Coming to a Point - Shhh! We're hunting donkeys!

It turns out you can’t hunt donkeys at the Grays Harbor County Fair.

Who knew?

Last week at their fair booth, Grays Harbor Republicans were encouraging folks to take shots — with Nerf guns — at a poster of a donkey with targets on its head and, um, rear end. (It was really hard to resist the double entendre there, folks … just so you know.) The donkey was asking people to “help me try out Obamacare.”

To be accurate, while Obamacare calls for coverage for everyone, I doubt pets will be included in the mandate anytime soon, let alone wild donkeys. Besides, the whole issue is probably moot anyway because insurance companies will find a way to exempt Nerf gun injuries from coverage eventually.

That being said, Democrats were not impressed with the GOP stunt and, as you might imagine, put pressure on the fair staff to force the Republicans to stop bouncing Nerf darts off of the poor beleaguered mascot of their party.

“To disagree is fine, but this is hatred, and is not acceptable,” declared former Grays Harbor Democratic Party chairman Patrick Wadsworth. “The fair is for promoting fun, not hatred.”

“Well, Dems, we would have allowed you to play, too. We don’t discriminate. It was a game,” responded Republican Chairwoman Beth DeVaul. “No actual animals were injured in the photography or in shooting at the image. Also, Nerf guns and darts are sold at most toy stores. They are harmless.”

Wait a minute! I don’t know about harmless. I have a teenage son, and the Nerf guns they have these days aren’t anything to spit at. I remember waking up to an all-out assault from a fully automatic Nerf rifle not too long ago, and at close enough range, those suckers could put an eye out. But I digress …

Whether a couple of targets on a donkey poster amounts to innocent partisan prodding or “right-wing hatred” as Wadsworth called it — or whether the whole thing is just plain hilarious — I leave to you. But, let’s not make this about us. Don’t forget the poor, lonely burro — one without health coverage, I might add.

Like a good journalist, I did some quick research on the majestic, albeit short, beast, and was surprised — and a bit amused — at what I found:

Evidently, feral donkey hunting is allowed in Australia. Now, that the continent has yet another problem with a feral animal population (see dingoes … and camels, and pigs, and goats, and, evidently water buffalo, I just learned) isn’t surprising. But, with all of the possible trophy prey in the world, has anyone ever seen a donkey head mounted in their friend’s living room? Or, is this just the “big game” hunting vacation that nobody talks about to their hunting buddies?

I don’t know, maybe Australians would find buck horns boring, and we just don’t get it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand “Crocodile Dundee,” so, I guess the feeling’s mutual.

I also learned that, while it’s open season on the donkey in the Outback, it’s the exact opposite here in the United States. Wild donkeys are protected in America, along with wild horses, by the Federal Wild Free Roaming Horse &Burro Act of 1971. (No, I didn’t make that up.) It turns out wild donkeys got wrapped up in the wild horse protection efforts of one very persistent Reno, Nev., secretary named Velma Johnston. She was disgusted by the practice of rounding up wild horses for slaughter and started a letter-writing campaign to ban it in the 1950s.

Her efforts eventually led to the passage of the act, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Wild Horse &Burro Program web page, though it’s a bit vague on how wild donkeys were added to the protection mix. Wild horses get all the press, and I guess I never thought of the plight of the poor wild donkey in the same way. I just always thought of donkeys as one step below the majestic mustangs you always hear about. I sort of feel bad about that now.

Note to parents of young children: The act is silent on the actual legality of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, so that party game is safe until the next letter writing campaign. (Don’t count PETA out, folks.)

But, back to the donkey’s rear end, as it were …

If you ask me, the GOP stunt may have leaned toward the tasteless side of the spectrum, but I often wish everybody had thicker skin. Maybe a better response would have been to think up some witty retort involving elephants scrounging for peanuts. Then again, while donkeys seem to be in ample supply worldwide, elephants aren’t so lucky, so you might get a call from PETA there, too.

Besides, thicker skin would definitely help when your son decides to hit you with a Sylvester Stallone-style barrage of Nerf darts.

Trust me on that one.

Dan Jackson, The Daily World’s city editor, assures readers that no animals were injured in the writing of this column, and apologizes to anyone who has ever been bucked off a donkey and doesn’t find this column the least bit funny. He can be reached at 537-3929, or by email at djackson@thedailyworld.com.


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