We wound up with Dan, the one-eyed mule, via a circuitous route.
Over the years, Sabra has either had or taken care of enough animals to fill a small zoo, including a pig, chickens, goats, lambs, a llama, peacocks, horses, cats, a bearded dragon lizard, catfish and dogs.
Then one day she came across an ad placed in the local newspaper for an auction of wild horses and burros by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “I’ve never had a burro,” she said pointing to the ad, “and I’ve always wanted one.”
Two weeks later, off to the auction we went.
A burro is a small donkey or ass.
They have been used as a working animal for at least 5,000 years. It’s estimated that there are 40 million in existence today worldwide, the vast majority in underdeveloped countries. They are used for transportation, threshing, raising water, milling and other work. After human labor, the donkey is the cheapest form of agricultural power.
They are often mentioned in the great religions, myths and folklore of the world. The donkey was the symbol of the Egyptian sun god Ra as well as the Greed god Dionysus; and according to Old Testament prophesies, Jesus was predicted to arrive on a donkey, a revelation that eventually came true.
Donkeys also appear often in literature. They populate at least 20 of Aesop’s Fables, Don Quixote rode one, Eeyore mopes in Winnie the Pooh, Benjamin stays strong and true in “Animal Farm,” and Donkey guffaws for laughs in the film “Shrek.”
The first donkeys arrived on this hemisphere with Christopher Columbus’s second voyage, which landed in the Caribbean in 1495. From the islands they soon spread to Mexico and then into North and South America. The animal was the favored beast of burden to work mines, and it was the helper of choice used by early prospectors of gold in the west. When gold mining went bust, many of the burros were released and a wild population was soon established.
Today there are an estimated 4,500 feral burros in the United States. While this number may seem small, it is too large for their own good so in 1971 congress passed an act directing the BLM to conduct annual roundups of burros and wild horses to thin the herds. The animals are captured and then offered for sale at public auction.
It’s been a while, but I remember being impatient with Sabra on that morning. The animals could be viewed from 8 until 10 a.m., and then the auction would begin. Our plan was to arrive at 8, look over the stock, go out for breakfast and then return for the auction. There were a couple dozen animals up for sale and, as far as I could tell, each one was the same as the other. Sabra, on the other hand, wanted to spend a few minutes with each looking into their eyes and souls as my stomach growled, demanding food.
It turned into a lose/lose morning: I didn’t get a proper breakfast and Sabra didn’t get her burro. Unbeknownst to us until that morning, there are strict rules governing the adoption of these animals. They can only be transported in a BLM approved trailer, be kept in a BLM approved corral with, of course, a BLM approved shelter. And, before being allowed to bid, all of the above must be inspected and approved by the BLM.
I suspect you can adopt a child from a third world country with less paperwork.
So burro bureaucracy kept us from getting a new member for Sabra’s zoo that morning, and it was with a heavy heart and stomach (I ate hotdogs for breakfast) that we returned home.
Then, a few weeks later, I was telling the story to Mike, a buddy of mine, and he said he knew of an area man looking to sell his mule.