A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse and—if we’re being a bit biased—tend to be more patient and intelligent than donkeys. Mules are also incredibly strong, sure-footed, and hard-working. That’s why U.S. Borax pioneers used 20 mule teams to pull wagons of borates in Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. They travelled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad, around 165 miles (266 km) away.
Today, the 20 Mule Team™ is a powerful symbol and represents courage, hard work, and perseverance.
We continue to pay homage to that legacy by bestowing the honor of “Mule” upon select employees. Each year, “Mule” status is awarded to the 20 longest-serving employees at our Boron, California operations. They are recognized and celebrated at a lunch and given a 20 Mule Team jacket and the coveted brown, numbered “Mule” hardhat.
Meet a “Mule”
Kim Evans is a senior pilot plant technician in our Quality Lab. She is the second female “Mule” in the operation's 150 year history. (The first female “Mule” was Betty Peters. The mule pictured above is actually named for her!) Kim understands the importance of those who came before her and says the pioneering spirit that defined our borates business lives on. “The 20 Mule Team symbolizes hard work and perseverance and that is true for our teams today,” says Kim.
Her mother, Martha Ford, was the first woman to work as a laborer at Boron ops and went on to be a plant operations supervisor for almost 30 years.
“My mother is amazing and inspiring,” says Kim. “She always worked hard to prove that she could do the job and the men respected her for that. There are guys here today that still remember her and the work she did.”
Kim started her career at Boron ops as an intern for the Pilot Plant research department in the summer of 1979. She continued to work as she took college courses, had a family, and contributed to important projects at the operation. This included helping build the Boric Acid Plant and the creation of a new technology, known as "Modified Direct Dissolving of Kernite Ore" (MDDK).
After 43 years, Kim is retiring. “I loved growing up here and working with all of the incredibly smart people across the business. I look forward to my next chapter.”
Congratulations to our 2021 “Mules”
This year, we recognize the following employees for their long, significant contributions to U.S. Borax:
- Ronald Roquemore: 53 years
- Bruce Nelson: 43 years
- Gregory Smith: 43 years
- Micheal Williamson: 42 years
- Mark Blankenship: 42 years
- Kim Evans: 42 years
- Frederick Freeman: 42 years
- John Gallard: 42 years
- Joe Turner, Jr.: 41 years
- David Sarver: 41 years
- James Henderson: 41 years
- Russell York: 41 years
- Timothy Merritt: 41 years
- Duane McKean: 41 years
- Thomas Laskey: 40 years
- Ricky Beck: 40 years
- Crescencio Ancheta, Jr.: 40 years
- Vance Anderson: 40 years
- Joseph Jaramillo: 40 years
- Robert Cadger: 40 years
Ron Roquemore (Number 1 Mule) has been with U.S. Borax for more than 50 years.