Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 13 June 2009

20 Mule Team Borax

Death Valley, California

Borax or Sodium Borate has a number of interesting uses:
  • Cleaning out a skull brain cavity prior to mounting.
  • Neutron absorber for nuclear reactors and spent fuel rod pools.
  • Welding flux.
  • Insecticide
  • Detergent
  • Food additive (banned in most countries as it causes liver cancer)
  • Fire retardant
  • Gives fire a green tint.
Borax was mined on the floor of Death Valley for a period of time. It was hauled 167 miles over the desert to the rail head in Mojave by teams of twenty mules in a trip that took ten days each way.

One of the most brilliant and lengthy marketing campaigns in history cashed in on the mystique of Death Valley. The campaign to sell Borax detergent, douches and other Borax products evolved as technology changed:
  • At first the mule teams and specially built wagons made appearances all over America during circuses, parades and other special events.
  • In the 1920s, the marketing shifted to billboards as automobiles became more common.
  • From 1931 to 1946 the radio program "Death Valley Days", hosted by a grizzled Old Ranger were a regular half hour feature.
  • From 1952 to 1972 A TV program of the same name was produced by Gene Autry and sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax. The Old ranger hosted 558 shows from 1952-65 and was replaced by Ronald Reagan. This program was the longest running American Western. The stories were based on true Death Valley events.
Here's a picture of the specially built desert wagons. The mules hauled twenty tons of Borax in a rig that included two wagons for the Borax and one for mule water.

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