Twenty Mule Team brings back Death Valley Days with remarkable craftsmanship

Living history: Twenty Mule Team pulls replicas of the iconic Death Valley boron ore wagons down the 2017 Rose Parade route. In the wagons are the family of Pres. Brad Ratliff and people involved in bringing this piece of history to life. Copyright 2017 R. Monteros

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The last time the Twenty Mule Team pulled freight wagons along Colorado Blvd. in the Rose Parade was 1999, when Pres. Dick Ratliff chose the 110-year-old wagons as his personal conveyance. They were back on Jan. 2, 2017 for the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade at the request of Pres. Brad Ratliff, Dick’s son, in an illustration of his theme “Echoes of Success.” He and his family filled two wagons, this time brand-new replicas of the original 1882 lorries that hauled 10 tons of borax each. The Ratliff family was a light load by comparison, so the wagons had to be weighted with huge water tanks.

“Mules need the weight to pull,” Preston Chiaro, president of the Death Valley Conservancy (DVC),  said adding that the weight also helps with braking. Plywood platforms and hay bales were included so the riders could stand and wave to the crowd.

The third appearance of the team was also an echo of its first Rose Parade appearance a century ago, when it also appeared in the inauguration parade of Pres. Woodrow Wilson. The wagons were decorated for the parade by FTD floral designers J. Keith White, AIFD CFD and Peter Samek, AIFD. White told The Rose Examiner during Deco Week that he wasn’t sure how he would flower what seem like gigantic wooden bins, but the photos show that they did an excellent job of nesting white and red roses in green garlands, with white tulips, carnations, baby breath, and other flowers as accents.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for photos and more information in the captions.

The commission to build the wagons came in January, 2016, and was given to Dave Engel, owner of Engel’s Coach Shop in Joliet, Mont. The shop builds and restores equine-drawn conveyances from sleds to broughams to Yellowstone coaches. He started on this project Continue reading “Twenty Mule Team brings back Death Valley Days with remarkable craftsmanship”

Tournament of Roses Pres. Brad Ratliff will ride with the Borax 20 Mule Team in the 2017 Rose Parade

by Laura Berthold Monteros

And we thought we were up on things….

Google Alerts sent a notice of an article from 23ABC News in Bakersfield, Calif. about the Twenty Mule Team outfit from US Borax being in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, 2017. What? It’s not listed with the equestrian units. We searched the media guide, and Foxit Reader did not find the team (not the first time it’s missed something). We emailed Tournament of Roses public relations, and to our chagrin, were informed that the 20 mules will be pulling Pres. Brad Ratliff and his family. And there it was, in the “Tournament Entries” section.

For those who remember the Borax TV commercials or the television series Death Valley Days, the team and wagons hold special significance. For those who don’t, here’s a little trivia. The TV series ran from 1952 to 1970 and was based on an earlier radio program. Scripts for the anthology series were adaptations of true stories of Death Valley in California, the lowest elevation in the United States. It was sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company with its brands 20 Mule Team Borax and Boraxo, and hosted at various stages by The Old Ranger Stanley Andrews, Ronald Continue reading “Tournament of Roses Pres. Brad Ratliff will ride with the Borax 20 Mule Team in the 2017 Rose Parade”