I lived and worked in Turkey for a while some nineteen years ago -- as the agent for a firm that manufactured a special industrial diesel-motor vehicle in cooperation with a Turkish concern at a factory in Manisa. And as time passed, I established a friendship with one of the managers of the Turkish company. A friendship that continued to flourish even after my 'duty tour' was over and I had returned to England...
Every year (if possible) I'd return to Turkey for a short holiday -- during which I'd make a point of visiting my friend Ergun, in Eski Foça. And on one of my visits, he introduced me to his newly acquired 'house pet' -- a donkey named Ninni! Well, not quite a house pet, really, since this donkey remained tied to the trunk of a large tree in the field in front of Ergun's block of flats, at all times. But it was obvious that Ninni had found a place in Ergun's heart, if not in his flat...
Ninni and Ergun circa 1979
The year following, I was again able to arrange a short Turkish holiday -- but, to my surprise, when I dropped in at Ergun's place I found that Ninni was no longer 'at home'.
"What happened to Ninni?" I asked.
"It's a strange thing," my friend replied. "One morning after I got up, I went out in the field to feed her -- but she was gone! Just disappeared. That was three months ago. And up to now, I haven't heard any news about her."
Another year passed. And this time while on my 'standard' two week Turkish holiday, I stopped by Ergun's flat again as usual. After we'd said our hellos and made a little pleasant conversation, I suddenly spied Ninni through the window -- tied to her place under the tree in the field.
"Ergun bey, it looks as though your long-lost donkey has returned -- what's the story, I wonder?" I asked.
"Ahhh," he sighed, "Well, six month's ago I was surprised to see a notice in our weekly provincial newspaper. It said:
Found - An un-tethered donkey
Please apply -- Bağarası Köyü
"So, I immediately picked up the phone, and contacted the man who'd placed the notice -- a farmer. According to what he said, the animal seemed to resemble my Ninni. And when I went to Bağarası Köyü to have a look for myself I found that, sure enough, it was she.
"Trouble was...When I thanked the farmer and got ready to leave, he said, 'Just a second, sir. This business isn't quite finished, yet...'
"'Why, what is it?', I asked him..."
"'Well, before I could stop the animal, she ate half a field of my tomatoes. And, afterwards, in the time since I placed the notice, we've been feeding her -- for three weeks, now. Let's see...The tomatoes will cost you 300,000, the feed is 40,000 --- so if you don't mind, the total will be 340,000 TL.' [Ed. Quite a large sum in those days.]
"What could I do, John? Such a pity, I had no choice but to pay him the money he asked. Big money, for such a bad reason. Big money..."
When I next went to Eski Foça -- I wasn't very surprised to see that Ninni no longer 'lived at' Ergun's place. It came out in conversation that he'd sold her to recover the money he paid to get her back from the farmer, in the first place. It was Ninni's punishment thereafter to have to work for her 'supper' at the home of her new owner.
Sadly, Ergun died last year at age 56 after a short
illness. But being the type of chap he was ("The beer's in the
fridge -- but please serve yourself and bring me another one while you are at it," he'd say...), we won't let that interfere with our fond memories of him.
jjg (June '00)