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Thread: Burro Schmidt's tunnel

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    Default Burro Schmidt's tunnel

    Just south of Red Rock Canyon State Park in southern California, are the El Paso Mountains. On top of one of the higher points is a place called Burro Schmidt's Tunnel. Burro Schmidt had a mine a few miles north, it is a steeply slanted hole I wouldn't enter, but he figured he needed a way to ship the ore to the bottom of the valley where there was a mill. So rather than haul the ore a hundred feet or so over the hill above his cabin, he set out to dig a tunnel through the hill. This was in the early Thirties. It took him, like twenty years. At one point, he figured he had made an error in calculation and turned right and popped out the side of the mountain, a thousand feet above the valley below. He had made an error of calculation, but it had nothing to do with turning right. No ore was ever to be taken through the tunnel and sent to the valley below. Burro Schmidt made his fame by being written up in a column of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. When asked if he used the burro to haul the rock from the tunnel during its construction, Burro Schmidt replied, "Of course not. A tunnel is no fit place for a burro." Once the tunnel was finished, Burro Schmidt abandoned the place, selling it. It was then sold again to the Seger's. Mr. Seger died a short time after and Tonie Seger kept on, using the cabin as a sort of tourist attraction. The cabin was as Burro Schmidt had left it, inside walls papered with old pancake boxes, full of 1920's and 30' antiques, tools, mining equipment, and Tonie gave tours for just donations. She also provided flashlights for those who wanted to walk the tunnel---almost a mile until it broke through to a view of the valley below.
    A number of years ago, I discovered Tonie Seger and Burro Schmidt's cabin and tunnel. I returned many times. I would bring a basket of strawberries or some tangerines, or tomatoes, whatever I had that she wanted. I remember one time, I stopped in right after a rain. There were buckets and pots and tins all around the yard full of water---and drowned mice. Tonie came out and took my friend, Dave, and I for our fifth tour of Burro Schmidt's cabin. By then Tonie had become quite forgetful. She always accompanied her stories by using her hands to tell the same story in sign language. When she lost track of what she wanted to say, she would look down and watch what her hands were saying, then smile and catch up with her words. Her verbal memory was unreliable, but the physical memory used by her fingers and hands was still very much intact.
    That time, we helped her by re-arranging the grates in her small coal-burning heating stove. Her son-in-law had been there the week before and had cleaned the stove, but he hadn't put it back together correctly. It smoked into the room, and Tonie was unable to use it to stay warm.
    One time I helped her make tea. She was so blind by then that it was hard for her, and yet, she still lived in one of the most remote places in southern California. The thing she like to brag about was that her well gave good water while others in the area were forced to drink arsenic. Tonie was a generous woman. Everyone that ever met her was warmed by her presence. I haven't been back since her death in 2003. I want to always remember her and Burro Schmidt's cabin as it was. The place was looted right after her death. I wish the people who took away the history that she, and all of us who visited loved, knew what they were stealing. Maybe they did. NJ
    "I got four things to live by: Don't say nothing that will hurt anybody. Don't give advice--nobody will take it anyway. Don't complain. Don't explain." Death Valley Scotty Walter Scott 1872-1954

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    Ah, so much vanishes. Thanks for keeping her memory going!
    "Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas."

    H.L. Mencken

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    Excellent story. I wish you had pictures of the place before it was looted. What a shame.

    I wonder how long it was until people knew she passed away?

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    Norman, Terrific story, her memory lives on.

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    By then Tonie had become quite forgetful. She always accompanied her stories by using her hands to tell the same story in sign language. When she lost track of what she wanted to say, she would look down and watch what her hands were saying, then smile and catch up with her words. Her verbal memory was unreliable, but the physical memory used by her fingers and hands was still very much intact.
    Wow, that is something, isn't it! Good yarn, mate; thanks for sharing it.
    "Those were great old days. Everthing is very quiet now, isn't it?" Elfego Baca

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    Well, I've stayed away from the forum for reasons we don't need to get into, but I have to chime in on this conversation. When Tonie died we had a memorial at the tunnel for her - it was beautiful! Unforunately, it didn't take the vandals long to take over the spot. Chuck Goodenough & I formed a Friends of Burro Schmidtt's but it's been a slow go because of many issues between heirs and BLM. Things are settling down now & you can find out more at
    http://www.burroschmidttunnel.org/ there's a clean-up going on June 7th, if anyone is interested in attending.

    Tonie's grave is at Johannesburg , next to Randsburg in the cemetary there. It's one of the most interesting....it's her actual bed!
    Last edited by Cecile; 05-30-2008 at 09:05 AM.
    Cecile
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cecile View Post
    Well, I've stayed away from the forum for reasons we don't need to get into, but I have to chime in on this conversation. When Tonie died we had a memorial at the tunnel for her - it was beautiful! Unforunately, it didn't take the vandals long to take over the spot. Chuck Goodenough & I formed a Friends of Burro Schmidtt's but it's been a slow go because of many issues between heirs and BLM. Things are settling down now & you can find out more at
    http://www.burroschmidttunnel.org/ there's a clean-up going on June 7th, if anyone is interested in attending.

    Tonie's grave is at Johannesburg , next to Randsburg in the cemetary there. It's one of the most interesting....it's her actual bed!
    I just returned from a long weekend trip here and thought I would report in that one of the care takers from Bickel Camp has moved on to the Schmidt homestead site to protect it from the looting that has been taking place here. I met this particular care taker back in April and seen him again last weekend. very nice gentleman, wife and dog. they welcome your company and are more than happy to show you around. Be sure to bring snacks for the dog. he just loves to play fetch for snacks, especially cheese-its!!!

    Recent Pictures Here!
    http://www.highdesertdrifter.com/schmidts.shtml
    http://www.highdesertdrifter.com/bickelCamp.shtml
    High Desert Drifter
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    Drifter, thanks for the photos. I'd heard of the Burro Schmit tunnel/camp and knew of the ongoing preservation attempts happening up there but had not heard of the Bickel Camp, so you've given me some new info.
    Thanks to Cecile also - who is missed here!
    "Those were great old days. Everthing is very quiet now, isn't it?" Elfego Baca

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    I can remember visiting Tonie Seger 30+ years ago as a kid when my parents took us out exploring ghost towns. This thread brings back good memories.
    Last edited by ROKAHLC; 06-09-2008 at 10:18 AM.

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