A donkey in rough shape

Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

No, I’m not talking about the Democratic Party, though you could say the same about that lot.

I’m talking about Sherman, a neglected donkey adopted by Christopher McDougall, author of “Born to Run.”

McDougall collected Sherman after a Mennonite neighbor discovered the poor critter penned up in a cramped shed. He was, in a word, a mess:

Its fur was crusted with dung, turning its white belly black. In places the fur had torn away, revealing raw skin almost certainly infested with parasites. He was barrel-shaped and bloated from poor feed and his mouth was a mess, with one tooth so rotten it fell right out when touched. Worst of all were his hooves, so monstrously overgrown they looked like swim fins.

McDougall was something of a mess himself not that long ago, a self-described “broken-down ex-athlete battling constant injuries and 50 excess pounds.” Running saved him, and he wondered whether it might do the same for Sherman.

I’d stumbled across a ragtag crew in the Rocky Mountains who kept alive an old miners’ tradition of running alongside donkeys in races as long as 30 miles. Was it possible? Could I bring Sherman back from this calamity so that he and I, side by side, could run an ultramarathon?

I immediately pinged my pal Hal Walter, who has been doing this sort of thing for as long as I’ve known him, and even longer, which is to say for the better part of quite some time.

He replied that yep, he knew about the column, and might even be a part of it down the road, since McDougall interviewed him for the series.

“Might be the only time I’m in the NYT this lifetime, though I did tour the building during a high school journalism field trip,” he added.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the articles in this series. Maybe we’ll learn some way of rescuing that other crippled donk and teaching it how to run.


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14 Responses to “A donkey in rough shape”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I’m also looking forward to the rest of the articles. Not surprised that he contacted your buddy Hal on helping Sherman. Nice to read positive and hopeful news for a change.

    The other donks are crippled all right. We will see if they have the moxie to dump Pelosi as minority leader.

  2. Neal Carbon Says:

    Mose Allison passed recently and this song sums up much of my feeling about our political situation.

  3. Libby Says:

    It’s extraordinary what MacDougall was able to pull together for Sherman. I look forward to reading more of the series.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’ve watched Hal with his burros for many a moon, and they definitely require some maintenance, though they’re not nearly as delicate as horses. As with most relationships, it’s not the initial cost, it’s the upkeep.

      Hal does a lot of his own doctoring to cut down on vet bills. Still, there are times when, like the rest of us, he has to bring in the pros. It’s a little more involved than taking Mister Boo in for a checkup. Dogs and cats are a doddle by comparison.

  4. Libby Says:

    Sharon Jones of the Dap-Kings died at 60 on Friday.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I knew of her, Libby, but only have a casual familiarity with her music. She played at Blues Under the Bridge in Bibleburg a time or two, IIRC.

      Good people seem to be leaving us at an accelerating rate. And yet Darth Cheney walks the earth. The Universe has a distinctly bent sense of humor.

      • Dale Says:

        Isn’t there a warrant out for Mr. C in Italy due to a little rendition event some years back? If that still stands, I suppose that is one part of the earth left he will not trod upon.

    • Carl Duellman Says:

      i saw sharon jones a few years ago at our local venue. she had a full band with horns, maybe a dozen people in all. she was a blast to see. she will be missed.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m always encouraged to see artists working right up to the moment at which they topple into the Unknown. David Bowie, Jim Harrison, Leonard Cohen and now Sharon Jones.

      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

      • Mike Frye Says:

        Just because your old, doesn’t mean your dead. I saw a Star Trek fan video which actually had James Dugan( Scotty) on it and he only spoke a couple lines but this must’ve been right
        i before he died. At least he was there doing “work” . and everybody was happy, The nerds got Scotty on their production and Scotty got to be in a place where there wasn’t any “Caretakers” looking after him.

  5. khal spencer Says:

    excellent metaphor as well, O’G

  6. larry brown Says:

    God you know you are getting old when the music people you admire are dying before you do.

  7. Sandy Mumbach Says:

    I want to know if Sherman made it. And how the running is going.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Sandy, Chris McDougall’s tale of running with Sherman is an ongoing one, in the Well section of The New York Times. You can read the most recent installment here.

      Chris and Hal are supposed to motor through town sometime after Christmas en route to visit another author. Maybe I can corral them for a quick podcast or something. The pack-burro-racing season won’t start for months yet, so Sherman has plenty of time to get ready.

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