The Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center graces the park with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas, and helps us to interpret the history of the human use of plants. 
 
Whiskey and Tango, the donkeys who work the picnic swing at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, are my boys. They graze a five acre pasture at home during the growing season and eat hay in the winter and while at work. During the work day, they are led to grassy areas so that they can eat some green food. They are fed pressed oats and alfalfa cubes and a hoof supplement as well. Occasionally they get an apple or a carrot in the feed pan. During the fall, they eat persimmons and acorns which are really not good for them; however, they have not shown any symptoms of terrible sickness. Donkeys seem to be smarter than horses about what they graze.
 
Until this season, I and other people in the Craft Village and visitors at home would occasionally enjoy hand feeding the boys special treats. It has always been my stated desire that those treats be carrots, apples or alfalfa cubes. Then I began to hear rumors that they were being fed by many people. The treats included peppermints, cranberry chews, home baked cookies, candy bars and more. These were being slipped to the donkeys through the fence throughout the day and even at night.
 
Feeding processed sugar to equines causes colic and can result in fatal colitis. An overfed donkey will store fat in the crest of the neck. This fat neck roll can become so large that it falls to one side and will never recede, disfiguring the donkey for life.
 
Donkeys are herd animals and have a pecking order. The boss donkey is the first to eat and will butt the others away. I have come to understand that donkey handlers have to become the boss donkey. The boss donkey controls the food.
 
When donkeys are hand fed food, they come to expect it and assume the role of boss donkey. They get pushy and insistent to get a treat. They will even butt each other and exhibit other rude behavior. The worst possibility that must not happen is biting the hand that feeds them the treat. They expect treats from all visitors. Whiskey and Tango need to be gentle animals that stand still, work well and enjoy petting from a stream of constant visitors. My boys have always been pretty good donkeys. I want to see them develop into very good boys. With everyone’s cooperation we are on that trail.
 
Now that they are not being hand-fed, they are learning better manners. They do not shove up against me when I am coming in and out of the gate. They wait patiently to be fed grain in their feed pans. They are not demanding treats. This is desirable behavior.
 
I would never think of feeding other people’s animals unless I was taking care of them. In that case, I would follow the owner’s protocol. My request to all of the friends of Whiskey and Tango is, please refrain from feeding them. Please do feel free to visit them and pet them. Please avoid their noses. No animal or person wants a human to mess with their nose. It is just not polite. If I don’t see you in the future—I’ll see you in the pasture!