FORSYTH -- Best anyone can tell, the tale of Lucky Ruckie the wandering donkey began before Christmas.
In a collard patch.
A man who lives along Ga. 83, eight or so miles southwest of Forsyth, called his brother-in-law, Herman Harden, and said, This donkeys down here eating my greens up.
In that stretch of western Monroe County, the pastures and timberland are dotted with farmhouses, ranch-styles, mobile homes and the occasional still-standing brick chimneys of forgotten homesteads.
There arent many people, but those who do live there are known to raise cattle, horses and, sometimes, donkeys.
Though nobody seemed to know where Lucky Ruckie had come from, no one bothered calling to report him roaming, either.
When Hardens brother-in-law phoned about the collard-munching donkey a couple of months back, Harden told him, Dont you shoot that donkey. ... You shoot that donkey, you go to jail.
Hardens brother-in-law shooed Lucky Ruckie away.
But the donkey, his mussed coat the color of frost on pine straw, wasnt happy about surrendering a meal. He bucked, kicked up his hooves. Only then did he saunter on.
Weeks passed. There were burro sightings. But, again, no one thought much of a stray donkey there in the rolling woods between Mountain Branch and Little Tobesofkee Creek.
Carlos Rodriguez, who owns a pair of horses, lives on four acres next door to Harden on Wood Valley Lane. Its a barely paved dead end maybe seven miles northeast of Culloden.
A few nights ago, Rodriguez woke to the sound of braying.
It was half past midnight.
Lulu, his Jack Russell mix, did what she does when deer drop by. She sounded the alarm, barking, growling.
I come walking through my living room, and when I look through the window I see a shadow between my fence and my horse stable, Rodriguez recalled. Its a donkey.
Rodriguez, 60, a horse trainer who worked 31 years as a painter for a south Florida school system, considered lassoing the stray. But it was the middle of the night.
So instead he latched his farm gate and kept the donkey penned till morning.
Rodriguez had been in Miami most of December. He hadnt heard about the donkeys exploits until he went looking for its owner. No one knew where itd come from.
He just appeared, Rodriguez said. It must have taken him a month to smell around the neighborhood. ... He must have known I have horses and was thinking, Hey, I need to go somewhere somebodys gonna take care of me.
Rodriguez has taken to calling him Lucky Ruckie.
The donkey is fortunate, Rodriguez figures. Not many folks would have spent 30 minutes coaxing the animal into the hay-strewn horse trailer where Rodriguez has been letting him stay and gobble horse feed.
Now, Rodriguez said, he has a bellyful of good food.
His daughter, Simone, posted a picture of Lucky Ruckie on Facebook the other day.
So far no one has claimed him, but a few people have inquired about taking him in.
Rodriguez said, Maybe somebody will read the paper and say, Thats my donkey.