The rescue of Chili the burro this week (scroll down) really brought to mind the story of a famous burro in Arizona’s history. Named after the canyon he wintered in, this friendly little burro was made famous by Marguerite Henry’s Brighty of the Grand Canyon first published in 1953.
Brighty was brought to Grand Canyon during the 1870’s gold rush along with other burros by prospectors to haul their dreamed of mother lode. They found mostly copper, zinc, lead and asbestos, though not enough to strike it rich. Eventually prospectors abandoned the canyon, and many burros as well.
From Grand Canyon National Park archives
Brighty was not wild, yet not entirely tame either. A true free spirit, he survived winters in the canyon and spent summers on the Kaibab plateau. Brighty chose his friends carefully and sometimes agreed to carry a load in exchange for pancakes.
“Uncle Jim” Owens & Brighty from Grand Canyon National Park archives
When “Uncle Jim” Owens came to the north rim of Grand Canyon in 1906 to work as a game warden for the Forest Service he befriended Brighty. In 1917, Elizabeth McKee, along with husband Thomas and son Robert, set up the first tourist facilities on the north rim and Brighty frequently helped Robert haul water.
Robert McKee & Brighty from Grand Canyon National Park archives
Bright Angel of the Grand Canyon has been immortalized by a life-size bronze sculpture located in the Sun Room of the Grand Lodge. Stop by and rub his nose for good luck.
Bronze Brighty in Grand Lodge
I highly recommend reading Henry’s book, it’s not just for children. And of course visit Grand Canyon National Park. However, the road into the North Rim officially closed on December 1st, so you’ll have to enjoy the South Rim, which is open all year, until about mid-May when the North Rim should reopen. Hope to see you there.
Gaelyn at work taken by G. Varga
Oh yea, this cement burro lives in my yard.
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