by Dave Burdick
Eight years ago friends in Searchlight, Nevada invited me to join then on a “Desert Run,” which was the start of my passion with the Eastern Mojave Desert. On a cold March day in an open car we wound around on rough dirt roads by strange plants, by springs, over mountain tops and down sandy washes, ending up on a bench with remains of buildings and across the wash an odd looking stone garden planter. Someone in the group called it an “arrastra,” Spanish for “mining mill,” a circular rock lined pit used for crushing or grinding ore to a fine sand.
The arrastra had four large stones which were attached to horizontal beams by chains to a center hub or axle often powered by man or mule. This modern arrastra, however, was powered by an automobile engine (missing) to a standard transmission, driveline, and rear end complete with brake drum. Next to the arrastra was a mine shaft that went straight way down, marked “ STAY OUT & STAY ALIVE.”
The group of off roaders explored around, had lunch, and headed home. I was hooked and soon I bought a Jeep Wrangler.
Several years later I went looking for the arrastra. I was sure I remembered where it was, but it was not there. For several years we searched, asked around, about its location, but no luck. Then last year my grandson was driving me up a sandy wash and drove by it.
STOP! There it was, not supposed to be there, but there it was.
This year I was leading the friends who originally took me there and it was not there, lost again. Two trips later it was found, eight years to the day from the first “Desert Run.” ~ Dave