Outdoors Magazine

Of Donkeys and Asses

By Everywhereonce @BWandering

Oatman Arizona Begging Burros

I think I’d prefer “ghost towns” if they had more, you know, actual ghosts. I’d be happier still if they simply had fewer living people. It’s not that I generally prefer ghosts to people it’s just that the folks we’ve encountered in such places have been particularly unfriendly. Unfriendly enough to make us long for poltergeists in comparison.

It’s a strange thing, really, because you’d think they’d be happy to see tourists roll into town, almost like carnies eyeing fresh marks. It’s not as if some other industry supports the community. Whatever reason people had for originally settling there is long since gone. Now they survive solely by hawking bad meals and memorabilia to people like us.

In that kind of environment you might expect outsiders to be treated like royalty, or at least like valued customers. Instead, we’re often made to feel like trespassers. That’s certainly the impression we got from the unwelcoming stares and gruff tones directed our way in Oatman, Arizona. In the event we missed these not-so-subtle social cues, a strange welcome sign warning us that all these surly people were packing heat clearly conveyed the message that our presence was, at best, tolerated. 

Welcome to Oatman

Welcome to Oatman

Situated on a portion of Route 66 now mostly abandoned for more efficient thoroughfares, Oatman has experienced a bit of a revival as a tourist destination. Structures built during some long-gone mining heyday serve as t-shirt and tchotchke shops. Wild burros, supposedly descendents from those that once worked the mines, still roam the town. If not for the donkeys, we probably would have skipped Oatman entirely.

We’re not alone, it seems. The town’s website prominently features the burros as an attraction. Oatman, it says, “is host to 40 plus gift and Antique Shops, Gun Fight Shows and Wild Burros . . . (that) make themselves home wandering the streets . . . careful they’ll follow you right into a store.”

Of course the store owners we saw mostly had nothing but harsh words for the donkeys. Well, harsh words and bottles used to spray the animals with what I can only assume to be water. Irony, it seems, is lost on folks who sell “Oatman: Home of the Wild Burro” t-shirts for their livelihood. But then I’m not sure why I’d expect Oatman to have any greater lover for its resident burros than the tourists they’re intended to lure. Maybe I should just be happy that we escaped town without having the spray bottles turned on us.

Oatman Arizona Burro

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