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In search of the world’s largest burro—or so I thought

Author James Dorsey Illustration Marc Rosenthal

dispatches3VANCOUVER ISLAND – Reggie (just Reggie) is a cab driver in Port Hardy, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, a popular spot for whale watchers, kayakers and weekend adventurers. A local man of indeterminate age, Reggie has a Santa Claus beard, wide suspenders and a weathered cowboy hat. He is a voluble storyteller and keeper of local lore, and his routes, as many out-of-town fares have discovered, can be as discursive as his conversation.

On a recent visit to Port Hardy, I hired Reggie to take me from the airport to my hotel. As soon as we’d set off, he asked if I had my camera ready, as we were going to stop for a look at the world’s largest burro. I told him I was game, and I spent the rest of the journey trying to imagine how large one of these animals could possibly be. Eventually, we pulled into a small lot in a heavily forested area. We got out of the cab and stood there, facing an old but otherwise unremarkable tree.

“Well, what do you think?” he said, his face creased by a craggy smile.

“Think about what?” 

“That!” He was pointing at the tree. The only animal in sight was a squirrel.

We stood there for a bit, saying nothing. Finally, Reggie broke the silence: “You’re looking at the world’s largest burl!” And there it was, a tumor-like growth on the tree, possibly not the world’s largest, but a fair size.

“Oh,” I said.

“I thought you said burro.”

“I did!” he cried, startling the squirrel. Then he punched me on the arm and headed back to his cab. “Gets ’em every time!” —JAMES DORSEY

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