Walkabout. Burro Edition.


I hiked up the backside of Shaw Butte this morning. The trail had really deteriorated in recent years from weather and use, but it was in good shape this morning and I only saw one other person, a young guy that would run several yards, check his phone. Run several yards, check his phone. I passed him on the way up and he was about half up when I passed him on the way down. He was still checking his phone.

Things were quiet and serene and my mind wandered as I moved along. As I was coming down the hill I remembered a story I had heard from an old timer about a burro, named Jimmy. Now, Jimmy was an old tired, flea-bitten burro that lived at Abel’s gas station and grocery store which was located on Cave Creek Road north of Peoria. In the forties motorists would make the drive up and out of the city, through Sunnyslope, to the cooler, northern village of Cave Creek. They would stop at Abel’s for gas and for drinks. And to see Jimmy. At random times during the day, but usually when there was a group of people around, Abel would gather everyone outside and introduce the star attraction of the service station. Abel would offer Jimmy a full bottle of cold beer. Jimmy would get it in his mouth, between his teeth, and toss his head up and down until he emptied the bottle. He would drop the bottle on the ground and bray for more. Jimmy eventually died, hopefully not from cirrhosis of the liver. Abel passed away, and the store closed, though I believe the original building, a small grey structure still stands on the west side of Cave Creek Road at the base of the climb up to Cactus.

As I worked my way down the mountain I remembered another story about another burro, one that was closer to home, one that I had actually seen, and one that some called Jenny. Years ago there was a wild burro that lived on the south side of Shaw Butte. I was hiking the trail a lot then and I would often see her, standing on the side of the mountain, in rocky terrain, watching me. Sometimes in the early evening I would see her down by the trailhead at the end of Peoria. On occasion someone who leave a bale of hay for her. On several occasions park rangers would try to get her, but she was too fast, and too proficient at climbing the rocky areas. The rangers would always give up, exhausted. Once I was out at dusk, coming back down along the main arroyo that runs between Shaw Butte and North Mountain. I came out of high brush into a clearing and I almost ran into her. Scared the heck out of me! She just stood very still. She was bigger in person than I had thought, having only seen her from a good distance. I just stared back. She gave me a snort and turned and ambled up the rocky slope. That was the last time I saw her. There were rumors that she had been finally caught and relocated. Others that hikers had found her carcass on the side of the mountain. Others believe her ghost still lives up on the mountain and that at night, during the summer, one can hear her and Jimmy laughing as they toss back a couple cold ones.