Essay / Misc.

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Brighty book cover Marguerite Henry wrote a whole Horseshoe Library set of books about horses, but it is her book about a Donkey that has been a major topic of discussion around my house this summer. Henry’s 1953 book Brighty of the Grand Canyon was a great companion for us before, during, and after a family vacation to the Grand Canyon. It’s a ripping yarn about the adventures of an indomitable burro. The Quest for the Historical Brighty places him around 1890-1922. Marguerite Henry took the elements of the true story and created a classic book for young readers. Many are the things we have learned from this feral donkey. Here are a few.

A good honest feral donkey is better than a mean, crooked man.

Kids ride free. Grown-ups get a one-way ticket to Sore Bottom Flats.

Summers on the North Rim, Winters on the Canyon Floor.

Every burro bears the sign of the cross. Every burro shall be exalted.

St. Francis climbed a mountain and saw a crucified figure with the wings of a seraph; Marguerite Henry climbed down into the canyon and learned of a Bright Angel marked with a cross.

Nobody deserves to be called Broom-Tail or Low-Life.

Them what builds bridges orta be the ones to cross ’em. Also them what clears out all the dadburn mountain lions fer th’ Gubmint.

Speaking of th’Gubmint, whose job is it to decide whether Uncle Jim should shoot the mountain lions, or whether the parks service should shoot the feral donkeys (as was decided in the 70’s)? One man’s invasive immigrant is another man’s inspirational hero.

It’s better to trust your fate to the Colorado River than to climb into a steel cage swinging on a cable with a claim-jumpin’ murderin’ snake like Jake Irons.

You can hide bad-tasting donkey medicine in hollow carrots.

The humble donkey may work for the evil man for a while, but the evil man will end up working for the humble donkey.

The best way to make a trail that will serve for generations is not to try to make a trail that will serve for generations, but to keep your head down and pick out the best path for your own trip up to the rim. This is either the Tao of Brighty or enlightened self-interest a la Adam Smith.

Bright Angel blazes the trail, but has no say over whether good men (Old Timer) or bad men (Jake Irons) use the trail.

We all live on burroed time.

“Vigilante Justice” is a contradiction in terms. Uncle Jim and Homer know they must bring Jake to a law that is higher than them.

If God didn’t intend for us to eat flapjacks, then why did he put friendly prospectors in our canyon frying up a mess of them in melted lard?.

Donkeys do not live by salt licks alone. Especially in a blizzard.

Teddy Roosevelt rocks!

If you kill and enslave everybody to get your copper mine started, you’ll have to carry all that copper yourself.

Brighty is a burro of many twists and turns: Mountain lions are fierce, and deep water is dangerous, but you can get a mountain lion off your back by going under water.

Brighty says heehi
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