Furnace Creek, November 1999
Photo by Bill & Bonnie Ruttan, Palm Springs, CA
Television viewers around the world watched the 1999 Rose Parade on New Year's Day and saw what was billed as the last ride ever for a U.S. Borax 20-Mule Team. But this was not so -- the wagon was granted an encore performance during the November '99 Encampment of the Death Valley 49er's, arguably the Mule Team's most fervent fans!
Bill and Bonnie found themselves in Death Valley as part of the Southern California Land Rover Association, took this picture, and explained:
"I was told that this was the wagon train that U.S. Borax had re-furbished (at great cost) for the Rose Bowl Parade and had then planned to retire to a museum. The 49er group then talked Borax into bringing it out one last time for the festivities in Furnace Creek. The mule team was put together from various pack mules in the region and then had to be trained to pull this special task. Apparently some of the mules must learn how to step outside their chains whenever a sharp turn is made! Given the expertise to do all this, I would think that there must have been a 'last teamster' involved."Editor's Note: Yes, indeed! The team was driven by Freddie Valentino, who resides in the Antelope Valley. He's the last and best in his trade, perhaps the most famous teamster in all the West!