For those of you who have enjoyed the story of Daphne, the Curious Little Donkey by Pamela Perkins, we thought you might like to have the whole story in one installment so you can more easily share it with a child or children in your life!
Daphne the Curious Little Donkey
And the Spring Snow Storm
This is a story about a donkey, an unusually curious little donkey with a sense of adventure. The name of this donkey is Daphne.
This is also a story about Maeve, a very kind and patient girl who takes care of Daphne, and who has many adventures because of her.
Daphne and Maeve live on a small farm in Northern Vermont, with Maeve’s parents and many animals. The farm and its’ fields are surrounded by gently rolling hills that are forested with evergreen trees, as well as maples, oaks and birch.
Several streams flow through the property. The stream flowing out of the woods along the edge of East Meadow empties into the farm pond. Another pond, deep and cool and lovely for swimming, lies over beyond South Hill, through the pine grove, and down into a grassy open area surrounded by many sugar maples.
Daphne has her own stall in the barn, which she shares with many scatter-brained chickens, a beautiful little goat named Pumpkin, and an old gentle draft horse named Frederick. A Jersey cow with soft brown eyes named Velvet is awaiting the birth of her first calf.
This is a story about one fine sunny day in very early Spring, when Daphne was feeling very, very curious, and had an idea. This lead to the following adventure.
Chapter One: Daphne Makes a Choice
March had ended, but Old Man Winter still lingered in the valley where Daphne and Maeve lived. Large mounds of snow, icy patches and chilly winds made everyone sigh and wish for Spring.
But on this particular morning, the sun had come up into a beautiful bright blue sky. The air was surprisingly mild. Maeve, who was 6, went into the barn as she always did after she ate her breakfast, to bring Daphne fresh water and clean sweet hay, and to muck out her stall and put down clean bedding straw. Daphne eagerly sniffed her pocket for her daily treat; today it was a small juicy apple.
Daphne felt the slightly warmer breeze coming in through the barn door. She smelled a hint of new things … the first, faint sign that maybe, just maybe, ‘something’ was happening outside. She was very curious.
Daphne was still quite a young donkey. This was her first Spring, for she had been born just as Summer waned and Autumn set in last year. The new longer days, the brighter sunshine, and now, the mild air smelling like -??? She was not sure what! but it made her feet itch to explore.
Maeve noticed that Daphne was squirmy and restless. She told her, “Now you behave and stay inside your stall today like a good little donkey. When I get home from school, I will take you outside for a walk.”
Maeve told her this because several times in the past, she had jiggled and joggled the latch to her stall open and even managed to paw and scratch at the barn door and squeeze outside. Oh, she had had some adventures and gotten herself into mischief before!
Daphne was only half listening … she usually only half listened. Sometimes that half remembered what she was supposed to do. Today all she heard was “Go outside for a walk”. The other half of her little donkey mind KNEW that meant with Maeve, but the curious part was stronger.
Today Maeve was going to school. Today Daphne was going on an adventure.
Chapter Two: The Escape
It was a chilly but sunny April day – April the first, as a matter of fact. The chickadees sang gaily as they flitted about their early springtime tasks. Daphne listened to their twittering and chirping and sighed. She was so very tired of being in the barn. She was bored.
After a while, she thought that she heard someone call her name. Maybe it was her friend Chirpy Chickadee. Chirpy lived in a large, thickly tangled bush next to the barn. Yes, yes, now Daphne was sure of it. She leaned against the door of her stall to hear more clearly.
“Ahem!” said Frederick, the gentle old draft horse, who had been watching Daphne closely. “You aren’t getting any of your ‘ideas’, are you? I notice that you are leaning pretty heavily on that door.”
“Oh,” replied Daphne, startled. She opened her eyes wide and looked innocently surprised. “Oh no, I was just trying to hear what Chirpy was saying to me.”
“If he IS speaking to you at all, which I doubt, he would probably be saying the same thing that I am about to say, “NO, Daphne. No adventures on your own. Wait for Maeve.”
Daphne, like many other little donkeys, had a stubborn streak. She also had a good sprinkling of temper that sometimes got the best of her common sense. So even though she had had no particular intention of breaking out of her stall and the barn, she was now determined to do so.
That naughty and curious little donkey turned right around and kicked her door open and shot a smug look at Frederick as if to say “Well, you can’t tell me what to do.”
Frederick clucked his tongue at her and let out a long sighing neigh. The hens, flustered by the sudden noise, squawked and flapped all over the barn. Violet rolled her big brown eyes anxiously and Pumpkin blatted.
Daphne paid them no heed. She trotted over to the big barn doors. They were slightly ajar. She pushed with her nose. She turned around and shoved with her backside, then kicked with her heels. The door creaked open. Daphne peeked out. She looked to the left. She looked to the right. No one was outside.
At first, Daphne was content to stand in the barnyard and enjoy the lovely warm sunshine. Then she sniffed and stretched out her neck. She smelled … Green! There were tiny patches of tender new growth just outside of the corral. Trotting over to the fence, Daphne tried to reach through the fence to nibble; those delicious looking leaves and shoots were just out of reach. Daphne was suddenly very, very hungry. She wanted to be on the other side of the fence. She had an idea. Daphne casually pushed against the boards here and there, hoping to find a weak place. Sure enough, one post by the maple tree was slightly rotten and wiggly.
She pushed. She shoved. She prodded. She poked. Suddenly the wood gave way with a ‘carrack!’ Daphne quickly glanced all around her … the coast was clear. Through the fence she went and out into the wide world.
She jumped for joy, kicking up her heels. She twisted and turned. She rolled in the thick, rich-smelling mud. She delicately nibbled the first thin blades of green grass and flat rosettes of dandelion leaves and tasty wild plantain that had sprung up where the snow and ice had melted off. Mmmmm! Delicious! On and on she went, munching here and there, feeling free and excited to be on an adventure.
When she reached the edge of East Meadow, she saw that the ice was almost completely gone from the Farm Pond. All around the edges, the clear water lapped gently in the breeze. She took a nice, long drink of cool, fresh water. Looking up and around her, she thought that perhaps she should go back to the barn now; she was tired from her running and leaping, and her tummy was full.
She had never been this far from home alone before and was feeling a bit nervous. She knew quite well that she should have waited for Maeve and NOT gone outside by herself. “But,” she thought, “I can probably sneak back into the corral and barn without anyone noticing that I escaped. I can go back into my stall and take a nice nap while I wait for Maeve to come home from school. She will think I am such a good little donkey for not running off even though my stall door broke open.”
Daphne looked towards the forest, then back towards the barn. Impulsively, she decided what she would do next.
Chapter Three: The Forest
Daphne peered ahead at the forest. Snow still lay thick around its edges. The trees were bare, although a faint haze of color had begun to glow around them as their buds swelled in the warmth of the early Spring sun. The evergreens made cool shadows on the frozen ground. She felt very, very curious. Daphne had an idea.
“I wonder if there is anything good to eat in the forest,” Daphne thought to herself. Quickly she made up her mind. She thought that she would just take a quick look to find out before heading home. She trotted around the pond and over to the tree line and hesitated for a moment.
Just then, a group of blue jays began to scream “No! No! No!” at her. “Hmmph! Phooey!” retorted Daphne, her temper suddenly getting the best of her. “I am not a baby anymore! I am big enough to take care of myself!” She proceeded to trot right in among the trees, without looking back and only half listening to what the birds kept trying to tell her.
Daphne had not been paying attention to the sky, nor to the increasing chill in the air. She had been so busy nibbling and racing around that she had quite forgotten to notice anything else. Now she was being a stubborn and foolish little donkey, as she ran as fast as she could from those noisy jays.
For a while they followed her, making ever so much racket. She stopped briefly to look up at them and shouted crossly, “Go away!”. Then they shrugged, gave up and flew out of the trees and back across the meadow. If she had stopped to listen to their warning, she would have run back home as fast as her sturdy little legs could carry her. But, she did not. Her temper kept her ears from hearing anything, except the voice inside her, which said, “Those busybodies just want to spoil my fun. “
And thus, it was, that the sudden, late winter storm came pouncing down on the valley, like a bobcat on its unsuspecting prey. Before Daphne realized what was happening, she was surround by swirling snow, an icy wind, and darkness. She was alone in the forest, lost and frightened.
Chapter Four: The Storm
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Maeve’s friend and across-the-street neighbor Ginger and her grandson John-Peter, who was four, were enjoying tea and homemade cookies in the cozy farmhouse kitchen with Maeve’s mother. Outside the snow was falling in earnest, in thick spiraling flakes. School was closing early that day because of the storm. Maeve, like many of the children in the small town, walked both ways to school.
Suddenly the door burst open, and Maeve came panting in, the snow swirling right in with her. She slammed the door shut, dropped her backpack onto the floor, and pulled off her jacket and boots. She was so relieved to be safely home! Already 6 inches of powdery snow had fallen and there was no sign of the storm slowing down. Ginger stood up and thanked Maeve’s mother for the cookies and tea, then helped John-Peter bundle up and gathered her own things. It was time for them to go back to her house.
Maeve sat down at the big kitchen table to warm up and eat. Then her father came inside, and everyone discussed how they would work together until both the barn and house were secured for the storm. A Nor’easter could easily last several days. The chores needed to be done as soon as possible. They decided to take care of the animals and secure the barn first.
Because of the increasing intensity of the storm, everyone dressed in extra layers. Then they discussed their plans: the animals would need grain and hay, plenty of fresh water, plus deep bedding straw. Frederick and Daphne would get some warm mash. Violet needed to be checked, in case she was going into labor. She also needed some silage. Then, they would head back to the house where they would make sure that the firebox was full, take out extra candles, matches and lanterns to store on the kitchen counter, and then fill the extra water cans, in case the power went out.
Fortunately, the barn was connected to the house by a partially covered walkway, but still, the snow and wind blurred everything and made it hard to see. Maeve’s father struggled to pull open the side barn door. Once all three were inside, he slammed it shut again. Then they all turned around. The first thing they noticed was that the main barn door leading to the corral was ajar and a sizeable snowdrift filled the entry.
The second thing they noticed was Daphne’s empty stall. They looked at each other in disbelief. “Noooo! “whispered Maeve. “Not again, not today!
Maeve knew how serious this might be and tried not to cry. “Well,” she said bravely “We’d better take care of what is right here first: hungry animals, a mountain of snow to shovel out, and a door to secure.” Her mother put her arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick hug. Her father smiled in assent. They all silently sent out hope that Daphne would survive this adventure, and also vowed to scold her quite firmly when – IF – she made it through.
Chapter Five: Old Mother Squirrel
Meanwhile, deep in the woods, the naughty little donkey was huddled miserably, but safely, beneath the low-hanging boughs of a large spruce tree. When the storm first hit, Daphne had panicked and ran around frantically in an attempt to find her way out of the forest. Pausing to catch her breath, she leaned against the trunk of an oak tree and began to cry. She let out a long, high-pitched little donkey wail.
Kindly Old Mother Squirrel was in the tree overhead. She heard her from inside her twiggy dray and came scooting down the trunk. “Quick! Quick! Follow me and be ever so quick, quick, quick!”, she chattered. Daphne looked up through her tears and followed her. She led her confidently through the swirling snow to a nearby giant spruce tree and dove underneath its protective boughs. Daphne pushed her way through after her.
The ground was covered with sweet smelling needles and soft moss; the wind and snow could not reach inside of the shelter. Daphne was safe. It was warmer here beneath the boughs, and she was not alone, for kindly Old Mother Squirrel had promised to stay with her until the storm was over. She had a stash of nuts and seeds hidden in a chink in the tree, which they both nibbled. To pass the time, she told her stories, and soon, that curious little donkey folded her legs, lay down and went to sleep.
Back at the farm, Maeve and her parents were back in the house once more. They had left the animals well-fed, watered and secure in the barn. Maeve’s mother had gone back out and secured a rope ‘handrail’ all along the walkway posts between the barn and the house, to make it safer to navigate back and forth later on. A good supply of firewood was stacked by the woodstove, the firebox heaped to overflowing, the extra water containers were filled, and candles, matches and lanterns had been set out. A pot of savory stew bubbled on the gas stove and biscuits baked in the oven. Everything smelled delicious and they were all cozy and warm. In each one’s mind was the hope that Daphne had found shelter and had not gotten hurt. Nothing else could be done.
The storm turned out to be a classic three-day Nor’easter. The farm chores had to be done twice each day and took longer than usual. The woodstove had to be stoked continually. But everyone was safe inside the snug house and barn. In between chores, the family passed the time eating and playing music, reading and playing games together. Of course, they all wondered and worried about Daphne.
Back in the forest, Daphne nibbled a few blades of old grass underneath the tree and ate a few more of kindly Old Mother Squirrels’ store of seeds and nuts. She poked her nose through the branches and licked up snow to quench her thirst. Her tummy rumbled. She only complained once to Old Mother Squirrel, who looked at Daphne with her kind, wise eyes and asked one question: “Tell me again, how did it happen that you ended up lost in the woods and are not home in your safe snug barn?” Daphne opened her mouth, then thought a minute, and shut it again.
Daphne was beginning to change. She was beginning to think about her actions and to learn from her mistakes. She decided that she would make better choices another time. She knew that she might have been hurt or eaten by hungry coyotes or … she shivered. She knew that she was a very, very lucky little donkey.
Chapter Six: Daphne Finds Her Way Home
Finally, the storm let up. The clouds thinned, shredded and blew away as a warmer south wind moved in. The sun can out and everyone, from man to beast, let out a sigh of relief. Late spring storms come quickly, but the snow they leave behind also melts quickly.
Daphne, guided by kindly Old Mother Squirrel, pushed her way through the forested tangle of branches and trunks, and out into the open fields close to her home. The snow was still deep in places, but she could see the farm in the distance. She brayed in happiness and thanked her friend. She promised Old Mother Squirrel that she would be more thoughtful in the future. She was anxious to get back home, because she now realized that Maeve, whom she loved dearly, must be terribly worried.
Slowly she ploughed through the wet snow. It was beginning to melt in the bright Spring sunlight and was heavy. Suddenly, she spotted people wading slowly through the snow, heading her way across the fields. Was it? Yes! It was Maeve and her mother and father!
Daphne let out a loud, happy little donkey shout, and kicking up her heels, jumped and leapt through the snow to reach them. They first heard, and then saw her, and they too, shouted and ran as fast as they could to meet her. Maeve hugged and hugged her. All was well. Back at the barn, her mother checked Daphne over carefully. She was not hurt, but she did have a cold, and had to stay inside the barn for two weeks, even on the nicer days that followed.
At last, the snow completely melted, even along the hedgerows and under the trees in the forest. The fence was checked thoroughly and mended. School had resumed, and life around the forest and farm settled into the gentler, if busy, rhythm of Springtime. And Daphne? Well, that is another story for another day, and the next chapter.
Chapter 7: New Arrivals
Old Mrs. Thaw had come with her broom and swept away the last bits of the snow and ice from the field and forest. King Winter and his retinue had retreated to his Northern abode. Spring came dancing down over the forested hillsides, meadows and fields, scattering many shades of green everywhere and touching the landscape with golden and white, red and pink and purple flowers. The air smelled deliciously fragrant. Farm fields and gardens, newly upturned, had been planted and tiny spears began to poke up through the rich brown soil.
Daphne was so happy to be back in her own cozy, safe stall, in her own cozy, safe barn. He apologized to Frederick for being rude, and to the blue jays as well, who had tried to warn her of danger in the oncoming storm. She told the story of her adventure to all of the scatter-brained chickens, little Pumpkin and to Velvet’s new calf Violet, who had been born during the storm.
She made the story a little bit scarier than it really had been. She admonished her wide-eyed listeners to be sure to stay within the safety of the farmyard and corral and never to wander off into the woods on their own-even if they felt very, very curious.
Daphne loved the Spring weather. She had become best friends with Violet and Pumpkin, and the three of them loved to play together in the gently rolling fields. Although all of the fences had been mended, Daphne took it upon herself to inspect frequently, to make sure that the other little animals would be safe. On hot days they would all run to the farm pond and splash and play together.
Old Mother Squirrel sometimes hopped over from the forest early in the morning or before sunset to visit with Daphne. One day she brought a surprise: beside her scampered six fuzzy babies. They felt shy at first, as they gazed up at Daphne, Pumpkin and Violet with wide eyes and twitching noses. Soon all were playing together in and among the dandelions and sweet meadow grasses.
On rainy days, the squirrel babies stayed in the forest, but Daphne and the other animals enjoyed getting wet. One day the sky grew dark and rumbles of thunder growled in the distance. The younger animals were frightened and ran to Daphne and Frederick and Velvet, who calmly herded them together under some apple trees closer to the barnyard until the thunder and lightning ended. Because the weather was so mild, Daphne and the others all slept outside under the stars. Every clear night, she would stand staring up in wonder at the twinkling and blinking lights until her fuzzy nose began to droop and she fell fast asleep.
As the days went on, Pumpkin grew unusually quiet and did not feel like running and jumping with the others. Daphne was worried about her friend. Then one day Maeve came home from school and brought Pumpkin into the barn. Daphne looked questioningly at Frederick and Velvet…but they did not look concerned. What could be the matter?
Chapter 8: Daphne Gets A Surprise
That night Daphne paced back and forth, back and forth. Finally, she fell asleep. At first light, she trotted over to the barnyard fence. She spotted Maeve coming over from the house. She brayed to her. “Are you worried about your friend,” Maeve called. “Come, you may visit”. Maeve opened the corral gate and held onto Daphne’s halter. “Slowly now”, she said as she led her into the barn.
Daphne could hardly restrain herself, but she listened to what Maeve had asked her and walked along beside her as patiently as she could. What she saw next made her little donkey mouth open wide in surprise, and in spite of herself, she let out a donkey version of “OHHHHHHH! MYYYY! Heehaw!”
There in a large corner stall stood Pumpkin – and two tiny kids, Cinnamon and Spice! Daphne was overjoyed and shyly asked permission to nuzzle the babies. Pumpkin smiled and nodded her head. Maeve let her into the spacious stall. The kids stood with their tails flickering and wagging and stared at her for a few seconds. Daphne was startled when they suddenly jumped up into the air like popcorn and came frisking and leaping all around her. She wanted to do the same but remembered that she was a big little donkey now, and very strong, so she stayed as still as possible.
Then she remembered her manners and congratulated Pumpkin, who assured her that in another day or two, she and the kids would be outside, and that Daphne could run around with them as much as she liked. Daphne smiled, then began to tug at her halter. “Ah”, said Maeve, “You want to go back outside and tell the others, don’t you?” Daphne vigorously nodded her head up and down. This is exactly what Daphne wanted to do!
Chapter 9: Conclusion and Beginning
Daphne had a wonderful long Summer. Everywhere there were new things to see, to nibble, to play with, and to wonder about. She was still as curious as ever, but she had learned to make wiser choices. She had learned how to take all of her excited, impulsive energy and use it in the right places and at the right times – most of the time. She no longer interrupted the older animals all the time and stopped pestering Maeve when she was working in the barn. She stopped chasing the chickens just for the fun of hearing them flap and squawk.
As a result, she found that she could use her strength to be genuinely helpful, and this was much more fun than teasing and getting into mischief. She had more friends now, too. The younger animals looked up to her and often asked her for advice; this new role made her feel proud and happy. She felt calmer, and deeply content with life.
Oh, Daphne still had adventures, but of a different kind. What kind, you might ask? Well, these are tales for another story and another time – but I think you will find them worth the wait. Now, like Daphne, you need to be patient, not pester and wait until the time is right.
The End, but also, The Beginning