Burro boroughOatman, AZ

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

I think this is the closest I’ve yet come to experiencing the phenomenon of the sacred cow. In Oatman, Arizona, they have sacred donkeys.

Well, if not exactly sacred…then, I’d imagine, lucrative.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Oatman is something of a living ghost town: what’s left is a relic of the gold rush, a dessicated hamlet tucked away in the craggy, bare mountains of western Arizona. The place is so unbelievably remote, it’s a wonder that any highway reached it at all, let alone the Mother Road.

At the time of the gold rush, prospectors brought burros with them to do the heavy lifting for them. Far more hardy than your average horse, the donkeys could tough it out in such an inhospitable place. The ore veins dried up during the Great Depression, and at the start of World War II, the mines were formally closed as nonessential to the war effort. The last few miners turned their beasts of burden loose onto the surrounding hills, and left town for good.

The burros, being burros, thrived on their hardscrabble existence, and before long had produced an entire population of feral donkeys. Their sleek, well-fed descendants roam the streets of Oatman today, stalling traffic (such as there is) and biting the fingers of unwary tourists.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

You have to hand it to Oatman: someone there saw the potential for a feral donkey to become a serious—and sacred—cash cow.

I’m a little ashamed to say I didn’t part with any tourist cash in Oatman. I didn’t even get out of the car. It was 116 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and while I’ll do almost anything for a good tourist trap, frying like an egg isn’t on the list. But then again, stubborn as I may be, I’m no burro—just a pale Irish gal from a cold, rainy climate.

Maybe I’ll visit in the winter next time, and buy an extra t-shirt as penance.

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Comments (1)

  1. Beth Allen

    I’ve been there. It’s the most amazing adventure, awesome animals. Great post, as always!!!

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