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A Book Review About Donkeys (And Humans!)

Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

TitleRunning with Sherman

Writer - Christopher McDougall

Year - 2019

Pages - 330-ish

Here is a great book. Especially if you are fond of burro racing!

This tale is brought to you by Chris McDougall the author of the wildly popular 2009 book Born to Run, which popularized barefoot and, minimalist shoe, running. (A great read as well, on the New York Times bestseller list for 4 years!)

Sherman is a neglected donkey that is rescued by the McDougall family. Sherman needs a new home, a new start in life, and a job to do. He also needs a bath and his horribly overgrown hooves shorn. He really is a mess, his picture in the book is pretty sad. The McDougalls have no experience with donkeys and so they enlist the help of an amazing array of neighbors to aid in Sherman’s rehabilitation. And because the McDougall family lives in the Amish country of Pennsylvania, without themselves being Amish, the human interactions prove to be as delightful as the animals do.

A job to do? A donkey needs a job to do?

Yes, and the World Pack Burro Racing championships in Colorado, is just the ticket, of course!!

Who knew there was such a thing as pack burro racing and a colorful cast of characters to boot? Pack burro racing is thought to have its origins in the old mining towns when a prospector would hit pay dirt. He and his donkey would head into town to stake the claim and if he had gold, to deposit it in the bank for safekeeping. How fast could he and his animal get back to town? A sport just waiting to happen for sure. These modern day “miners” are excellent athletes and competitive doesn’t begin to describe them. This is a deadly serious sport.

McDougall is a journalist by training so he is by nature a storyteller and a mighty good one.  In addition to bringing rural life to life, which he does with such skill that I wanted to join them on the farm or at least be one of their helpful neighbors. I know rural life is a heck of a lot of work, but McDougall is able to capture so many joyful moments, that the hard work on a farm seems like background noise. The thing I have come to admire most about McDougall’s writing is that he never seems to be in a hurry, even when it appears he should be. He takes his time with people and animals and in so doing, he is able to tease out the beautiful side of things often missed by those of us in a hurry. He seems inclined to postpone the pressing things in life, in favor of the enduring things, like people and animals.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 7. McDougall postpones his Sherman narrative to give us a brief history of mankind’s relationship to animals. The mere act of having animals around causes physical changes in humans. For example, our nervous system down regulates and makes us calmer. In many cases, having animals present reduces people’s blood pressure. They make us calmer. Really a fascinating chapter.

A particularly amusing sideline is the running club that exists in the Amish country, made up of the Amish.  A moon light run with a donkey and a bunch of Amish folks in regulation Amish garb? I won’t spoil it.

Which leads to my favorite quote in the book, a brief moment of introspection from McDougall as he drives around with his Amish buddy Amos, “How, out of all of life’s paths, did I end up cruising around with a truck full of discarded cow and a guy who speaks ancient German and doesn’t believe in zippers?” (p30)

For a book about a donkey, this book shines with humanity.

What struck me most was the joy that comes with being outside and moving. There really is nothing better for body, mind, and spirit and McDougall’s tale should help us all remember to get outside and get moving. No donkey required. Fresh air and sunshine are just around the corner.

And remember…

Movement is big medicine! (p58) And I will add, cheap too!



PS: As always, we have a copy in the office for borrowing, and you can find it on Amazon  – Running with Sherman

PSS: I’d like to thank my brother Kevin for sending me this book for Christmas. He has a knack for off beat competition. And good stories. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is shopping for a donkey as we speak.

2 Join the Conversation

  1. Kevin S says
    May 30, 2023 at 12:47 AM

    A great review on a whacky, wonderful story! Glad you enjoyed!!

    • says
      May 30, 2023 at 3:18 PM

      Glad you recommended it, brother man! Thanks for chiming in, cheers, ks

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