A Profound Desert Monument, or the Most Useless Tunnel in the World?
Burro was regarded by his contemporaries as a crazy person.
A MONUMENT TO
DETERMINATION AND PERSEVERANCE
William Henry “Burro” Schmidt
took thirty-eight years to hand dig this
half-mile long tunnel—completed in 1938
born in Rhode Island, January 30, 1871
died in Ridgecrest, Calif., January 27, 1954
Well, he came up with the idea of building a tunnel starting a tunnel
through the mountain to make transportation
for the train lines for the ore more expeditious and less expensive
and once he got into the actual tunnel-building he kind of lost sight of the ore
and the process of getting the gold to the market and just got consumed
with the idea of finishing this tunnel through the mountain
beforeyou run like the dickens.
We search out the most perfect pieces of rock
you’re taking these
random rock formations and you’re bringing to it this interaction
it transforms it from being
this random rock into almost this
piece of art it’s almost like a sculpture or something
Now I understand the width of the world.
A poem is useless as a tunnel is useless.
A poem tunnels for its own joy.
We gain a moment of joy by climbing through it.
it follows the most interesting, aesthetic, and memorable path from point A to point B.
When his six brothers and sisters had all died of consumption
in his birthplace of Providence, William “Burro” Schmidt
escaped to the desert of California
to begin his life’s work . . .
Brian Laidlaw is a poet-songwriter from Northern California. He has released the poetry collections Amoratorium (Paper Darts Press) and The Stuntman (Milkweed Editions), each of which includes a companion album of original music; another book called The Mirrormaker is forthcoming from Milkweed in Fall 2018. Brian is working toward a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Denver, and continues to tour nationally and internationally with his band The Family Trade. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he moonlights - often literally - as a rock climber.
More in this series
As a child growing up in a landlocked state, I’d imagined the flock of gulls as a cloud of wings, calls sounding like laughter. Now I was struggling to grasp all that we’d lost.