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The Madera Tribune

Burros and Blackjack

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webmaster | 12/31/11

Not gamblers by any stretch of a poker hand, we were taking a chance and heading across the vast Mojave Desert to Laughlin, Nevada and Casino Drive. We passed our former campsites, Hole-in-theWall and Providence Mountain in the Mojave National Preserve. A million sage and mesquite bushes later we were sharing a sunset from our riverview room at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.

Below us, the once mighty Colorado was but a wide stream one could almost ford. Its once raging, but scenic rapids tamed above the Grand Canyon by Glen Canyon Dam and below by Hoover and Davis Dams. Across the river lay Bullhead City, the shape of a bend in the river giving the Arizona town it’s unique moniker. Beyond, the Black Mountains radiated a vermillion glow until, with the sun’s demise behind us, the mountains turned the color of their namesake.

The next morning, our anniversary, I had a surprise for my gal. We were going to explore an old mining camp and former ghost town. Somehow, she didn’t look surprised. I mentioned that the town was famous for it’s wild burros roaming through town. However, after all these years I couldn’t understand her quizzical stare, but I figured at least by exploring the town she’d see a different type of jackass.

A dozen or so miles east of the river, 2700 feet into the Black Mountains, is the once booming mining town of Oatman. The town was named for Olive Oatman. Arriving “out west” with her father, mother and six siblings the family encountered hostile Indians asking for guns and tobacco. A fight ensued and Olive, age 13, and her sister Mary Ann, age 7, survived. Her brother Lorenzo, 15, who had been left for dead, managed to live through the ordeal. The girls were kidnapped by the Indians and made slaves. Later Olive was traded to the Mohave (not Mojave) Indians who adopted her. Unfortunately, as a sign of her belonging to the tribe, her chin was tattooed as was their custom. Mary Ann died of starvation at the age of 10. After three years, a cavalry commander offered horses and blankets in trade and Olive was finally released in 1855 near the town site named in her honor. She was taken to Yuma and reunited with her brother...


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