I was standing in the bed of a short story in itself, a 1993 model Ford Ranger, robin’s egg blue with a stripe of silver down the side; my father had refused to buy the ‘67 Chevey Camaro from the previous owners of the house. I was armed. Armed with a real stiff-rope lasso and a little practice. I had the lasso out because we were after our escaped donkey, Shrek. I wasn’t especially talented with a lasso or really even qualified to operate it. Still, my padrino, my Mexican godfather, had given it to me along with a few lessons.
That man was a story. He had come across the Rio Grande after growing up on a ranch, taught himself English, and built a construction company. He would let you pick a foot, then start running. When you were about thirty or forty yards away, he would lasso that foot out from under you. The man was a master. He had taught me the basics and given me a few exercises to practice. Now I was trying to apply some of them.
That summer afternoon, the our story was precarious; we were desperate because the donkey had come loose. The donkey we had only gotten to keep the horse company. My father had misnamed the donkey Shrek. He somehow thought that the sidekick donkey named Donkey, in the movie Shrek, was named Shrek. We still don’t understand his logic. Anyhow, Shrek had made it through our shoddily constructed fence (two wires that intermittently pulsed a low electric current) and he wasn’t going back.
The whole issue may have been partially my fault, in a way. You see, I started my lassoing exercises on stumps and sticks in the yard. But in my zeal to learn a new skill and impress my padrino, I strained my relationship with Shrek by using him as more challenging practice. It was vigorous exercise for us both and probably something PETA would condemn. I couldn’t practice on the horse, Sweetie, because, as a retired race horse, I worried that a successful lasso of her would end with a Mel Brooks-style scene of me being dragged through the mud. So I settled for Shrek. Whether my practice sessions were the determining factor in Shrek’s escape attempt will, however, remain uncertain.
Initially, we tried on foot. First, there were attempts to trick Shrek back into his pen with sweet treats. Then, there were increasingly frustrated attempts to corral him back into his enclosure. When my father became fed up, we attempted scare tactics which involved our dog, Joey. Also unsuccessful. Having spent a half hour sprinting after a quadruped designed to run faster than any human, my stout father came down with the final plan, which is how I ended up standing unsecured in the back of a pickup going from zero to thirty with one hand on the cab and one holding my rope.
For a while, it seemed as though this retrospectively insane idea might have worked. The low summer leaves of the untrimmed trees scratched my face as I focused on the donkey. The plan was for my father to pull alongside Shrek giving me a chance to lasso the little beast. But Shrek had been lassoed before, and that wasn’t a story he planned to repeat. He soon came up with a plan of his own: he would run directly at a tree or the chicken coop, slow down to allow us to think that we were catching up, and then break quickly to either side as my father crushed the truck breaks, forcing me to grab the lip of the small back window to avoid being pitched over the cab.
This cycle continued for what felt like an hour, broken up by my father occasionally pounding on the truck roof and yelling “branch!” when something large enough to knock me off the truck approached as we drove down the various forested paths, though the adrenaline of being repeatedly almost thrown from a truck may have affected my perception of time.
The end came suddenly and with no help from me. Hemmed in by trees on each side of a narrow path, Shrek’s flight turned to fight as he lashed out with his hind legs at the truck’s bumper. His sheer gall seemed to incense my father, who gunned the engine. I grabed for the truck’s window as I was jerked backwards. I felt the truck bump the donkey, and glanced a shocked face that realized shit just got real. Shrek took the next turn and bolted for his pen. He remained there voluntarily and permanently even if the fence was broken or down. For my part, I returned to practicing my lasso skills on stumps and sticks, and some equilibrium was gained.