Formerly a gold mining town, Oatman, Arizona is now a tourist destination that owes its tourist traffic to Route 66 nostalgia. It’s about twenty miles off the beaten path in the Lake Havasu area.
My friend Dusty and I visited as we headed to California at the end of an already-long day on our motorcycles. The mercury hit 115 degrees (F), so not even the reptiles were stirring. Why would we take a detour to see a tourist trap on such a hot day?
To see the Oatman burros, of course.
The prospector’s faithful companion
The icon of any gold mining operation is the prospector and his burro. When the Oatman gold mine closed, the prospectors no longer had use for their companions, so they removed their saddlebags, gave them a swat on the behind, and wished them good luck out in the Mojave Desert. The prospectors couldn’t have anticipated that the little burros would proliferate to the point they are now subject to an annual adoption program to keep the herds at a manageable size.
Over a period of time the town’s gift shops and artists decided the little critters could be used as a magnet to draw tourist traffic from Route 66. It certainly worked for me!
The burros have the run of the place, everywhere from the streets and alleyways to the boardwalks. Watch where you step.
You can set your clock by their 5:00 p.m. departure from Main Street to the surrounding hills. Why 5:00 p.m.? Because that’s when the shops close, and smart burros know that’s when the human wait staff pulls out of town!
Don’t feed wild animals!
Pulling into town toward the end of an already-long and -hot day, we were greeted by a pregnant jenny (which is what you call a female) and her three-month old colt. I quickly offered the jenny an apple by placing it in my mouth, and Dusty took a picture of her taking a bite, which looked like she was giving me a kiss. So cute!
But, uh oh, I wasn’t thinking ahead. I didn’t considering the consequences of feeding a wild animal. I later learned from a shopkeeper that although burros look like horses, which have no problems eating apples, my little jenny would likely be in for a case of diarrhea as a result (sorry, girl!).
What’s on my mind as I tell this story is the consequences of our decisions. Prospectors didn’t foresee that Oatman would be kept alive by the descendants of the burros they cast aside. This is a long-term consequence of a decision, but every act has consequences. My desire for a cute picture with the jenny probably led to a short-term consequence for her of diarrhea.
Today you’ll be faced with making a series of choices — will you keep the burros in mind?
New to this series? Here’s the introduction.