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“Running with Sherman” book cover

“I knew something was wrong the second the pickup truck pulled into our driveway.”

With those words, best-selling author Christopher McDougall — of “Born to Run” fame — opens “Running With Sherman,” his new, page-turner. It’s a tale about how this hard-bitten, blue-collar former African war correspondent and his family fell under the charms of Sherman,  an abused and neglected donkey rescued from a “hoarder” in Pennsylvania’s Amish farm country.

Sherman went from being unable to move because of hooves that had grown a foot long and curled up like “witches claws” after years of standing still, isolated in a filthy, dark and dingy tiny stall, to learning how to run and coming to race Colorado’s burro racing championship.

Sherman teaches those he meets lessons of caring, empathy and bonding.  As with “Born to Run” — which chronicled McDougall’s adventures with the late Boulder ultrarunner Micah True in Mexico’s Copper Canyons — “Running with Sherman” is filled with a cast of colorful characters, from his Amish friends and neighbors, including hoof-expert Scott, who laboriously takes a hacksaw to Sherman’s hooves, to the Colorado burro racers who befriend this appealing human-donkey duo.

“Running with Sherman” can stand with “Born to Run” as a captivating adventure book that is about much more than running.

“I said what I wanted to say,” McDougall, 57, said in a Thursday phone interview from outside the post office in the little Amish village of Peach Bottom, Pa., where he lives with his wife, two daughters and a menagerie of sundry animals. “That this idea of partnership, collaboration and community is much more important than competition. In every relationship or adventure, someone is in trouble and someone steps up.”

McDougall, who is speaking tonight at 6:30 at In Motion Running, (1880 B 30th St. in Boulder) and Tuesday in Denver, is a “natural born” storyteller, a throwback to the old days of journalism. He’s someone who combines the ear for dialogue of an Ernest Hemingway with the descriptive qualities of Thomas Wolfe, topped by the Gonzo approach to reporting popularized by Hunter S. Thompson.

From his earliest days as a kid reading and re-reading Sherlock Holmes to his own books, “Born to Run” “Natural Born Heroes” and now “Running with Sherman,” McDougall has been interested in heroes.

With Sherman, McDougall gives us a hero of the four-legged sort. And as with his other books, McDougall sends the reader off on interesting side journeys along the way, such as how he met and wooed his wife, Mika, on a snowy Philadelphia night and ended up moving with her to Amish country.

After chatting with the author for a bit, I realized just as there is a typecast of the “Hemingway Hero,” so is there a kind of “McDougall Hero.” They’re what he called, “weird loners,” such as Sherlock Holmes and “Wart,” the “runt of a kid” in “The Once and Future King” who turns out to be King Arthur.

“It is hard for people, men especially, to find that place of self-responsibility and a model for the kind of person you want to be,” said McDougall. “An independent person of honor.”

He added, without going into specifics; “And in this political climate, where is that sense of honor?”

Perhaps that is why McDougall always enjoys returning to Boulder, because he said, “In Boulder I am always finding myself plunged into my tribe, my kind of people.”

And, in the case of Sherman the Donkey, his kind of animal.

Follow Sandrock on Instagram@MikeSandrock.

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