Everybody knew that the Ass was stubborn - in fact, as stubborn as Hell - but they soon found out that he was also incredibly stupid!
He lived in a damp, dismal, run-down corner of a field that consisted mainly of nettles, thistles and dock leaves as well as quite a lot of stagnant, insect-infested water.
Few of the other animals visited the Ass, not because they were being unsociable, but because the dock leaves, nettles and stagnant water had only a limited appeal.
Every now and again, however, one of them would look by in the hopes of involving the solitary, standoffish Ass in the wider community.
One day, the Cow came by and spoke to the Ass. “How would you like to help me crop some of the grass in the meadow,” she asked in a gentle, lowing voice. “It needs doing and it’s rather a lot of work for one - but the grass is beautifully green and really flavoursome…”
“No way!” snorted the Ass crossly, “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you and others can move in and chew up all my thistles!” Then, because he always had to make some smart-ass reply, he added: “Besides, I know all about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence!”
A few weeks later, the Rabbit and his family hopped by and spoke to the Ass: “We’re getting ready to harvest our carrot-patch and there are far too many even for our large family, so perhaps you’d care to join us? As carrots go, they are really sweet and tender.”
“No way!” snapped the Ass. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you can invite all your thousands of rabbit friends-and-relations round to rob me of my nettles! Apart from which, I know that there’s no such thing as a carrot without a stick!”
Shortly afterwards, the sheep decided to call. “I say,” she began with a nervous bleat, “I’ve got a big field full of choicest clover that makes a really good summer snack. I’d be very happy to share it with you. Sometimes you can even find a four-leaf clover which is lucky as well as tasty!”
“No way!” the Ass grunted without looking up from his thistle. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so that all and sundry can come down here and gobble up my dock leaves! And, anyway, I know perfectly well that no one truly ever lives in clover!”
From then on, nobody bothered about the Ass any more until, one morning after several weeks of continuous rain, his cousin the Horse, galloped down to the field, calling out in a loud urgent voice: “GET OUT! Get out of here while you can! I live up on the hill and I’ve been watching the river! The waters are rising dangerously high and this corner of the field is going to flood. If you don’t go now, you may not escape with your life!”
“No way! NO WAY!” the Ass brayed. “I’ve had enough of all these attempts to get me to leave my home! Well, you’re wasting your time, because I’m not moving! I’m STAYING - come Hell or high water!”
Seeing it was useless, the Horse turned and galloped away. When he looked down from the top of the hill the next morning he saw that all that was left of the Ass’s stubbornness and stupidity was now floating in the floodwaters.
The Horse gave a whinny: “Ah, well,” he said sadly, “an ass is TRULY an ass who repeatedly looks a gift-horse in the mouth…”
© Brian Sibley 2006
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