O is for Oatman {Blogging Through the Alphabet}


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I hope you all are ready for some more of our travels with this week’s installment of Blogging Through the Alphabet, O is for Oatman.

Now, where exactly is Oatman you might ask and what’s so special about it that I am devoting an entire post to it? Well, as you know by now if you’ve been reading my blog, it’s more about the memories of our visits to a place than necessarily the place itself that┬ámakes a place special to me although being a bit unusual and telling a historic tale does bump a location up my list.

I was introduced to Oatman, Arizona by my husband more than 20 years ago on a road trip where we had taken his parents to see Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and the London Bridge (yes, the London Bridge was moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona back in 1971, but that’s a story for another day).

OK, so as hubby was looking for places to take his parents sightseeing he came upon the tiny village of Oatman. Best known for its population of wild burros, it is also rumored to be the spot where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon (I like to believe it’s true but then I’m a bit of a romantic).

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The story goes that once Clark’s divorce was final, he promised the couple would be married on his first day free from filming “Gone with the Wind”. This was in March of 1939. The press was camped out at their homes to catch sight of the festivities when Clark’s friend Otto (an MGM publicist) suggested they elope to Kingman, Arizona as he had recently done. So off they went, arriving in the late afternoon in time to pick up their license at the courthouse and head to the church.

This is where the story gets muddy. Some folks claim that the newlyweds spent their wedding night in room 15 of the Oatman Hotel while others insist they drove straight back to Hollywood for a meet and greet with the press the next day. I prefer to think of them spending a quiet night together at the hotel before embarking on their journey all the way home. I’ve driven Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman and even when it was new it wasn’t very wide and even after Oatman the road is interesting, to say the least.

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So getting back to Oatman itself I would be remiss if I didn’ t talk about the wild burros. These are really the main reason most tourists go to Oatman, Arizona. That as well as the desire to drive the longest continuous stretch of the original Route 66 that is still in place. I have driven through this area a few times and our daughters felt I needed something to show for it, a T-shirt that says “I survived Route 66 – Kingan to Oatman”. I said it was an interesting drive.

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Oatman began its life as a mining town over 100 years ago when two miners struck a $10 million dollar gold find. This helped the town grow to about 3500 inhabitants within the following year. With the gold strike came miners who relied on their burros to help pack all their needed equipment from town and down into the mines. Sadly, some of these miners didn’t survive but their animals did and became wild in the desert. Others were simply turned loose by their owners when their claims didn’t pan out as they had hoped (pun intended).

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As you curve through the hills on your way from Kingman to Oatman keep your eyes peeled as you may see wild burros climbing throughout. While many will move into town during the heat of the day (when tourists have something for them to eat) they also leave at dusk to head back into the hills for the night.

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This photo was taken a number of years ago when folks bought bags of carrots to feed the burros

The wild burros of Oatman are somewhat overweight and can be pretty pushy if they think you have food in your pockets. I’ve heard this is from being fed carrots over time. We didn’t know any better at the time since shopkeepers sold them as burros food. These days they sell burro how (alfalfa cubes) and the babies have stickers on their heads reminding visitors to not feed them.

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This little guy decided to take a nap on the road

The burros are friendly but as I said can be quite aggressive if they think you have food and aren’t sharing it with them. Our daughters and grandson had quite an adventure with one of the babies. It seems he decided he should be able to share baby cookies even though he clearly had a baby sticker on his head an wasn’t supposed to be fed.

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EJ was careful not to have his hands out when there was a hungry baby burro around

I can’t tell you how many times we have visited Oatman over the years. We just love visiting these friendly burros and enjoying the quirky shops in this Arizona ghost town.

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