Oatman: Where the mule does rule

koenau @koenau
· November 2019 · 5 min read · United States · #photography

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About "more loneliness than any man could bear" sings Sting in the famous The Police tune “Message in a bottle” and he means a live on an isle wideout at the ocean. But you don´t need a boat or ship to find this loneliness, when you`re making a roundtrip trough the western part of the United States.

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Because you have Oatman, a small village in the Black Mountains in Arizona. It is located on mostly unknown part of the famous former Route 66 and the only town in the world where mules are making the rules. John, a salesman and shopowner, is fighting agains the stubborn animals every day. He has a special weapon against them of which I will tell more later.

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Before we met him, we have to drive to Oatman over the Black Mountains where you will find the ruins of "Ed's Camp" and a graveyard for cats and dogs as the greatest point of interest along the street. There are also some limestone plants and a lot of stones, rocks and dunes. No forests, no bushes or rivers. Just the landscape the most of the tourist are making a turn around on it.

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It’s a mistake, because these people will miss one of the craziest places allover the southwest: Oatman, named after Olive Oatman, a girl who was kidnapped by Indians in 1851 and released in 1856. Olivias whole family was killed by the gangsters, she and her sister was captured, slaved and forced to work and tattooed in the face. Oliva Oatman died in 1903, 18 years later Oatman burned down without the Oatman Hotel, now the oldest two-storey house in Mohave County and famous because it served Clark Gable and Carole Lombard as lodgings during their honeymoon in 1939.

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Nowadays the Gable and Lombard Suite is one of the hotel's main attractions. Clark Gable fell in love with the place and later returned there to play poker with the miners who dug for gold in the area all around.

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It was a rich town at this time. In Oatman they mined gold for about 30 million dollars, calculated in the value of 1930 before the US government banned the mining while the Second World War when other metals were needed much more. Today, gold is again being mined near the city, but the real gold of the town are the tourist. Due to its location on Route 66 the location was spared the fate of many other gold mining towns, which fell into ghost towns after the end of the gold rush. Oatman survived his death after the Interstate Highway 40 between Kingman and Needles bypassed the city in 1952.

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Now it is a living ghost town with a half a million visitors every year. Thanks to the city of Laughlin, a small Las Vegas at the border of Nevada, which brought a large number of people on the historical Route 66 to Oatman. With the Route 66 tourism Oatman became a tourist attraction, because one of the most beautiful parts of "Mother Road" leads over the winding Sitgreaves Pass directly to this assembly of wooden houses, shops, cafés and restaurants.

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And the wild donkeys, called "burros", they roam free in the city and into the shops. John, who sells shirts, cola and helicopters of ammo, fights them with a spray bottle of water.

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“They don’t like water”, he said, “they flee from it as fast as they can.” The wild burros of Oatman are maintained and protected by the United States Department of the Interior as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West”, so nobody can do anything else against the donkeys that were released by their owners 200 years ago after they were no longer needed for work.

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Today 128 humans live in Oatman – and 500 or 800 burros. The shops are all selling carrots and "donkey feeds", so that tourists can feed the animals. Although the donkeys are usually very tame, signs throughout the city indicate that they are wildlife, with caution because they bite when you don’t think they can do this.

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The most of the time they wander the streets and greet the tourists with her asses. If you´re opening your cars door maybe they try to come in with their heads and the half of their bodies. You can be sure you can not push them away. On sunset they vanish like on a secret command and wander back to the hills for the night. You have to drive another 30 miles to reach the civilisation.

More pics under the link section.

Follow me on my epic journey through America:

Route 66: On the road that kicks
Grand Canyon West: No-pics allowed of this beauty
Grand Canyon: Scenic views into the abyss of earth
Graveyard of giants: The Jurassic Park at the Navajo Trail
More than monumental: The heart of the wild west
Arches NP: The biggest bow you've ever seen
Zion Canyon: Ice-cold feet in narrow waters
Bryce Canyon: God's glowing stones
Las Vegas: Home of Bad Luck
Red Rock Canyon: Road under the ocean
The dry throat of the desert
Mt. Withney: High on thin air
Eating flies on Mono Lake
80.000 miles of steel wire
Beyond the everlasting trees
Crazy climbers at El Capitan
The wonder of the Sierra Waves
Into the home of horror
Where Easy Rider is alive
Blue skies over Alabama Hills

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Topics: PHOTOGRAPHY

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