The following story is about a donkey, a van and a T-shirt.
The donkey and the van appeared last year.
That is when I wrote, Honky Tonk.
The T-shirt appeared this year.
So, Honky Tonk needed an update.
One Sunday, back when I was in sixth grade, I hopped on my bike, and I pedaled my way to school. It was located at the top of a very long and steep hill.
What I didn't know until that day was that our school was not at the top of a very long and steep hill. Our school was at the top of just one of a series of long and steep hills, on a road that never really ends.
But I'd never had a reason to go beyond the building that held all those teachers who taught me how to sound out the words in the fun filled adventures of Dick and Jane. How to add and subtract. How to multiply.
And, well, they did their best with division.
Until that Sunday.
I saw Becky and her long blond braids coming toward me. She came skidding to a halt on her ten speed, leaving a black streak on the pavement.
Her bike had really cool handle bars, a pinhead of a seat and those new fangled hand brakes.
My bike was of the more sturdy vintage.
It was built to be pedaled to the grocery store, as it came with double baskets hanging over the back tire and a bell that I could ring with my finger if a slow moving wagon with a three year old sitting in it, ever got in my way.
That's why it was a day and half later when Becky and I raised our left hands in the air and turned right onto a gravel driveway that crossed over a little brook and then led us into her family's little piece of heaven.
The reason that we rode our bikes to their mosquito infested land that day, was so that I could meet her donkey.
He was really nice.
Although I am not sure that he was worth all the effort.
Her parents said we couldn't even ride him.
We just fed him carrots and hay and then shoveled up his shit, because her mom said, "That was the deal. You get a donkey. You take care of your donkey."
Well, I was really tired, smelly and all bit up, with homework still looming, when we left that place.
I was so spent that I was thankful when her dad loaded our bikes up into the back of his truck, that I didn't even care that we weren't going to fly down all those hills I'd dreamed about as I'd pushed my way up all of them.
The funny thing is, I almost forgot about that day.
But now, just forty-eight short years later, I am starting to notice a pattern.
You see, a couple of Saturdays ago, I stopped to buy some beer to take to the cottage. That is when I noticed a woman in line in front of me with purple hair, sparkly pink shoes, a tie-dyed dress and earrings the size of grapefruits to match.
She pulled out the correct change to pay for a PowerAde and left.
I then swiped my card for twelve Lite sins and got back into my car.
That is when it happened.
I pulled up right behind the same woman who was still in the parking lot.
She was in a white van that said Christie's Quilt on it.
"Oh, she quilts," I thought.
There were a pair of windows on the double back doors.
I read the words, Hauling my little ass across America.
The woman tapped her brakes.
So, I tapped mine.
And then the white ass of a white ass pressed against the double back windows.
Fortunately, I am a law-abiding citizen.
Therefore, I did not spray any of that beer right out of my nose and onto the dashboard.
But I did laugh.
All the way to the cottage, I laughed.
I wrote down the name of her blog in my mind.
And when I returned home the next evening, I looked it up.
Well, it turns out that the lady with the purple hair goes by Joanne and her little white ass would be Levi.
It turns out that she is on a mission for God to spread joy.
I am not the religious type, but I sent her a message anyway.
"You are hilarious."
Three days later she responded.
"God Bless you."
And somehow, I found myself painting a picture of Levi, fly fishing in a mountain stream onto the hood of her van.
Now, I was pretty nervous about this van painting situation I'd gotten myself into.
"What are you so worried about?" says my son.
"Um. Let's see. Ruining her van?"
"Mom, how do you ruin a van that has a patchwork quilt stenciled on it and a donkey inside it?"
He did have a point.
But still, I couldn't sleep.
On one of my trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night an idea came to me.
"How in the heck did you happen to have a practice van?" Joanne says to me in a message.
"I am married to Sven," I answered. "I have lots of shit around here."
And then it was D Day.
That would be Donkey Day.
And that van was on its way to my house.
I stuck out my thumb as Christie's Quilt was making its way down our overgrown driveway toward me.
I could see her bandana and grin through the window.
She stopped and opened the door, bus driver style.
"How far are you going?"
"You tell me," She answers.
Her adorable six-year-old grandson, Felix and her cute little white ass, Levi, looked up with little interest as I climbed aboard.
During the next four hours I learned a lot.
Did you know that some donkeys prefer juice boxes over water?
And some will binge on Mediterranean herb flavored crackers and pass on the carrots.
Or that if somebody lets go of the rope, some donkeys will trot down the path in front of you with increasing speed and this would be the time to be thankful that your sweet Sven has not yet chopped up that tree for firewood, that fell over in the spring, so it is still blocking the trail to the neighbor's land, the neighbor's pond and the highway that goes by the neighbor's house?
I also learned that the path through our woods that is carpeted in moss is a pleasure to every child, adult and donkey who passes over it.
Felix is going to be a master builder and an artist when he grows up.
And Joanne is for real.
The sun was hot by the time I signed her painted hood.
"Thank you so much," she says, all teary. "I knew that God would send me artists. It is all falling into place."
I was all excited about that sentence because I could really use a couple of points with the big guy.
If you know what I mean.
But really, I was just buying beer.
I hitched a ride to our Wednesday B.S. Club, inside Christie's Quilt.
Cruising with donkeys and cute little blondes is one of my favorite new hobbies.
But it turns out that donkeys prefer country life over condos in suburbs, even if they have a really nice view and they come with women who like to kiss them.
So after a quick photo shoot, we said farewell.
And then it rained.
AND it RAINED.
Apparently God wanted me to paint a different picture on that hood.
And then God thought I should design a T-shirt.
The road trip is underway.
This T-shirt is now available at http://inktothepeople.com South Dakota The Maiden Voyage and at http://customink.com
All profits go to, Project Healing Waters, a fly-fishing experience for disabled Veterans.
Wear her shirt.
Share her vision.
Spread her joy.
Watch for updates of this fantastic journey on http://haulingmylittleassacrossamerica.com, whenever Joanne finds Wi-Fi, that is.
And that concludes this true story about a special T-shirt and friend.