Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Burros of Fairplay Colorado

When gold was found in the mountains of Park County just to the south of Breckenridge, miners needed a way to carry supplies in and the gold ore out.

At elevations well above 10,000 feet along treacherous narrow trails, only the little burro was sure-footed enough to heft heavy and valuable loads to the top of the mountains and back down without endangering themselves or their masters.

It was years before the narrow game trails were widened to accommodate freight wagons, so the burros were engaged to carry everything from the timber to shore up the mines to potbellied stoves for the camp cookhouse. These faithful animals carried millions of dollars worth of gold and silver ore out of the mines high up on the mountains. Small wonder the lowly burro soon became the miner's best friend.

In Fairplay there is a statue of a pair of the little donkeys on the school campus. The most famous of all the local burros was Prunes. He first went to work in the mines around Fairplay in 1867, and his familiar long face was seen at the opening of nearly every mine in the area as he carried whatever his owner at the time required. In his later years, Prunes met up with Rupert Sherwood and the two would scour the old mining sites for gold.

They became such good friends that when Prunes died the folks in Fairplay built a fitting monument for such a notable member of the community right on Front Street overlooking the river. At the dedication of the memorial, Rupert read a poem he wrote, "Me and Prunes", and requested that he be buried along with his pal. When he passed away a year later, the townspeople honored Rupert's request and buried his ashes in the monument alongside Prunes.

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