One of my many obsessions is with horses and donkeys. Last fall break, I convinced The Chia (my younger son) to go on a road trip with me to Oatman, Arizona. Oatman is known for its wild donkeys, descendants of the donkeys prospectors released when mining dried up (simplified version). According the man running the jail “tour,” Oatman was a ghost town 2 times over. At any rate, these creatures roam around the streets doing what they want. Have you ever seen the Honey badger memes, the narrated videos of actual honey badgers? These donkeys are the equine counterpart to that–they don’t give a 💩. At any rate, the rest of the fam was not having it with the donkeys or Oatman. I, however, was obsessed. I talked about Oatman nonstop for days. Oatman, donkeys, Oatman, Oatman, donkeys. Did I mention donkeys? Donkeys. I felt like it was a sign that we should go because after bringing it up, I happened to read a novel where the heroine was originally from Oatman. The novel, itself, was set in Tombstone. Then Oatman was mentioned another place that I can’t remember–there might’ve been another mention but it could’ve just very well have been me yammering about it. Honestly, it did keep popping up and not just from my mouth. I swear. ✋🏼 (there has to be a better emoji than that but that’s what I have for you, right now)
It was a day trip for us, a little less than four hours away, unless your navigator tells long stories and forgets to start the navigation system. No, I was the driver 🤨 We took the “long” way there and the more direct route back–and by long I mean we left Phoenix and drove up to Prescott and then down Route 66 to Oatman 😬. Since it was just the two of us, there weren’t any admonitions or backseat whining. It was all good with us, we were on an adventure. Since none of the businesses bothered to return our calls about reservations for the jailbreak or horseback riding, we weren’t on a set schedule, either. Lucky for us. We decided to play it by ear and just drive to this old mining town (albeit using the aforementioned circuitous route). Actually, Google classifies it as a “village,” an honest-to-God village. It’s listed as having 120 residents, as of 2010. The idea of “village” was funny to me because the boys had played so much Minecraft and there was talk of “villagers.” There are many things that come to mind when I think of villagers but in connection to Minecraft, for some reason, I think of the villagers with pitchforks and torches hunting down Frankenstein’s monster–not that hunting down anything is funny, it’s not. It’s just the strange connection I seem to make with those words. Anyway, about those donkeys…
Chia did due diligence by looking up Yelp reviews and doing some research on Oatman before we left. We had planned on doing all the things. Something that kept coming up, however, was–bring plenty of carrots. They sell them there (very overpriced) as well as expensive donkey pellets, but bring carrots. So we brought ’em. I think we brought 20 lbs of them tucked in our cooler, because, well, Costco. 2 of the 10 pounders–it was feeding time (until it wasn’t). I’m going to interrupt my story by saying that we had a blast before we got there. Chia even said–which is somewhat ominous, looking back at it–that he thought we had the trip before we even got to our destination. We stopped when we felt like it and ate what we wanted, we even had a lovely conversation with the sweetest little old ladies at one of the volunteer museums along Route 66. At any rate, we felt robbed when got to Oatman. I had to remind both of us, it’s the journey not the destination. It was so true, this time. I shake my head, so true, as well as a good reminder. So Oatman and the donkeys were somewhat of a letdown, but we still had a truckload of fun. (Or Mini-load, because I drive a Mini)
The streets weren’t filled with donkeys. There were two donkeys who fought each other and a couple of follower-donkeys. I think we saw, maybe, 6 total. There were signs everywhere with these two symbols: 🚫🥕. Yup. Essentially, Don’t feed the donkeys carrots. Just. Don’t. Disappointment aside, the donkeys were horribly ornery that day. I was talking to a shopkeeper who was saying something must’ve happened because the donkeys were acting up, “Queenie,” in particular (I think she’s the white one in pic; nonetheless, she’s white). Who wouldn’t act up with that name? Kind begs the thought of, “pester others” or “license to pester.” The shop keeper, Chia, and I watched unobservant parents with younger children getting too close to the backside of these fighting burros while shaking our heads. I’m a city girl, but people, don’t hang out close to the backside of some animal you aren’t familiar with. In general, just don’t. Unless you belong there, but that’s another story. It actually made me a little nervous because fights were busting out and hooves and teeth were flying and flashing around, so to speak. Couple that with clueless children and their even more clueless parents, and the hot sun, it made me sweat. The novelty of it all wore off pretty quickly. I was unwilling to jump into the fray to get close to these creatures that I drove hours to hang out with and spent days talking about–don’t judge. Chia was unwilling, as well. I’d like to think I was exercising some common sense–from afar. It was hot out for October and we weren’t feeding any donkeys the copious amounts of carrots that we brought. Here’s the emoji, again, just because. 🥕🥕🥕 (that’s the good one). Here’s the undesired communication 🚫🚫🚫. Who likes being told “no”? But we followed the rules because it seems that someone was doing some caretaking of the animals–too many carrots aren’t good for them, apparently. If you look at the “paint” on their backs, that’s something for their skin or so the shopkeeper told me when I asked who spray painted them purple.
As we walked the very short boardwalk and then around the few historical things to look at, Chia did more online research. He refused my offer to buy pellets because he was pretty salty about his pre-trip carrot research. I wouldn’t mind going back to see if ours was an outlier trip or if all the pics e saw earlier had “actor” donkeys and people–the posts we saw showed streets brimming with happy people and plentiful donkeys. Even some people I had talked to said our trip was unusual–but I’m pretty positive NONE of my family will go back with me. I’ll have to drag them to another Arizona mining town or something like that.
What did I get out of this trip, aside from an awesome bonding experience with my Chia? I came home with the idea of Wrighty (from my first novel, The Reluctant Bandit) getting “dusted” by a white burro. He got drunk and tried to ride one of the prospector’s burros, but it threw him–making him the butt of a lot of jokes. However, don’t feel bad for Wrighty, he’s evil. So, Wrighty got dusted by a desert canary. Good on the desert canary. Good on us for having an awesome trip, despite the epic disappointment of not feeding the donkeys. I guess this is a variant of the theme–things aren’t always as they seem. 🤷🏻♀️ (I didn’t set out to do that, by the way.)