Adding to the excitement of the upcoming pack-burro racing season — the Triple Crown races begin this Sunday at Fairplay — was a visit by New York documentary filmmaker Trevor Velin and producer Meghan McGinley who recently spent a few days following me around with a video camera.
Trevor had contacted me over the winter about his idea to make a documentary film on Colorado’s only indigenous sport. Apparently he had read about pack-burro racing in a magazine and decided to check it out on his travels last year. After seeing it, Trevor decided the reality of a 29-mile race of humans and burros up and down a rocky 13,187-foot mountain pass was interesting and worthy of documenting.
It turns out that Trevor and Meghan have quite some experience in the business of reality TV. He films “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “Shalom in the Home,” and “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal,” and “Paranormal State.” She is a casting producer and location manager for shows like “Nanny 911,” “Wife Swap.” Both work on “Z Rock” which airs on the Independent Film Channel.
I’ve seen many journalists take an interest in pack-burro racing over the years, but Trevor was the first videographer I’ve seen to attempt to get into the minds of participants by exploring their personal and professional lives.
A brief initial filming session of my family going for an evening walk gave the pair an introductory glimpse of our life here and helped me get over the jitters of being on camera. Over the course of the next two days I was filmed going over projects with my client Phil Maffetone whose books I edit, doing chores and doctoring a horse over at the ranch I manage, checking on cattle, training burros, doing chores around here, and taking my son Harrison on a therapeutic recreational burro ride.
The final bit of filming was a sit-down interview in which they grilled me about pack-burro racing and my life. There were questions about how I got started in pack-burro racing, what keeps me in it; they asked about parallels between raising a son with autism and training burros, about why I find burros such intriguing animals . . . and, of course, there was the question that no pack-burro racer I’ve known has ever nailed. That question is: “Why do you do this?”
I knew it was coming and I had actually thought about it the entire time Trevor and Meghan were here. I did not want to give a trite response. This year will be my 30th consecutive Leadville Pack-Burro Race and there must be a reason I keep showing up.
And then it dawned on me that there was no one “why.” Sure, I love the sport, but there is no way to convey all the experiences and emotions I have felt in more than 100 races over three decades. What I finally came to realize is there have been many “whys,” and “why” has changed at different stages of my life. “Why” in 1980 was quite different than “why” in 1998 or “why” in 2009. And that’s why I’m still in it.
It was a little dose of reality TV for myself.