A Homage to

The Donkey who Farted three Times

A traditional story from the Catalan Pyrenees

A man was cutting wood in an oak grove one day. He was standing on a branch and chopping close to the trunk, when along came a stranger.

'You're going to hurt yourself, my good man', said the stranger.

'Not me!', answered the wood cutter.

'You mark my words', said the other. 'You'll come a cropper if you carry on like that.'

The stranger went on his way and soon afterwards, sure enough, the branch broke and the wood cutter and his axe went sprawling on the ground. Nursing his bruised ribs, he thought to himself, 'That man was right. He must be able to tell the future', and he went running after the stranger as fast as his legs could carry him.

'Hey!' he shouted, as soon as he caught sight of him. 'I see you can tell the future. Can you tell me when I'm going to die?'

'Well,' said the stranger, 'I can't tell for sure,' and he looked at him hard for a few minutes. 'But I'd say after your donkey's farted three times you'll have just about had it!'

The wood cutter went back to his work but he couldn't help thinking about the stranger's prediction. After a while he loaded the donkey with firewood and set off for home. Before long, the donkey farted loudly and his master dug him in the ribs to hurry him up. 'I won't give him time to fart again,' he thought, but after just a short while the donkey once again let rip.

At that point the man stopped and took an iron wedge he used for splitting logs and rammed it up the donkey's arse as hard as he could so as to prevent a third and possibly fatal fart. They were nearly back at the village, though, when the donkey farted for the third time. The iron wedge shot out of the poor animal's arse, followed by a stream of shit, straight into his master's face. What with the blow from the iron wedge and the stench of shit, the wood cutter was stunned and collapsed on the ground, where he was found a little later by two men from the village.

'Poor man', they said. 'What a way to die!' And they loaded him onto a barrow and set off for home with him. But before long they started arguing over which way to go. One was for taking the top path, while the other one said the bottom path was much quicker. Seeing that they weren't getting anywhere, the wood cutter looked up and said, 'When I was alive, I always used to take the top path. You do as you like, though.'

The two men turned and stared at him. 'I thought you were dead,' said one of them angrily. 'What the fuck are you playing at?' said the other. Then, between the two of them they tipped the wood cutter out of the barrow and over the cliff.

And at that point, just as the stranger had foretold, the wood cutter finally snuffed it.

Condensed from Pep Coll, 'Els tres pets del ruc', in Muntanyes Maleides, Edicions 62.