Brighty the pancake-loving donkey

Bobby McKee rides his trusty partner, Brighty, while fetching water for residents at the Wylie Way camp in the Grand Canyon in 1918. (Photo courtesy of Marth Krueger)

In honor of Park County’s upcoming famous festival, Burro Days, Pine resident Martha McKee Krueger shared a story with The Flume about her father, and a donkey.

In 1917, Krueger’s father, Robert “Bobby” McKee, with his parents, founded the first tourist lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at Bright Angel Point called the Wylie Way.

Burros held a very important job at this lodge. They were responsible for carrying water. In the summer of 1918, Bobby found Brighty; not only a hearty work donkey, but also a friend.

Every morning, Brighty would show up at the back of the kitchen ready for work, and of course, pancakes. Following breakfast, Bobby and his burro would ride down to a spring about half a mile west of Wylie Way, dropping 200 feet in elevation. At the spring, Bobby would fill two five-gallon buckets, and load them up in Brighty’s canvas bags, and head back up. Though, within the next two summers, Brighty’s load increased to two ten-gallon Ford gas tanks. When they were full, they weighed just under two hundred pounds.

It is unknown how many years Brighty was of service to Bobby and the Wylie Way camp but in “The McKee Family Collection,” a book of memoirs by Bobby in 1989, it is written that every spring someone would encourage Brighty to come up from the canyon and was there when the McKees arrived.

“He simply came with the territory,” wrote the author.

Bobby and his incredible burro would make four to seven trips a day. Through all this, Brighty carried on, always looking forward to a pancake reward at the end of each load.

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