A man and his son were once going to make purchases at the town market with their donkey. They were walking along by its side when a countryman passed them and jeered: “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?”
The man was embarrassed. So he put his son on the donkey and they went on their way. But soon a group of men passed them, and one of them commented: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his old father walk while he rides.”
Chagrined, the man ordered the boy to get off, and mounted the donkey himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said disapprovingly to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
The man was now at his wit’s end. After brooding for some time, he lifted his son up in front of him upon the donkey. By this time they were near the town gates, and the passers-by began to stare and point at them. The man stopped and asked them what was the matter. They said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with yourself and your roly-poly son?”
Exasperated beyond measure, the man and the boy dismounted from the donkey and thought hard what to do. They thought and thought, till at last an idea struck them. They cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, then raised the pole to their shoulders and carried the donkey. Thus they went along as everyone who saw them hooted and rolled about in laughter.
As they came to the bridge leading to the market, the donkey getting one of its feet loose, suddenly kicked out, causing the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the ensuing struggle, the donkey fell over the bridge. As his fore-feet were still tied together to the pole, he was drowned. Mortified at their loss, father and son began to lament and beat their breasts.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them and seen everything, “Please all, and you will please none.”
— the harbinger