Basketball: For Fun And Pain
By: Joe Mayfield
Almost everyone enjoys good athletic competition; it brings out the best in athletes, and enables families to share in whatever the sport may be. You’ll witness siblings or moms and dads cheering on a loved one, perhaps grandparents and neighbors too. As Americans were attracted to football, baseball, basketball, and let’s not forget track.
However, there is another sport that we seldom see, yet, from time to time, takes place in schools around the country. This sport brings out the macho desires of young men; to show how tough they can be so to speak, and often presents a real challenge for young women as well. The sport is DONKEY BASKETBALL, and if for some reason you’ve failed to witness such an event, you are missing out on what is best described as unequaled laughter. The idea of the game is more about staying on your donkey than anything else. Oh, sure there is a basketball present, and if through some strange stroke of luck you hit the basket, that’s all the better for the game.
Everyone understands going into the so-called game that the audience has paid their money to watch each contestant struggle with the chosen animal, an animal that at first appears to be very docile. Not so, say those that may have tried the friendly beast.
If you’ve never seen a donkey up close, you should know that they have a backbone that protrudes upward from the main body of the animals back, about 3 or 4 inches from the shoulders and across the backside almost to their hindquarters. Today’s donkey basketball games place a blanket like pad over this ridged protrusion, and the contestants are required to wear some form of head protection, unlike games held in the 50 and 60s. Each donkey has rubber pads nailed to their hoofs to protect the participants and the hardwood floor of the basketball court.
I recall the first time I attended such a game, and men of all ages were applying their skills, in an effort to overcome the unwillingness of the donkey. Some men were mad due to a lack of corporation on the part of the animal, which in turn made the audience laugh even more. The game, which took place during the late 50s at the Hanceville High School auditorium, in Hanceville, Alabama, saw people flying through the air as if shot from a cannon, while others feebly attempted to hold onto their steed, even while only one leg was atop the animal. Those that were thrown off usually hobbled to the sideline and walked bowlegged for about three weeks, saying such things as, Ill never do that again, or I’d sooner kiss a rattle snake than do that again.
There was one guy Ill never forget, he was as strong as a bull, and was already bowlegged, therefore, this was a natural sport for him. Lewis Ashwander had a God given strength that was unparalleled when he chose to apply himself, and on this night he did just that. Everyone was laughing as he stepped up to one of the beasts and just looked him in the face, as though to say, You’ll not throw me little fellow, then hoping on, and away they went. The donkey would buck, kick, and run into other animals, anything to get rid of Lewis.
You see, Lewis had a plan; he selected a donkey that he could wrap both legs all the way around the stomach of his adversary, he then hooked both feet together, one over the other. No matter what happened, Lewis was there to stay. As stated earlier, Lewis had tremendous strength, and therefore when the donkey rolled over onto his back, with all four legs in the air, of course this placed Lewis on his back also. Men were getting ready to run out to his rescue, when suddenly they watched as he simply unhooked both feet, opened his legs, and using both hands, as he lay on his back, picked up the animal and set him over to one side as though it was a 10 lb. sack of potatoes. I know I certainly found it hard to believe what had taken place; he then hopped up from the floor and went to aid the donkey.
Today these events take place around our great land, and are used as a money making tool for schools or civic organizations, and seem to always bring out large crowds, therefore, if you should ever have an opportunity to attend, you’ll be glad you did.
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U S Legacies Magazine October 2005