acquainted with your burro as you go along, don't you?" a lady asked a
he just kicked me as we topped that rise," concurred the wrangler.
chuck wagon equipped with a loudspeaker was on hand at Daylight Pass, elevation
4,317 feet, where the first day's run ended. Deputy Sheriff Glen Henderson of
Nye County squatted on top of the truck with a microphone and kept up a running
comment on the race. Glen made a real hit.
"The town of
Beatty has long been known for its burros, and their descendants live there
today," he would say, and the crowd would roar. One man said that Glen was
so good he could have sworn he was reading from a script. Glen kept putting in
plugs for Beatty, the Park Service, the Lions Club and everybody connected with
counting of the hours that has went to prepare this thing," he summed
wranglers from Apple Valley first showed up they were the objects of sly
derision. They didn't look like burro wranglers. They hadn't grown beards nor
did they wear boots, big hats, loud jackets or heavy clothing. They were
dressed light. Instead of big hats they wore handkerchiefs or light caps to
keep the perspiration out of their eyes. The Apple Valley gang wore sneakers,
and one of them, Jim Gorrell, even wore a pair of skimpy breeches that
resembled toreador pants. But beneath his pretty pants Gorrell sported a pair
of powerful legs.
The knowing grins
of Beatty supporters faded soon after the start of the race. Donnie Wilson of
Apple Valley streaked out far ahead of the pack, and right behind him was Jim
Gorrell. Their burros would balk now and then just like all the others, but
when the animals decided to run, the boys from Apple Valley went like the wind.
In contrast, local wranglers, their booted feet festooned with blisters, were
often seen being dragged along by their burros. Badwater Bill, a professional
oldtimer who resembled a Santa Claus in a prospector's outfit, started out
bravely but ended the first day riding in the rear seat of a big sedan. Against
the Apple Valley upstarts Badwater Bill never had a chance.
The second day's
run was a 20-mile downhill stretch from Daylight Pass to the sand dunes in
Death Valley. Going downhill proved even harder than going up. The boots of the
Beatty boys slipped on the rocks while the blisters grew and their feet
swelled. That was the day that Dick Stone's burro decided he wanted no more of
the race. Dick was dragged, kicked and bitten. He was tromped on, butted and
scratched up something awful. Other wranglers fared almost as badly. When this
grueling second day was over there were only 17 of the original 39 wranglers
left in the race. And, to make it worse, the invaders from Apple Valley had
increased their lead still more.
The last day's
run, a nine-mile stretch from the sand dunes to Stovepipe Wells Hotel, found
the bulk of the wranglers in bad shape. Once again the crowd gathered and
whooped as a volley of pistol shots put the race in motion. And once again
there was little joy for the Beatty boosters at the finish. The winner, Donnie
Wilson of Apple Valley, covered the 46-mile course in a total elapsed time of 6
hours 47 minutes and 54 seconds. Runner-up Jim Gorrell of Apple Valley made it
in 7:25:28, and third-place Mike Kinney of Apple Valley was clocked in 8:09:09.
Then, after a space of time that seemed like eternity, the first clot of Beatty
wranglers hove in sight on the rim of the desert.
Although the race
already had been won, the local wranglers struggled on for the honor of Beatty.
The crowd tried to keep up a front by cheering each time a footsore, exhausted
wrangler stumbled across the finish line.