Donkeys, Discouragement, and Little House on the Prairie

I wish that Ma had written a Pre-quill.  Pre-quell?  Pre-quall?  You know what I mean.  

Laura’s books are all the happy go lucky viewpoint of a sheltered child…

Laura: “And then we had to move again because…whoops, the government said we’re on Indian Territory.”

Ma: “What in the world Charles?  Didn’t you check with the government office before you decided to spend a year of our lives building a homestead here in Indian Territory?”

Laura: “And then my sister Mary went blind, but she was always happy and beautiful.”

Ma:  “And then my firstborn child went blind, because we were out in the sticks, and didn’t have a decent doctor to treat her.  And how will we ever afford to take care of her?  Get her the Braille books and the education she’ll need?  We can’t even buy a new cow, for pete’s sake!”

Laura: “And then Pa had to feed the animals in a blizzard.”

Ma:  “Charles, if you die out there in that blizzard and leave me with three kids and no retirement and no family out here all alone, I’ll kill you.”

Ok, so I’m paraphrasing.  But, really, I want to get Ma’s side of the story.  How on earth did she hold it together?  When the chimney catches on fire and your husbands gone hunting for days on end, while you’re stuck in the dugout with three kids and no cell phone?  When you work your hands to the bone building a cabin only to have it taken from you by the government?  When your beautiful firstborn gets sick and goes blind and there’s nothing the doctors can do about it?  Did she ever fall go out into the prairie and scream and cry and pound on the ground because she didn’t know how to take it anymore?

Or did she truly just say, “Yes, Charles, whatever you think it best.

Where did she get that kind of Peace?

Right now, I could sure use some more of it.

Our best milking donkey is down….the vet says it’s ok, you’ve done all you could, you have permission to end it.  But I just can’t do it.  So we keep picking her up with the tractor.  In the dark.  In the freezing cold.  In the field.  Every.  Other.  Day.  We put a strap under the big girl and raise her up.  It’s like a old peoples lift chair, but for mammoth donkeys that have fallen and can’t get up.  

And YES.  We’ve had multiple vets out, multiple times.  When they said to put her down and had no answers, we had an herbal muscle testing equine naturopath out.  She prescribed a concoction of herbs, apparently made of gold.  So we’ve poured more money, I mean, herbs into her, and yes, we’ve even resorted to antibiotics.  In case you were wondering, we stopped milking her pre-antibiotics.  And yes, I do believe there is a place for antibiotics.  In this case, it was a shot of penicillan or a shot from a .22. (Please don’t think that’s cruel, or send me hate mail.  When the ground is frozen, it’s tough to put an animal that big 6′ down.  And if we euthanize her, and our dog digs her up and eats her, full of the death medication, we’ll be digging another hole for the dog.  Not to mention what happens when she decomposes and that medication leaks into our ground…well water…hmmmm.  So the vet recommended the shot to the head.)  But I can’t do it.  I just can’t give up on her yet.  Our big white unicorn who’s been kind enough to share her milk with us for our daughter’s autoimmune disease.  So we’ll pick her up.  Again.

I’ve spared you all the nitty gritty details of our two years of building this little house in the woods.  TWO YEARS.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to write about that time.  For now, let’s just say that during those two years, we were dealt the PANDAS disease card.  

We finally moved into our little blood sweat and tears house 8 months ago.

And now we hear that they’re putting a new Turnpike in, possibly in our front yard.  Or we could be getting a letter in the mail saying they’re taking our house because the government wants our land for an exit ramp.  Or the Indians.  Or a mall.  Whatever.

So here I sit, typing and griping.  Because I can’t bring myself to go out in the cold and spend hours working on clearing trees for a donkey fence that could be bulldozed.

What would Ma do?  When they got word that the government was taking their land, they packed the wagon and left it all the next day, rather than spend another minute investing in a life and home that wasn’t their own.

I get that.

It’s the uncertainty.  The unknown.  The feeling that the earth is shaking and I’m not sure where we’ll land when it stops.  

With a dead donkey?

With a new dugout, somewhere on the western frontier?

I’m trying to be like Ma.  I tell the girls it will be a great adventure, if we “get” to move again.  Just like Laura.  Pioneers.  Yippeeeeee.

And I lay awake at night and worry.  And pray.

And I realize that this feeling of angst…this feeling of temporary and discomfort and being completely OUT OF CONTROL…it’s the way we’re SUPPOSED to feel.  

Because it’s true.

People.  We are NOT in control.

When things are great and we’ve got a nest egg in the bank, and a tidy house, and a healthy family, and a pantry full of food, it’s easy to think “I’ve got this.”  

Well.  I hate to break it to you, but you don’t.  Not to put a downer on your New Year’s Glow, but this life, it’s not in your hands.

Your child may wake up tomorrow with a disease that attacks their brain and turns them into a completely different person.

Your house may be bulldozed.

Your donkey may die.

Or, WORSE, everything may go perfect for you, day in and day out, every day from now until you’re 99.  You may never see a day of trouble in this perfect, happy life of yours.  

You may never end up on your knees in the prairie dust, crying out to God for help because you just don’t know if you can make it.  One.  More. Day.

You may never know what it is to need Him more, because you realize that you can’t do it without Him.

You may never grasp the Peace that comes with the promise that You Are Not in Control.  But He Is.

And as crazy upside down as things may seem.  As unfair and unjust as this world truly is.  God is still in the game.  He hasn’t quit on you.  

I’m not going to promise you it’s all going to get better tomorrow, because it may not.  This world is full of conflict and strife and sickness and death.  I’m not going to Pollyanna that away.

But on the other side of this, there is an eternal hope.  

And that’s Who I want to cling to in this uncertain life of ours.

Lord, give us eyes to see that this world is not our home, that this life is but truly but a breath.  That these treasures are worthless piles of dust.  Let us work on the things that last, and give us strength to stand when the days of trial come.  Let us feel your love and your peace when the world is shaking under our feet.  And give us joy, in the midst of pain.  Give us glimpses of the eternal in the midst of the temporary.  Give us your light and love in the midst of this darkness.  Lord Jesus.  


Oh, by the way, we’ve also had two 4.3 earthquakes in the last week.  Hence all the world shaking references.  Literally and figuratively.  Our world is shaking under our feet.  

















3 responses to “Donkeys, Discouragement, and Little House on the Prairie

  1. Oh man. So much heaviness. I am so sorry for your load. No one ever mentions the livestock burial ground that one’s yard, in time, may become as they happily sell you your firsts! And your HOME vs. turnpike, oh I could cry… Ma was the woman, indeed. Have you read Pioneer Girl? It’s how Laura wrote the story, her daughter sugar-coated it up for children’s lit of the day. BIG difference, too. Hopes and prayers for your family on this night.

    • Thank you Sally! You’re so sweet. I’m really handling it better than this post seems…rereading it, it sounds worse than it is. Or could be. I know God is in control, it’s just hard to let go! I’ll have to read that version…thank you for the recommendation, and thank you for the prayers!

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