Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married here in Kingman, Arizona back in 1939. I have no idea why. Perhaps they just wanted to get away from Hollywood – and if that was the case – they did a helluva job. Kingman ain’t Hollywood – trust me – and that’s a good thing. Come to think of it – maybe it is understandable why they came here to get hitched. They then honeymooned in a local gold mining camp town called “Oatman”. Lisa and I traveled there on her final day off from work before we head back home in a week. People had told us from day one that “Oatman” was a place we had to visit while here in Arizona. One of those “must sees”. Famous for it’s daily mock gun fights and roaming burrows that saunter through town, “Oatman” is located along thirty miles of the longest stretch of the original Route 66 still in use. Winding through the Black Mountains and Mohave Desert, Lisa and I weaved our way along the narrow roadway amazed that people actually traveled this route on their way to California several decades ago. The entire length of “Oatman” could not be more than a mile long and along with the “Oatman Hotel” where the Gable’s spent their wedding night, it features shops, restaurants, bars and hungry burrows waiting to be fed.
“Oatman” was originally a mining camp in the early 1900’s that became popular with prospectors after ten million dollars in gold was discovered. The town is named after Olive Oatman, an Illinois girl kidnapped by Yavapai Indians and forced to work as a slave. After being adopted by Mohave Indians, her face was tattooed in the Mohave Indian tradition and she was later set free very near where “Oatman” was settled. Hence why the name “Oatman” was adopted in her honor.
Aside from experiencing all the history of the place, Lisa and I had the most fun feeding the wild burrows. Tame enough to allow them to feed out of your hand, these donkeys have grown in population having descended from pack animals the early prospectors used. The animals arrive each morning at about the same time the stores open for business and they seem to know what parts of the town provide the sacks of feed since they will walk up and down the wooden, plank sidewalks waiting to be fed. If not careful – the animals can become somewhat aggressive – biting and kicking each other trying to get to the free hand-outs. As evening approaches, the burrows make their way back into the hills surrounding “Oatman” – only to return to town the next day, as if they are reporting for work. Lisa and I bought two bags of feed and laughed at how quickly they would gather around trying to get a bite of food. Even after the food is gone, they follow people up the street thinking more food is on its way.
Lisa and I commented that after finally making our way to “Oatman”, we believe we have now seen just about every famous place in north-west Arizona. Now we wait for the next week to pass so we can finally gather all our things, hitch our wagons and head east. Homesick, sunburnt, and a little tired of desert living, we are looking forward to ending our time here. But, leaving a place after five months brings a little sadness to both of us as we have grown to love these people and these places. Who knows if Lisa will be called back here in January – who knows where her next assignment will take us?
But we know where home is – and that is our next destination.
Love, Steve and Lisa