The Wonder of Walter

The mayor of Oatman, Arizona, is one popular guy, or burro rather. Walter is a beloved Oatman resident, taken in by Brad and Kelly Blake when he was just 8 hours old after his mother abandoned him. The Blake’s have shared Walter’s journey as he grows up on social media and he’s gained thousands of fans from all over the world.

Due to his popularity, Walter was appointed honorary mayor of the town, with no opposition.

“I guess until the next burro wants to run against him,” Kelly Blake laughed. “And we allow public announcements through Walter. Like the chamber of commerce will use Walter’s picture to tell people about events going on or on notices not to feed the burros junk food or things like that.”

He has been a major positive influence for the town, as well as a source of joy for his many fans.

“Store owners up here have brought to our attention how much positivity Walter has brought to the town and brought more people up here and allowed us to have more fun events,” Blake said. “He really did bring us all together as a family.”

Walter turned 2 years old in July, but he still has his cute child-like features.

“It takes burros about five years to be fully grown,” Blake said. “Usually though, for males he pretty much would be almost at height and would start getting the male jawline and masculine look to him. I’m not sure if it was because we had him fixed at six months old so his testosterone levels will never go up high or because he was a preemie, but he still looks like a baby. Hopefully he stays like a baby.”

His fuzzy face is part of his charm, along with his friendly demeanor. Walter loves to have visitors up at his house, which is a bright yellow house on the right hand side of the road, just north of the Oatman shops.

“He absolutely loves people coming up and visiting him because he gets special treats when they come up and take pictures,” Blake said. “He knows the color of the bag that they bring up there that has his specific treats. He’s kind of spoiled. He doesn’t like the alfalfa cubes, as much as we wish he would eat those. He actually likes the apples and oats from Purina horse nibblers.”

The alfalfa cubes sold in the Oatman shops are the only approved treat to give the other burros roaming through town, but you can stop in Jackass Junction and ask for a couple of special Walter treats if your planning to pay him a visit.

If it’s Walter merchandise you’re looking for, stop in Burro Flats, which the public has dubbed “Walter’s place.” That is where Walter will be holding his latest book signing from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. The second book in Walter’s series, “Walter’s Desert Adventure,” will be available for purchase that day and to be signed by Walter, the Blakes and author Cat Smith.

The first book, “Walter Finds a Home,” came out a little more than a year ago, and there are eight more coming after this year’s release.

“He’s signed for a 10-book contract. From there, we might have little spinoffs like a cookbook or something here and there,” Blake said. “This one’s called ‘Desert Adventures’ so it’s him and his pack going out in the desert like they do every night and Duke, his grandfather, is part of the book with him. This one is going to be slightly fantasized, but we do try to stick with things we have done, like us going to Nebraska with him and things like that. We talk about things we have done in the past.”

The day of the book signing is going to be a great time in Oatman, with lots of holiday activities planned.

“The shops are open until 9 p.m. and decorating with Christmas lights for nighttime shopping,” Oatman Chamber President Bobby Mursick said. “We’ll have Christmas carolers and things like that in the streets going on. Santa and Mrs. Claus are going to come down the street and take pictures with kids and they actually hand out a lot of toys for the kids.”

The judging for the annual Christmas bush decorating contest will also be that day.

“The bush decorating contest has been going on for 15-20 years now,” Mursick said. “Any person can come up and they decorate a tree from the Y into Oatman, anywhere in between. There’s prizes for first, second and third place. It’s $20 and you get $10 back if you come clean up your own bush by Dec. 27. If not, it’s donated to the chamber and we clean the bush for you. When you sign up we give you a number and you hang the number on the bush, decorate it, and that’s how we judge them.”

Entries are still available for the contest. Pay and pick up a number at Jackass Junction. For more information, call the chamber at 928-577-9139.

The Christmas event is just one of many events that Oatman has hosted this year, from a haunted house to treasure hunts and comedy nights. More events are on the calendar for the coming year, including the annual Bed Races set for Saturday, Jan. 29. To keep up on all of the upcoming events, follow Oatman Gold Road Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.

There is always plenty to do on a trip to Oatman, from old time photos to gold panning and browsing the many historical buildings and shops.

The Oatman Ghost Rider Gunfighters and the Red Ridge Marauders take to the streets for a gunfight reenactment at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. daily.

The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is another draw of the town due to its notoriety as the spot Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon night. The building is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is recognized as a historical landmark.

The Oatman Jailbreak Escape Room offers a fun challenge for guests, who have an hour to play bank robbers and decipher all of the clues and get away with the loot before the sheriff returns. Reservations only; visit oatmanjailbreak.com or call 805-570-8050 to book.

The latest attraction is the three new desert tortoises that have been donated to the town. They are penned at the Oatman Jail and for $1 guests can go through the jail and pet the tortoises.