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Anse was the mount I drew, and as far as I was concerned, he was three or four times meaner than Attila the Hun.
July Fourth came and, as was traditional, things began with a parade right after a picnic. The parade would end at the ball field; we'd have the game; and then there would be a fireworks display and free watermelon.
Both teams marched in the parade, some players riding their mounts, other, less confident ones leading them. We made a brave sight in our uniforms, though with one incongruous note: donkey baseball is probably the only sport in which the players wear spurs taped to their spikes.
There was the usual argument when both chiefs turned in their lineup cards to Mayor Gusman, the home-plate umpire. The fire chief, noting the name of a high school athlete, said, "Now wait a minute, this boy's not a member of the police force. Hell, he's still in high school!"
And the police chief said, "No, he came to us last year and evinced a great ambition to be a policeman, so we started an apprentice program for him. But you should talk. Here's this kid Barrett, and I know for a fact the closest he ever came to a fire was roasting a hot dog over one."
It went on like that until Mayor Gusman said, "Oh, shut up. I ought to disqualify you both for being such poor liars, but all these people have paid money to see the bunch of you make fools of yourself and I don't want to disappoint 'em. Play ball!"
The fire chief acted kind of hurt at me. The whole fire department, for that matter, was none too kind. A few of them even whispered "sellout" and "traitor." I thought that was a little mean, them not knowing the true circumstances.
We played pretty even up to the third inning, when we lost our best hitter, Bobby White. He hit a sharp single to centerfield, but going down the line to first base, his donkey shied and ran headlong into the bleacher fence, throwing Bobby up into the nickel seats and breaking his collarbone. They had a good deal of trouble running down the ball in the outfield, but they finally tagged White out just as he was being loaded into the ambulance.
But we got back at them in the fourth inning, when we put Barrett out of the game. In donkey baseball you don't brush the batter back, you brush his mount back, which is much more effective. But our pitcher slipped a little and caught Barrett's donkey in the ear with a slow curve, The result was that Barrett ended up in foul territory with a dislocated shoulder.
I was having my own troubles. This devil mule I'd drawn was big and he quickly learned that once I got down to field a ground ball, I was going to be encumbered by a glove and a ball when I tried to get back on to make my throw. Of course, none of us used a saddle; the last thing you wanted was to get tangled up in the stirrups. So I'd have to try and jump up on that mule's back, then swing my leg over. It was always at just that point that he'd decide to go rodeoing.