Since my very first step onto the Mojave Desert 30+ years ago, I have been in love with all of its colorful splendor, especially the wild burros. Of course, the burros living in Red Rock Canyon are one step away from being domesticated because they are familiar with the constant flow of human visitors exploring their territory.
One meeting between me and a burro took place around 2:00 in the morning when I was 23 years old. I don’t remember the exact reason I drove all the way out to Red Rock Canyon (20 miles) in the middle of the night, but I do remember my young emotions were overflowing and I felt sad.
I pulled my car into the parking lot of Bonnie Springs, an old western town and turned off the engine. It was a clear summer night and I sat on the hood of my old Datsun and cried. My heart was breaking, somehow. (Oh, the drama of being young) After I cried the pain away, I began to enjoy the stillness of the night and laid back against the windshield and watched the full moon float by.
In the distance, in the gravel of the parking lot, I heard strange footsteps. They slowly got louder, which meant they were getting closer and that began to scare me. I jumped off the hood and started for the car door when I spotted the four-legged shadow moving toward me. After a moment of panic and a flash thought I was about to get robbed, a burro appeared two feet away from me.
For a few moments it was a stand-off, he looked at me, I looked at him, then he made a sound and bumped his head into my hand. In reality he was probably looking for food, but at that moment in time, I accepted his attention as a sign of friendship. For the next twenty minutes I gently rubbed his head and filled his ears with my words of woe. He patiently listened and responded with an extra nudge into my hand. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone. As I watched him disappear into the low rolling hills, I quietly thanked him for comforting me.
I truly needed a friend that night and I have never forgotten the experience. I have had many more similar meetings while hiking in that area, but nothing will ever compare to that burro, on that emotional night, under that full moon.