all, including the donkeys.
The whole event had been the work of athletic boosters member, Deena Hardy, who acted as the announcer of the very popular event.
“I’ll do it for as many years as I am here,” she said.
Hardy and Mike Edwards, boosters president, wanted to particularly thank the local businesses and individuals who donated awards for a silent auction and drawing, and those who helped with the snack bar.
The proceeds for the event will go a variety of needs within Greenon Athletics. And of course they hope to do it all again next year with a totally sold out gym. I know I’ll be there if I can.
Other schools in the area are planning donkey ball events soon. I totally recommend taking the kids to see it.
Like I said, I haven’t laughed this hard in years. And as we all know, the world needs more laughter.