Thursday, December 30, 2010
A Place of Burros....
If you love donkeys (like I do) and US History (and especially Rt. 66) you'll enjoy this post. These pics are actually from last Spring when Guerdon and I made our trip to Arizona.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit the old mining town of Oatman (this was my 2nd visit, my first was with my mom), to me, it's worth the trip out of the way of wherever you're going. :)
It is along an old stretch of Route 66, narrow and windy, desolate and a definite taste of what traveling it back in the days was like.
There are a lot of old mines scattered about, some are even still functioning.
The miners, in the 1800's, were the ones responsible for bringing the donkeys to this area. When their mines ran dry, or didn't produce, they just turned their donkeys loose to fend for themselves.
Donkeys, being the frugal beings they are, had no problem with this arrangement.
As we wound our way along, out of the desolate, we spied a couple of true feral donkeys. These boys were shy of people, yet curious enough to stand and let me take a couple of pics from the car before they headed back out among the rocks. They looked, healthy and fit and knew their territory well.
I say "true" feral donkeys because when you drive into the town of Oatman you see the other choice some of the donkeys have made. To once again, be close to mankind.
A little history about Oatman....Oatman was named in honor of Olive Oatman (posthumously), a young Illinois girl who was kidnapped by Yavapai and forced to work as a slave, she was then traded to Mojave Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.
Oatman was served by a narrow gauge rail line between 1903 and 1905 that ran 17 miles to the Colorado River near Needles, California.
Oatman really started it's life over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp. In 1915, two miners struck a $10 million gold find, and within a year, the towns' population grew to more than 3,500.
But both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, there was a fire that burned many of Oatman's smaller buildings and in 1924, the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, quit it's operation.
The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and others.
The town was the location for several movies including How The West Was Won, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity.
By 1941, the remainder of the town's gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the US Government as part of the country's war effort since metals other than gold were needed.
Oatman then managed to survive by catering to travelers along old U.S. Route 66. Even that advantage was short-lived as the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route (Interstate 40)between Kingman and Needles was built.
By the 1960's Oatman all but died.
To this day, tourists are the only thing that keeps Oatman alive and one of the main draws (at least to me) :) is the burros and the history of old Route 66. It is a popular destination for many motorcycle clubs.
It's a pretty easy life for the donkeys that have chosen to make Oatman their home. The few locals that choose to make Oatman their full time home take care of these donkeys like family. They are fed and doctored when need be.
There are carrots and pellets the tourists can buy to feed the donkeys and many don't have the lean look of their feral brothers. The donkeys come into town every morning and head back into the desert at night. The locals even put stickers on the babies faces to warn tourists not to feed the carrots to the youngsters as they have been known to choke on pieces of carrot.
They wander in and out of traffic, get a bite to eat, a scratch or a hug from a tourist, even stand about and watch the daily gunfights.
I admit I even had to stop an pose with a little burro I wished I could have taken home with me...
a little ear skritch......I really enjoyed my time spent in Oatman, and hope to someday return there again to visit with those wonderful Oatman residents.