While Boron may be small, it doesn’t lack for museums.  Since I was already out in the area visiting the Rio Tinto Borax facility, I stopped in town to see the Twenty Mule Team Museum.  It was a natural fit and a great way to get to know the town and its history.

View of the Twenty Mule Team Museum from the corner at Boron Road

View of the Twenty Mule Team Museum from the corner at Boron Road

This is truly a community museum.  The building used to be one of the staff houses for the borax mining operation.  When the company moved from underground mining to the open-pit, the houses were abandoned.  The house, seen above, was rescued by the community; it must be about a hundred years old.  It’s a museum piece in its own right.

As expected, the museum has displays that relate to the mining and mules.  Some are historic and others quaint.  I enjoyed them all.

Mule Team model in the museum

Mule Team model in the museum

This is a tiny model but it does give those all important dates concerning the time the mules brought borax out of Death Valley.   According to the national park website, the wagons traveled 165 miles from Furnace Creek to the railroad junction in the Mojave Desert.  The weight for the wagons, ore, and the water was about 37 tons.  I have trouble imagining such a journey.  Life is much easier now thanks to railroads.

As for the ore (the borates), the mining continues at the open-pit mine.  Of course, samples of borax are on display in Boron’s museum.  My favorite wasn’t the crystals but the jewelry.

Earrings, pendant, and tie clip made from Uxelite

Earrings, pendant, and tie clip made from Ulexite by Carl Oberlander

I had no idea that a rock that makes soap or space shuttle tiles could also be polished into something as lovely as the pieces shown above.

The Twenty Mule Team Museum is Boron’s natural history museum.  Artifacts of all kinds depict life as it used to be.  There are replicas of a kitchen and a school room.  One of my favorite displays deals with how years ago a lady maintained her fashionable hairstyle.

Hair care from a hundred years ago on display at the Twenty Mule Team Museum

Hair care from a hundred years ago on display at the Twenty Mule Team Museum

Ouch!  Some of those things look painful…and dangerous.   I’m so happy that life has taken a more leisurely approach to hair fashions nowadays.

Another favorite exhibit was about Walking George.  He was new to me, but a legend in Boron.

The story of local legend, George Swain

The story of local legend, George Swain

As you can guess, George walked everywhere.  I had to know more so I checked online; I found him on Wikipedia!

His penchant for walking is what made him a legend. On his 59th birthday in 1978 an article about George came out in the Los Angeles Times. By May 1979 he was featured on the TV show Real People and returned in the following November for a reunion.
He walked almost everywhere, unless he was heading to “the city”, which then entailed a 30 mile walk to Mojave to catch the bus. He would walk into town for church services where he added his musical talents, or to local town meetings.

The article went on to say George “would walk to the (now former) Boron Federal Prison, located at the old 750th Radar Squadron site 5 miles out of town (12 miles by road) to visit with the Prison Administrator for an afternoon chat. He would walk to Death Valley for the weekend (at least 100 miles each way).”

The story of George Swain is a sample of the little nuggets of information that await discovery by a curious visitor to the Twenty Mule Team Museum.  In addition, there are large mining displays outside.  Admission is free, but they do ask for a small donation.  The staff is knowledgeable and very friendly.  What more can I say?  If you find yourself out around highway CA-58, stop by Boron and see the sights.   I may get a chance to go back before summer heat rolls in.   There is still one more museum!

 

To see more images from the Twenty Mule Team Museum, please click here.

 

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