Week 39 – #2 Outside the Box

As I stated in my previous post, the themes are requiring more thought for how to meet the theme.  I am going to stretch this theme just a bit.  The box is one that I remember growing up – the box of Borax used to wash clothes.  I remember waiting until the box would be empty so we would get another box – and another plastic model piece to the 20 mule team.  I remember because that model sat on our tv for years and I had to dust it.  I digress.  Do you remember the 20 mule team borax or Borateem or Boraxo hand soap?

The most profitable and longest sustained mining activity in Death Valley was for talc and borate.  Borax deposits discovered in 1873, were first successfully promoted by W.T. Coleman.  He built the Harmony Borax Works and developed the famous 20 mule team wagons that hauled the processed mineral 165 miles across the desert to the railroad at Mojave.  The Harmony plant went out of operation in 1888 when Coleman’s financial empire collapsed, but the borax was still processed by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.    The 20-mule team symbol was first used in 1891.Twenty-mule teams were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons that ferried the borax from 1883 to 1889.

The twenty-mule-team wagons were designed to carry 9 metric tons of borax ore at a time. The rear wheels measured seven feet high, with wheels made of one-inch-thick iron. The wagon beds measured 16 feet long and were 6 feet deep; constructed of solid oak, they weighed 7,800 pounds empty; when loaded with borate, the total weight of the mule train was 73,200 pounds.

The first wagon was the trailer, the second was “the tender” or the “back action”, and the tank wagon of water for the mules, brought up the rear. With the mules, the caravan stretched over 180 feet.  No wagon ever broke down in transit on the desert due to their construction.  The 20 mule team made a number of special appearances with the last one in 1999 in the Rose Parade.

On my trip to Death Valley, there it was – a wagon from one of the borax mule teams.  So here it is – in real life – outside the box.

Borax Wagon


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