One time when we were at the El Campo RV Park in Van Horn, TX, we saw a lady with a donkey standing outside the fence of the property. She appeared to be talking to the donkey. We thought it was interesting and did not think much more about it at the time. A few days later we mentioned the lady and donkey to my brother-in-law, Lloyd Jackson. He and my sister Carol had seen her before at the same location. Lloyd inquired and found out the lady came by occasionally and took a shower in the shower room available for RV park guests. She always left a few coins as payment for the service. Lloyd told me she was well known in the area.
Every time I have thought about Van Horn since that time, I think about the Donkey Lady, so I did a little research. She ranged all over the Big Bend area of Texas and stayed beside the road or under underpasses to sleep. Her name was Judy Ann Magers. Other than Van Horn she was known in Presidio, Alpine, Marfa, Valentine, Marathon and Sierra Blanca. Some people called her The Burro Lady and some called her La Riena, which means the queen. She was a legend and she was real.
You may hear scary stories about the legend of the Donkey Lady in and around San Antonio. This is not the same legend. In fact, I suspect the Donkey Lady of San Antonio is a myth.
The Donkey Lady of Big Bend was shy and did not talk to anyone very much, but she did have a few friends she saw occasionally. She was apparently independent and would not take any handouts. Becky Walker was a Hudspeth County Judge who knew The Donkey Lady. She put a 55 gallon drum of water on the edge of her property for the Lady and donkey to drink. She left a few coins and sometimes a piece of gum behind for payment and if the money was not taken, she would not drink the water her next time through the area. She was a proud person.
Bill Ivey was her guardian. He ran the Lajitas Trading post in Terlingua. When he first met her she did not have a donkey. She camped by the river near the trading post. Ivey said it took her three days to get the courage to talk to him and tell him what supplies she needed. Over the years she had several different donkeys. She was seen once in a sixties Cadillac with the back end cut out and she drove around with the donkey standing up in the trunk.
Judy Ann Magers was 65 years old when she died under an underpass near Sierra Blanca on January 26, 2007. A passerby saw her in a heap and stopped his vehicle to check on her and found her dying. He and the donkey were with her when she passed. A detective found out she had a daughter in North Dakota. From that daughter they found she had two more daughters, two sons and 11 grandchildren. Her children carried her in her casket into the church for her funeral. About 150 people attended, many not even knowing her real name. She is buried on boot Hill in Terlingua, TX with her boots, hat and spurs.
Her last donkey was named Merle. Becky Walker, the Hudspeth judge gave the donkey a home. She said the donkey cried for three days after his owner’s death. Judy Ann Magers lived the end of her life on her own terms. I only saw her one time, but I still think about her occasionally.