Bo­rax 20-Mule Team vis­its Centreville

Record Observer - - Front Page - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­

CENTREVILLE — On Sun­day, July 2, from noon to 4 p.m., the his­toric Bo­rax 20-Mule Team made its visit to the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Park near Centreville. A crowd of nearly 1,000 peo­ple turned out to see the mule team and the gi­gan­tic wag­ons they pull.

In honor of the mule team that orig­i­nated from Death Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, (the hottest desert in the U.S.) the weather co­op­er­ated with July sum­mer heat (90+ de­grees) with touch of East Coast hu­mid­ity thrown in.

The Bo­rax 20-Mule Team got its start in the early 1880s, pulling loads of bo­rax across the desert to

mar­kets that used the nat­u­ral chem­i­cal for a va­ri­ety of ser vices.

“That’s the way bo­rax was moved un­til mod­ern tech­nol­ogy re­placed the mule team in the early 1900s,” said Centreville res­i­dent and mule en­thu­si­ast Garon Stutz­man, who with his wife Donna Stutz­man ar­ranged for the mule team to come east for the first time in ex­actly 100 years.

“The last time the mule team was in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area was 1917 for the in­au­gu­ral pa­rade of Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son,” said Stutz­man. “And the mule team won first place in that pa­rade!”

Since that time, one set of the orig­i­nal wag­ons pulled by the mule team is pre­served and on dis­play at Death Val­ley Na­tional Park. The Bo­rax com­pany, how­ever, did not main­tain an ac­tive mule team un­til some­one showed an in­ter­est in re­viv­ing it in 1999. Or­ga­niz­ers of the Tour­na­ment of Roses Pa­rade, in Cal­i­for­nia, con­tacted Bo­rax in 1998 ask­ing if the mule team could per­form in the pa­rade that year. Bo­rax replied they no longer had a mule team, but within the com­pany the re­quest stirred in­ter­est in restor­ing a piece of Amer­i­can pi­o­neer his­tor y. Mule driver and trainer Bobby Tan­ner of Bishop, Cal­i­for­nia, (known as the “Mule Capi­tol of the World”) was con­tacted. Tan­ner promptly went about man­ag­ing his pack mules to be able to pull wag­ons for the Rose pa­rade. From that event, the re-birth of the 20 mule team took place.

In the past three years, funds were raised through pri­vate do­na­tions to build new wag­ons, tak­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tions from the orig­i­nal wag­ons in Death Val­ley. The Stutz­mans have been very much part of that re­build­ing process, even haul­ing oak wood from their Centreville farm west to be used in the con­struc­tion of the new wag­ons. Those new wag­ons were part of the jour­ney here. Each of the two new wag­ons weighs 7,600 pounds. The largest wheels, which are 7 feet in di­am­e­ter, weigh 1,000 pounds each, and are lined with steel 5-inch wide rims.

Fri­day evening, June 30, the Stutz­mans hosted a spe­cial ap­pre­ci­a­tion din­ner at their home for 160 peo­ple who had pri­vately fi­nanced bring­ing the mule team east. The din­ner was held in the former hayloft of the barn where their own mules are kept. The up­stairs area of the barn has been con­verted into an en­closed din­ning hall, fully air con­di­tioned with a small cafe­te­ria area. It had no re­sem­blance of a hayloft — hard­wood floors and very dec­o­ra­tive.

The Stutz­mans wel­comed their guests, mak­ing it abun­dantly clear that with­out their friends’ do­na­tions, bring­ing the mule team to the East Coast would have been im­pos­si­ble.

Garon Stutz­man, with emo­tion in his voice, said, “This has been a pas­sion­ate project to make this hap­pen over the past three years. We wanted to make these wag­ons come back to life for Amer­ica. I es­pe­cially want to thank the Tan­ner fam­ily for bring­ing this piece of Amer­i­can his­tory to life.”

The guests were served a won­der­ful meal of prime rib and crab cakes with all the trim­mings, pre­pared by lo­cal chef Dave Perry.

Mule Team Driver Bobby Tan­ner, his wife, Clau­dia, and their son, Bo, made the trip here with the mules. The en­tire mule team stayed at the Stutz­mans’ farm for a week prior to their ap­pear­ance at the 4-H Park Sun­day af­ter­noon, June 2. The mule team and wag­ons parked in the fur­thest satel­lite park­ing area of the fair­grounds, used solely dur­ing the Queen Anne’s County Fair each year.

Two plea­sure rid­ing demon­stra­tions were per­formed in the horse show ring by mule trainer Re­becca Evans of Bishop, Cal­i­for­nia, which is lo­cated in the eastern most por­tion of the Sierra Moun­tains. Evans first demon­strated ba­sic Dres­sage rid­ing on her “World Cham­pion Green English Per­for­mance Mule” Tom Collins. She then brought in her “Re­serve All-Around World Cham­pion Mule” Miss Junebug, a “molly” (fe­male mule), to demon­strate tra­di­tional West­ern Rein­ing ma­neu­vers, mi­nus a slid­ing stop as the show ring sur­face was not suit­able for that (too many rocks). Host Donna Stutz­man nar­rated the move­ments of Evans rides.

Garon Stutz­man, us­ing a bull-horn mi­cro­phone, stood along­side the 20-Mule Team and wag­ons in the satel­lite park­ing area, where he pro­vided an in­for­ma­tional talk on the his­tory of the mules and wag­ons. A huge crowd gath­ered around the mules and wag­ons dur­ing Stutz­man’s pre­sen­ta­tion.

Centreville res­i­dents who saw the team were im­pressed. Sally Rosen­berry, Queen Anne’s County Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, came out to the 4-H Park on Sun­day af­ter­noon. Rosen­berry grew up as an ac­tive 4-H equestrian in the county and is knowl­edgable about horses. She said she knew much less about mules.

“The pre­sen­ta­tion of the mules and wag­ons was re­ally good. I found Mr. Stutz­man’s talk about the mules and how the wag­ons were recre­ated to be very ed­u­ca­tional,” Rosen­berry said. “I read the mag­a­zine that was dis­trib­uted at the 4-H Park from cover to cover. Ap­par­ently, mules are quite in­tel­li­gent. I’m sorry I came out too late to see the rid­ing demon­stra­tions — I re­ally was in­ter­ested in see­ing that! On July 4th, I was search­ing to see if the pa­rade in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., was tele­vised, but I couldn’t find any­thing.”

Eric Van­der­lin­den, also of Centreville, was able to visit the Stutz­man’s farm on Mon­day morn­ing, July 3, when a group of Amish fam­i­lies were in­vited to see the mule team.

Van­der­lin­den said, “Three years ago I vis­ited Death Val­ley Na­tional Park in Cal­i­for­nia and saw the orig­i­nal wag­ons that had been used by the mule team in the 1880s. See­ing the new wag­ons was very im­pres­sive. I’m re­ally happy I didn’t miss see­ing their visit here in per­son. I was ac­tu­ally more im­pressed with what I saw than I had ex­pected to be.”

Some of the Amish had been in­vited as they had been part of cre­at­ing hand­made leather bri­dles and equip­ment to be used for the mules pulling the wag­ons. They came with their fam­i­lies from as far away as Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio, In­di­ana and Wis­con­sin. Leather maker Ivan Fisher, of Ronks, Penn­syl­va­nia (50-miles south­east of Har­ris­burg), had his pic­ture taken while hold­ing his lit­tle daugh­ter and his sons stand­ing with him be­side two of the mules that were wear­ing bri­dles he had made. It was clear he had great pride in the his leather­work.

At 7 a.m., Tues­day, July 4, the mules and wag­ons de­parted from Centreville, head­ing to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for the an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade. By all re­ports, ev­ery­thing went well for the mules in the pa­rade. They were im­me­di­ately loaded into haul­ing trail­ers fol­low­ing the pa­rade and headed back to Cal­i­for­nia.

A 100 Year An­niver­sary mag­a­zine was pub­lished for this trip east, ti­tled, “20 Mule Team comes to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., 2017.” Its 34 pages are packed full of in­ter­est­ing, lit­tle known facts about mules and their his­tory.

A cou­ple facts worth not­ing: “In an­cient texts, in­clud­ing the Bi­ble, kings and gen­er­als rode mules. ‘Buf­falo Bill’ Cody chose a mule as his mount over a horse, and a quote from former Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man, who grew up with mules in Mis­souri, “My fa­vorite an­i­mal is the mule. He has more horse sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eat­ing — and knows when to stop work­ing.”

“This was an event that some men only get to do once in their life­time,” Stutz­man said. “I hope those who saw it en­joyed it as much as we did.”


The his­toric Bo­rax 20-Mule Team moves across the park­ing lot at the 4-H Park Sun­day af­ter­noon, July 2. The team stayed at the farm of Garon and Donna Stutz­man of Centreville while wait­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.


At the farm of Garon and Donna Stutz­man of Centreville, Amish vis­i­tors ride in the two Bo­rax 20Mule Team wag­ons, Mon­day, July 3. The Amish came from as far away as Pen­nys­lva­nia, Ohio, In­di­ana and Wis­con­sin. They were in­vited as they had con­trib­uted leather-work items made for the mules to wea. The Amish were the guests of the Stutz­mans.

As part of the Bo­rax 20-Mule Team visit at the 4-H Park in Centreville, Sun­day af­ter­noon, July 2, a small his­toric car show was put to­gether. Here, a 1918 Model T Ford, owned by John and Peggy Hess of Cr­is­field, was on dis­play.

Garon Stutz­man of Centreville, left, talks with Amish leader Henry Her­sh­berger of Wis­con­sin as Clara Her­sh­berger (back­ground) lis­tens. They were dis­cussing their ex­pe­ri­ences with mules. The Amish were in­vited to visit the Stutz­man farm Mon­day, July 3, as they had done work help­ing out­fit mules with needed har­ness equip­ment.

Mem­bers of the Queen Anne’s County Pony Ex­press 4-H Club dis­trib­uted com­mem­o­ra­tive Bo­rax 20-Mule Team pro­grams Sun­day af­ter­noon, July 2, at the 4-H Park in Centreville. Do­na­tions of $2 were be­ing ac­cepted to cover only the cost of print­ing the 34-page mag­a­zine. From the left, 4-H mem­bers Sara Sheats, Jen­nifer Gan­non, Alyssa Jas­tram and Cait­lyn Starr.

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