Christmas Letter: Animal Pajama Party


By way of introduction to this year’s Fleener Christmas letter you need to know that our little Tennessee farm grew by 30 miniature donkeys this year. The following story is true with only slight changes to protect your ears.


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the pasture
Not a creature was stirring, not even the cats out there;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The donkeys were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of fresh pears danced in their heads;
And Katrina in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out in the barn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the barn I flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors and plowed thru the trash.
The lights on the new-fallen hay
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects that lay,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a mule, thirty tiny donkeys and a deer,
With a big old horse, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment I was going to be sick.
More rapid than eagles they came,
I yelled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Topper! now, Jetta! now, Angel and Daisy!
Oh, Comet! oh Cougar! oh,  and Dixie!
To the top of the pasture! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So back to the barn door they flew,
With bellies full, and mouths too.
And then, in a twinkling, I knew; darn.
The animals had broken into the barn.
I heard the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
They were there eating everywhere but the roof.
Down the chimney two cats came with a bound.
They too began to eat without a sound.
I threw up my hands and gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard them all bray, ere they trotted out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
(My apologies to Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston)

If you have kids or grandkids you most likely have experienced the dreaded sleep over. When kids become old enough to have friends outside the family they discover their parents’ worst nightmare, SLEEP OVERS!

I remember them as a child and also as a parent. Whether I was the child or the parent the sleep over always went the same. Makes no difference if it was for boys or girls; doesn’t matter if there was just one little visitor or 21 little monsters involved they all go about the same.

There is food and lots of giggling; parents getting no sleep and a big mess in the morning with sleeping kids everywhere. Sometimes there is the shy child who misses its parents in the middle of the night and has to go home. Well, let me tell you, animals are no different.

On a regular basis we have “Pajama Parties” in the barn. The difference is we never plan them, the animals do. We just had one recently and it wasn’t a pretty site.

For some reason in this Christmas Season the Christmas Story also came to mind. It only seemed natural as I sat down to do the annual Fleener Christmas Letter that I should blend the two to give you an idea of what life is like on the farm.

The animal parties all seem to start the same way; after feeding, someone leaves a barn stall shut but not securely latched (someone means Katrina did it). An animal discovers this mistake and after we have both returned to our snug little home and cuddled in bed the party is on.

Our barn is built more like the traditional stables than a barn. It has a large center isle running the length of the barn plus a cross isle in the center that connects to another set of stalls towards the front. In plan view it is “T” shaped. Each quadrant of the barn connects to a different pasture so the animals can be separated into different herds when we want to.

This is what the barn should look like on a normal day.

On this most recent occasion we had most of the animals in the largest pasture all running together. There were 3 goats, a dozen or so miniature donkeys, a mule and a horse. My best guess is the horse discovered the loose barn stall door and yelled: “TOGA TOGA” (remember the movie “Animal House”?)

Well, I showed up around 7:00AM the next morning at feeding time and the first thing I saw was a goat standing on a bale of hay, another with its head in what was once a brand new unopened bag of grain, a horse pulling bales of hay from a stack in the isle and donkeys everywhere. It looked like a Saturday morning animal cartoon gone bad. The barn was trashed.

I yelled and every one of the animals said “Oh #@*%!” in their respective animal language. They immediately headed for some place else. They didn’t know where some place else was but they knew they didn’t want to be in the same place I was. I was mad. I felt like I just woke up at 3 AM when my kids and there friends were in the kitchen trying to make smores in the microwave with non-microwave safe dishes!

One thing was different; the kids always knew enough to use the bathroom. The animals just leave “presents” all over the barn. Can you imagine the mess a bunch of farm animals make when they can eat all they want and everything they eat goes right through them?

It didn’t take long to get the animals back where they belonged but it took a fair amount of time for Katrina to pick up the “presents” when she got home from work.

Needless to say the animals did not get fed that morning. If fact I wasn’t sure they should be fed that night!

I mentioned that all the animals were not in the same pasture so not all of them broke into the barn and partied. What about the others? You should have seen their faces. Really! I could read exactly what each of them was thinking. Each of the little donkeys that could not attend the bash all had faces that clearly said; “Daddy look at us, we were good! Don’t punish us, punish those bad animals. Can we have extra this morning?” You guessed it, those little donkeys all got extra hay that day.
For the most part all of 2008 has pretty much gone the same way as that one morning. Katrina and I are both healthy, her family is well, my kids and one grandchild are all doing well and we still play with our cars and animals.

Although the economy is taking a bite out of all of us, we are getting by and I am still traveling to CA once a month. Katrina went to work for a new start up bank in Nashville early this year and that seems to be working out ok since they are too new to have any bad loans!

We had a number of visitors from CA and Iowa this year and hope to have more in 2009. We always enjoy visitors to the farm and watch people shake there heads when they see what we are up to. When I was 16 and putting up hay I told my parents I will never do that again. It was one of the things that kept me going in college. Just knowing I would never have to do that again. Now, at 62 here I am putting up hay and feeding livestock. What happens to the brain when you get old? I think there is something to that statement about memory being the first, or is that the second, thing to go.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Dick and Katrina Fleener (plus a barn full of animals)

Dixie and Daisy got into the hay storage area and had a feast.

You can see the hay bale in the doorway that Daisy was trying to drag back into her stall!

Here Daisy thought if she couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see her. Wrong!

This is when the miniature donkey crew decided it was time to run to their stalls.

Miniatures looking for food.

Miniatures got in the act of being bad and not knowing where to run to.

Hurry up and move he is coming!

Go, Go.

This is one of the new barn cars, Louise. She is explaining to Thelma (Thelma and Louise, get it?) that I left the keys in the ATV and wanted to make a break for it.

Dolly on the left and Topper on the right were both playing like they didn’t know what was going on, they were just having a quiet conversation about the silly cats trying to drive an ATV.

Here is Thelma, she just wanted to get out of there!

No one knew anything about this mess.

This is Louise trying to look sweet and innocent.

Ya think she might have had something to do with this mess?

Again, Thelma looks for a way out.

Filed Under: Miniature DonkeysThe FamilyThe RanchWelcome


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