Farewell Flapjack, Summit’s favorite burro packed a lot into his 32-plus years
Last week, a dear friend of Sam McCleneghan’s passed away at only 32 years old. An active member of the community in Christmas pageants, teaching kids and an all-around happy face to see on the trails, Flapjack the burro will be dearly missed.
Flap, as the donkey was known, succumbed to old age almost a month shy of his 33rd birthday. Those who knew the burro say he was full of personality, showed a remarkable kindness and always carried more than his fair share.
Flapjack’s life began July 22, 1985, but exactly where and to whom the burro was foaled, McCleneghan doesn’t know.
He has a “birth certificate,” with the date Flapjack was born and some instructions about caring for the animal. “One-and-a-half quarts horse grain morning and evening at least,” the certificate reads, adding that Flapjack should get all the hay he wants, clean water and salt at all times, with “lots of love, care and kindness.”
Soon after his birth, the burro was gifted to a retired couple with a home in the Gold Hill neighborhood. They kept Flap in a small corral by the house, the same way someone might care for a hunting dog, McCleneghan said.
Flap went on daily walks with the couple, even some hikes — he always liked being first in line — and the couple generally gave Flapjack the kind of personal attention and handling one would heap on a family pet.
But, as McCleneghan recalled, the couple was getting up in years and about to move away from Summit County. For them, it was important to find Flap a good home. Noticing that McCleneghan had horses and mules on his land, the couple asked McCleneghan one day if he would like to have Flapjack.
When McCleneghan agreed to take Flapjack in, the burro came with a halter and lead rope, a packsaddle and pad, some panniers and a bag of grain. The couple insisted McCleneghan not pay a dime for the donkey, but he refused.
“At least let me pay for the bag of grain,” he told them. The couple agreed, and that’s how Flapjack came to be McCleneghan’s “$4 burro.”
For the money, Flap was a steal, and the ensuing partnership led to more memories over the last three decades than McCleneghan can possibly remember.
Over that time, Flapjack, it would seem, also became somewhat of a local celebrity. He packed a lot into his 32-plus years but will likely be best remembered for his affinity for cookies, especially chocolate chip and Oreos.
“That was one thing that stood out about Flapjack: He loved his cookies,” said Sean McCleneghan, Sam’s son, who grew up with Flapjack. “Not joking at all, you’d give Flapjack a cookie, and he would close his eyes, hold his tongue out, and you could just tell he was just loving every minute of it.”
Many people might remember Flap for playing a supporting role in the Rocky Mountain Bible Church’s annual Christmas celebrations in Frisco, which he did a handful of times around 2004-06. Having a live burro carry Mary into “Bethlehem” before trudging through the church itself was always a hit, and some even said Flap was the star of the show.
Away from the limelight, Flap was a fixture along the Summit County Recpath, where McCleneghan has 10 acres by Farmers Korner, just west of Highway 9, and kept Flap over the summers. According to McCleneghan, countless people stopped along their way to pet the gentle-natured burro over the years, and many came to know him by name. More than once, in fact, McCleneghan held children on the burro’s back as their parents took pictures. “He was always a good little boy for the kids,” McCleneghan said. “They’d just be beaming.”
Flapjack always had a way with children, though. At the High Country Horsemanship School, where Lynn Bauer teaches a range of ages how to ride and care for horses and where Flap came for some TLC, it didn’t take too long for him to earn his place.
“We called him Flapper,” said Bauer, remembering how Flapjack was always available for hugs, soaked up the attention like it was “the best thing in the world,” and brayed like a fog horn anytime someone would drive up to the barn.
“He wasn’t a horse, but he was certainly our mascot,” Bauer said of the lovable donkey, adding that children at the school were sad to learn Flapjack won’t be there to greet them anymore.
“He was just fun to have around,” she said. “Flappers was a nifty guy, no question about it. Those nice animals are hard ones to have go.”
Flapjack was great on hunting trips, too. He was well prepared by the regular hikes he took with his owner, and McCleneghan and his buddies would use Flap to help pack camp in and out on their trips up Swan Mountain.
“You could load him up and he’d just follow you,” said Myron Goldstein, one of McCleneghan and Flap’s longtime hunting buddies. “You didn’t have to lead him. He’d just follow you.”
Flap is buried on Sean McCleneghan’s property in Dillon, and his father, Sam McCleneghan, thinks the burro had a good life.
“He was a happy burro,” McCleneghan said, explaining that Flap got to do a lot more than most burros.
“You could just see it in his face,” McCleneghan said. “Without a doubt, he had a very good life, and he enjoyed it.”
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