Cripple Creek, known for its historical ties to mining and modern day reputation as a casino destination, is grabbing headlines once again. The local establishment, Shady Tail Inn, is currently under scrutiny for allegations of providing fermented apples to donkeys in anticipation of the annual Donkey Derby.
Incidents of malpractice surrounding the derby in this Colorado town are not unprecedented. Most notably, the ‘Donkeygate’ scandal of 2002 saw the disqualification, on grounds of consuming performance-enhancing carrots, of the local favorite donkey ‘Sir Hee-Haw’ owned by Mildred Hemlock. During this week, however, these incidents are garnering attention for an entirely different reason.
Local witnesses reported observing donkeys outside the Shady Tail Inn, behaving in a manner that to some suggests intoxication. The demeanor of these animals, as they faltered in their athletics and showed less-than-focused responses to their training, has been deemed concering.
Ruthie Johnson, a Cripple Creek resident, expressed her concerns, stating, “There’s unquestionably something unusual about how the donkeys are behaving. They are acting rather differently from their usual selves”. This has led to speculation among some residents that the inn could have been introducing a kind of “happy hour” for the donkeys. Others, however, have dismissed these theories as mere flights of fancy.
Burt Wurtherspoon, the proprietor of the Shady Tail Inn and a retired prospector, has denied these allegations, arguing that this is an attempt to tarnish his establishment’s reputation by a competitor. Wurtherspoon maintains that his inn serves only water and quality hay to the donkeys, though it was noted his establishment was only serving cider the next day.
The approaching Donkey Derby is a hot topic for the locals, with the winning donkey granted a victory parade and supply of the best alfalfa for a year – a prestigious title for the fastest domesticated equine. Surrounding communities have not hesitated to place bids on the likely champion donkey. With the stakes high this year, Cripple Creek’s law enforcement has initiated an official “Donkey Detox” to ensure a fair and unimpaired competition this year.