By Jessica Jones
For many local Rimbey residents, seeing Keith Kendrew and his donkey’s are not an anomaly.
The long-time resident has had his donkey’s at a number of events over the years, whether it be at farmers markets, providing donkey rides for the kids, rodeos, parades, trail rides, or maybe they’ve even seen him passing through the local A&W drive-thru with a donkey in tow. Kendrew, and his various donkey’s, have been a constant local fixture over the years.
“Everyone probably knows me, because I’m the donkey guy,” Kendrew said with a laugh.
It was 1978 that Kendrew bought his first donkey, explaining that he “balked” when one of his son’s asked for a horse. Kendrew’s wife, Lil, suggested they purchase a donkey instead and it seems the family never looked back.
“That’s when I got the donkey-itis,” said the proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He says donkey’s, and attending events with his donkeys, sort “snowballed.”
“I walked over to my neighbours house with the first donkey and there she ran a dayhome centre so I took all the kids for a little ride,” he said.
From this he used his donkey on camping trips, riding from east and west to Brazeau County to Kananaskis and many other places.
“I’ve been to quite a few unique places,” he said, suggesting that perhaps he should write a book about all his adventures.
“When I started with one donkey, it drove me crazy seeing it stand around and do nothing, so I trained it to drive, started packing him and taking him around,” Kendrew said.
Training donkey’s has been an adventure in amongst itself, Kendrew explained. He says they can have a lot of “personality.” Mostly, however, he’s taken training and breaking the donkey’s in stride.
“It’s sometimes a mess,” he admitted. “But donkey’s are fairly easy to train. People always say that donkey’s are stubborn, but you’ve got to be smarter than the animal you’re training.”
Kendrew mentioned one of his donkey’s doesn’t like going into town, but once he’s there, he “adores the attention.”
“Every one of them is an individual,” he said. “And I have this new baby, and she is the most darling little animal you will ever see,” he gushed, further adding that in Canada and the United States, donkey breeds are not recognized. Most are registered by size.
He also reflected on one of many donkey stories, recalling a time when he was crossing a stream with his donkey, trying to get to an outfitters camp in the mountains. Thinking that his donkey would follow the group, he encouraged her to give the stream a try. His donkey put one foot in the water, looked up, and took off to a bridge about 20 yards away.
“There wasn’t a chance she was going in there,” he said. “I’m still amazed at the thought process,” he said with a laugh.
Kendrew will still lead his donkey’s into town from his 12-acre donkey farm at the east edge of Rimbey, keeping up with many events year-round.