Long 115° 05.0447’ W.
Little remains to mark the site where the accident occurred.
Lat 34° 14.7972’ N.
Long 115° 05.0447’ W.
Little remains to mark the site where the accident occurred.
The results of a collision between a M3 General Lee tank and a Santa Fe train early one morning in 1942 near Salt Marsh in the Mojave Desert. The tank is overturned and the turret is upside down just to the left of the tank hull. One tank crewman died during the collision and another died later of his injuries. These and other interesting stories are contained in my book, The Silence and The Sun.
One weekend while camped in the Mojave Desert at an abandoned mine on the side of a low hill – it was at one of my favorite spots because the tailings from the mine provide a nice flat space to park my Jeep and set up a tent. The mine faces east, is high enough on the hill to provide a nice view of the desert, and the morning sun strikes the camp early. On this night I was awakened about 2 a.m. by the distant boom of thunder. I could see frequent flashes of lightening in the distance and it was obvious a big storm was moving in from the southeast. For a brief moment I was tempted to just crawl into the mine shaft, a few feet back from the entrance and out of the weather. The mine tunnel was about six feet high and I knew it to be over four hundred feet long. A colony of bats lives at the far end of the mine, but at this early hour I figured that they were probably out hunting insects. If I slept on the floor of the mine just inside the entrance there should be no problem with me blocking their route when they returned at dawn. Where I had set up my camp was safe from any chance of flooding, but there was a dry wash at the base of the slope that if it filled with water could pose a problem with me getting out later in the day – a flash flood might leave the wash strewn with rocks and boulders and I didn’t want to risk being stuck here while I rebuilt a way across.
Reluctantly, I climbed out of my sleeping bag, secured the camp so that things could not get wet or blow away, tossed my sleeping bag in the Jeep and drove out on to a broad flat stretch of the desert floor where there was no danger of flash floods. I wiggled back into my sleeping bag, reclined the driver’s seat as far as it would go, and immediately went back to sleep - but not for long. Within a half hour the storm hit with a vengeance and was by far the most intense rain storm I have experienced in the desert. Lightening was all around and was very frequent. There was no time lapse between the lightning strikes and the clap of thunder; the storm was right on top of me. The rain fell thick and loud on the roof of the Jeep. I kept trying to remember all of the stories I had heard about what to do in lightening storms and whether or you were safe in your car because of being surrounded by metal and the non-conductive rubber tires. However, here I was in a cloth top Jeep Wrangler. All I had around me was a thin covering of canvas and a metal roll bar. I couldn’t help thinking about my CB antenna sticking up prominently from the rear tailgate, but I wasn’t about to go outside to disconnect what is probably a perfect lightening rod in the middle of an electrical storm! (I learned later that although a person is safe in an automobile, a canvas top affords no protection in an electrical storm.)
The storm continued for an hour or so and at some point I fell back asleep. Santa Fe woke me early the next morning as one of their locomotives lumbered past a few miles away. The air was crystal clear after the rainstorm and there was not a cloud in the sky. I squirmed out of my sleeping back and prepared to drive back up to the mine where I was camped to put on a pot of coffee when I noticed the tortoises. They were everywhere! I got out of the Jeep and walked around the area and saw literally hundreds of tortoises of all sizes. The rain must have flushed them out of their underground burrows, and here they were munching on fresh leaves and bumping into each other on the wet sand. The smallest ones probably measured 2 inches, and the larger ones were eight to ten inches. I was awestruck - literally. There were so many of them that I could not have driven without the risk of driving over some of them – there were that many! I left the Jeep where it was and hiked the quarter mile or so back up to the mine and had a leisurely breakfast and packed up my camp, giving the tortoises time to scatter. By 10 o’clock that morning they were gone. I walked a long circuitous route back to the Jeep, enjoying the clear morning air, and in the mile-long walk I saw only three or four of the tortoises still out among the creosote bushes. By the time I got to the Jeep and started the slow drive back up to the mine, they were entirely gone; I did not see a one.
The memory of this will stay with me for a long time. I witnessed a rare and unique event and I felt privileged to have seen it. I was in the right spot at exactly the right time. It occurred to me later that if I had spent the night in the mine instead of driving out on to the desert floor to wait out the rainstorm I would have missed this entirely. It is not uncommon to come across a desert tortoise when driving back roads in the desert, but I had never seen even two at the same time before this morning. So much for their endangered species status!
34° 38.0395’ N. Lat.
115° 10.5866’ W Long.
From about 1962 to 1967 Helen Mae and Ervin Smith lived in a cabin made of railroad ties near the pass between the Piute Mountains and the Old Woman Mountains, near Weaver’s Well with their six children in what they referred to as “The House on the Hill”. During this time Ervin worked at the Mobil Station in Essex for Eunice Gallanari and Helen worked as a substitute postmaster for Rose Stringham at the Post Office in Fenner and also filled in at the Essex Post Office.
Each day Helen and Erv made the 9-mile commute from the House on the Hill down to Essex to go to work and to take the children to the Essex school. They had a generator alongside the house, but used it mainly only when guests visited. Their water was hauled up in barrels from Essex.
The children – Ervin Jr. ‘Skip’, Donna, Sharon, Sherree, Melinda and Toni remember the mid – 1960s, when they lived here, as “Some of the best times of our lives”. Although the house is no longer there, the site is easily identified by a concrete foundation that once served as the floor.
I have been fortunate to have met four of the family members, interviewed Helen (twice), Melinda and Sharon once each, and toured the site with Sharon and Melinda in 2007.
Ervin Smith passed away in 1985. Helen eventually moved to Needles and I was fortunate to be able to meet her and to hear some of her stories before she passed away in 2008.
In all of the years I have been traveling back roads in the desert I have only seen two rattlesnakes, one in Ward Valley, and this one in Carbonate Gulch. This guy was not making a fuss, but he was ‘prepared’. He was ok with me taking his photo – I used a long telephoto, and he and I went our separate ways.
This fellow was photographed in Ward Valley in October, 2010 – one of hundreds of tarantulas that we saw that weekend during what I suppose was a migration of sorts – they were everywhere. This guy was kind enough to pause while I took his picture.
The Desert Inn Cafe and Hotel formerly stood on Main Street in Ludlow, California facing the railroad tracks that were on the opposite side of the street. The owner of the hotel, Yim Lee immigrated to Ludlow from China and is the man on the second story balcony wearing the dark pants. His wife Gin Shee Yim is on the far left. The man with his hands on his hips is not identified.
The children standing in front are Frank Lee on the left and Marjorie Lee on the right. Marjorie was born in 1947 so this photo was probably taken about 1950.
Lee Yim, Gin Shee Yim and their children lived in Ludlow from about 1914 to 1960 and were a highly respected family.
The Pool Hall next door to the Desert Inn was originally a Cafe and barber shop.
Unfortunately, none of these buildings remain today.
The Old Woman Mountains were named by the Piute and Chemehuevi Indians who called the mountains “No-mop-wits” which means “old woman”. The name comes from a granite outcrop on a ridge in the southern part of the mountains that resembles the profile of a veiled old woman making her way up the ridge. The rock outcrop is not definitive when viewed from the north, but is conspicuous when viewed from the south, near Colton Wash in the southern part of the range – Joe de Kehoe photo.