Burroball: RHS plays host to donkey basketball
By John Roark
RAWLINS — Though the exact origin of donkey basketball hasn’t been quite pinpointed, the sport’s popularity was revisited Monday night at Rawlins High School.
A large crowd was on hand to watch the fundraising event, which benefited the RHS R-Club.
Justin Wisemore serves as a wrangler for the Entiat, Wash.-based Donkey Sports Inc. — which provides the animals for the events.
“We’ve been doing this since the 1980s,” Wisemore said. “We’ve done 10 fundraisers in Wyoming this time around.”
As for the game, the rules are pretty straightforward: games consist of two, five-minute halves.
Wisemore said the donkeys are fitted with rubber shoes, as not to tear up the gymnasium floors.
Like standard basketball rules, the games consist to two five-player teams (plus reserves), only with four players riding donkeys.
The fifth players stay on the floor and jump center.
The centers can pick up a loose ball and make a pass to a donkey-riding teammate, but must stay the jump circle at all times.
Which almost always leaves the riders responsible for picking up loose balls. However, they must dismount, grab the reins and drag their donkey with them.
Watching players pull an animal known for going — and not going — where it wants can be quite amusing.
“A rider must take his donkey wherever they go,” Wisemore said.
As for the donkey riders, a player must be atop its mount to both make a pass, or to attempt a shot.
Anything less than the aforementioned results in a disallowed basket or pass.
Judging by the crowd size, Monday’s event was well received by the community.
“Surprisingly, the smaller towns have the bigger crowds,” Wisemore said. “I think it comes down to simple entertainment.”
For the record, Monday night pitted four teams: the RHS Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA), the RHS Band, the R-Club and the Bosses.
The Bosses defeated R-Club 6-4 in the finals, courtesy of Dan McCann’s basket with 12 seconds remaining.
Wisemore said nine donkeys travel via trailer on each trip. He said his company, owned by Bruce and Sandy Wick, keeps 60 donkeys on the farm.
“Their ages range from four- to five-years-old to maybe 10,” Wisemore said. “We retire them at 13 or 14, so they can go home and keep the grass down.”
Wisemore said a selection process is used to keep the games safe for the inexperienced donkey riders.
“We put the young ones with the olds ones, then get on them to see which ones might buck,” Wisemore said.
Wisemore said donkey basketball season generally falls between February and May.
“I’m on the road that long,” Wisemore said. “I’ve got a game (tonight) in Meeker, Colo., then I get to go home for a week and a half and then back out for a bit before ending the season.”
Wisemore estimated last year’s three-month swing through the West amounted to about 37,000 miles.
“I figure I’ll do the same thing this year,” he said. “I love doing this. I get to see different towns, plus I get to meet new friends.”
As stubborn as a donkey’s demeanor may seem, Wisemore said it’s a lot different when it comes time to head out of town.
“It’s crazy to believe, but when I back the trailer up to load the donkeys, they all come running, ready to go,” Wisemore said with a chuckle. “I guess it’s because when we hit road, they know they’re getting the best alfalfa and grain.”