The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree—Mojave, California; a Lesson in Composition and Subject.

Forty years ago in Mrs. LaFond’s Fifth Grade class (Main Street School room 22) we were tasked to research a National Park. I think the big name parks were more popular, the likes of Yellowstone and whatnot.

I asked if I could research and write about the Joshua Tree National Monument. At the time this wasn’t a full National Park, but Mrs. LaFond agreed, and so I wrote to the Park Service and they sent me some literature about the odd ‘trees’ and the National Monument.

So why was a ten year old living in Monson, Massachusetts interested in Joshua Trees?

At that time, I’d taken a interest in the Santa Fe Railway, stemming in part from some Lionel F3s that my dad had bought us a few years earlier. This manifested into a desire to make an HO scale model of the desert. I’d read about Barstow, California, and the nearest relevant Park to this Santa Fe hub was the Joshua Tree National Monument.

Fast forward to the early 1990s. My friends and I made regular trips to the southern California desert to photograph trains, and finally had the opportunity to see a real live Joshua Tree.

Last weekend, I was exploring the Mojave Desert with fellow photographer David Hegarty, with an eye on photographing Union Pacific and BNSF trains. Again I had the opportunity to place a Joshua Tree in some photographs.

Here are several views of a heavy BNSF ‘earthworm’ grain train crawling upgrade across the desert floor. (The nickname stems from the prominently brown color of the grain cars, their curved body shape and the crawling effect of the long slow moving consist across the landscape). I’ve juxtaposed the freight with a scruffy Joshua Tree. Knowing what you do now, which do you think is the main focus of my photographs?

A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF 'earthworm' unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.
A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF ‘earthworm’ unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0987

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0989

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0992

Here’s an irony: after all these years I’ve never been to the Joshua Tree National Park [https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm ] (upgraded in 1994). I have visited Barstow on several occasions. This features a massive yard and a fascinating old Harvey House and railway station, but is a shocking bland town; ugly, sprawling and commercial.

Tracking the Light Post Daily!

5 thoughts on “The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree—Mojave, California; a Lesson in Composition and Subject.”

  1. Hope you boys weren’t afraid of those spiders and snakes ! I liked the pic with the distant mountains in the background . There is a harsh beauty in those pictures . Nice !

  2. I could ask how did you manage to make the tree vertical in picture 4 as compared with its tilt in pictures 1-3, but that might be a bit Irish!

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