The word got out that gold was found.
Near Death Valley, Nevada ground
Miners moved west, eager to see
Beckoned by limbs of the Joshua tree.
News spread quickly, could it be true?
Men staked claims, a settlement grew.
Named it Rhyolite for the rock,
Soon its riches would be unlocked.
For five short years Rhyolite boomed.
Railroads, diners, and dim saloons
Five thousand people called it home.
Signs of progress, only on loan.
Panic traveled throughout the land.
Investors ceased to back the plan.
The rock contained so little gold,
Buildings stripped and materials sold.
The town went bust in 1910.
Quite a loss for wagering men.
Families left, the desert returned.
Seizing remnants of lessons learned.
Between the panes of shattered glass,
Near empty ruins of the past,
Joshua trees still raise their hands
Calling dreamers to the promised land.
I wrote the poem Rhyolite after visiting the ghost town which is located near Death Valley National Park The ruins looked like a war devastated place. Fences and signs were erected to warn people of the dangers. The old buildings could collapse and the grounds were frequented by rattlesnakes.
It was hot, really hot, over 100 degrees, but we walked around and saw what used to be the jail, cemetery, railroad depot, and bank.
I imagined what Rhyolite might have been like in its prime, with people bustling about. Rhyolite was founded in 1904, and grew to a population of five thousand by 1908. The town had electricity and a hospital. Then, after the mines proved to contain very little gold, people moved on. By 1920 the population was zero. What was it like for those people who hung on as long as they could, to see businesses close, and friends moving away?
I noticed there were a few Joshua trees in the area. Joshua trees inhabit southwestern deserts. They were named by the Mormons, who thought from a distance they looked like a man with his arms raised. The image reminded the Mormons of Joshua from the Old Testament, who after wandering in the desert for forty years, led Israel to the promised land. The sight of a Joshua tree gave the pioneers hope in a better tomorrow.
Maybe the Joshua trees of Rhyolite are calling dreamers to follow a new dream, somewhere else.