By Paul Hubbard, Randsburg Times
High in the El Paso Range, in the upper reaches of Mesquite Canyon, twelve miles west of Randsburg, in the living exponent of persistence, William Schmidt, better known to desert folks in that area as “Burro” Schmidt, 80-year-old recluse, “Burro” spent forty years of his life accomplishing one thing—hand-drilling a half-mile tunnel entirely through a mountain.
Over that period, he worked on farms in the Kern River Valley, accumulating “beans” for the winter at his mine. Regularly, he appeared in Johannesburg with his burros and loaded up supplies at the Teagle’s Store each fall. 1937, his tunnel was finished, and the accomplishment received national publicity. Photographs of the tunnel, his burrow, and “Burro” Schmidt appeared in daily press and international mining journals. Single jack and drill steel and “Burro” Schmidt were the combination that did the job — no compressed air or gasoline motors.
As he nears the end of the trail, happy to have completed a lifetime undertaking, he proposes offering his tunnel and the story of mineralogy it tells to a California university. It will be a natural laboratory for the new generations who want to know the story of the rocks. It is a noble gesture from a nobleman of the desert hills.