Digging up the Graveyard...
It was a beautiful June rock hounding day in the Owyhees. Gene Stewart, his son, his son’s friend and I thought we’d go out to the Graveyard Point area and see what Gene Mueller, Jake Jacobitz and Thom Lane were digging up at Gene Mueller’s Regency Rose claim. Thom Lane was out in these parts for a few days before, spotting at the mine for Mueller. He came into town and stayed a few days at my house to get cleaned up and relax, before heading out with us.
Gene Mueller is, of course, famous for his rock shop, The Gem Shop, in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He is also a miner of various rocks, including Morrisonite, Laguna and Agua Nueva Mexican agates. Thom Lane is a well known dealer in the agate world and long time friend of Gene and Jake. Thom dug Morrisonite with Jake and Gene in the last years that the Christine Marie Morrisonite mine was producing. In later years, he dug Mexican agates for three years with Gene. Jake Jacobitz, best known for “Jake’s Place” Morrisonite Claim, and well known to all Northwest miners as, “Crazy Jake”.
Diving out to the Graveyard point area is relatively easy in dry times, but all week it has been raining cats and dogs. This makes the dusty, powered-sugar, consistency roads, greasy slick. However, the past two days, the rain has stopped, just enough for the sun to dry up the roads a little bit.
Heading up the dirt road to the claim, we see Gene’s huge Cat sitting idle. It’s large bucket, for gouging the hill for agate, empty. We get out of my Suburban and there to greet us is Jake. Gene Stewart and Jake go way back and two friends meeting after many years, always makes for a cheerful reunion. Gene and Jake share a few funny stories and catch up on who’s still around and who’s not. This was my fist time meeting Jake, after years hearing some pretty wild stories about him and visualizing what he looks like. I was pleasantly surprised, that I was not too far off, as to what I expected. Very likable, easy to talk with, and very willing to share his insights, places he’s dug before and what’s still out there. Jake has a slight accent, I can’t quite place…Minnesota? Wisconsin? I’ll have to ask Thom later about it. Kinda gives him a down to earth persona, a little more color to “the miner” character I envisioned.
Heading over to the big pit and looking down into it, I see Gene Mueller digging in a large hole in the side of the pit, almost like a small cave. Gene stands in the hole surrounded by Angel Wing and veins of agate. Angel Wing is formed basically, like how stalactites form in a cave, by thousands of years of ground water seeping through, then dripping off the ceiling and walls, leaving minerals behind to accumulate. In this case, the cave is a large vug hole in the ground. The Angel Wing can be removed in plates, because the surrounding host rock is softer. Therefore, carefully using a chisel and hammer, the delicate plates can be extracted successfully.
Coming up out of the pit, Gene Stewart and I decide to go over to his old Graveyard Point Plume Agate claim, which he had back in the 70’s which is about 200 yards away. Walking up the road from Mueller’s camp, we detour off and then down along a path for about 100 yards. We find a shallow hole, where the claim used to be, now filled in with silt from runoff. Gene stands on the top edge of what used to be a deep hole. I can see in Gene’s eyes, he’s deep in thought, probably bringing up some old memories of when he and Tom Caldwell dugs tons of plume out of that hole. Bringing him back, I ask, “Where was that old truck you where telling me about?” Gene told me a story of when he and Tom Caldwell were blasting one day. Seems Tom put a little too much powder in and blew a huge 100 pound seam straight up in the air. It landed right on top of Gene’s truck cab roof. The roof was so caved in, that you had to lean out the window to drive! Gene still laughs about it. It was so funny at the time, that he decided to drive the truck home with the boulder still on the roof. Gene smiles and chuckles…“I tell ya. I got a lot of funny looks and people laughing at us, all the way home!”
Heading back to camp, we see everyone sitting around the camper, under the canopy, taking it easy. For me, this is a great chance to prod stories out of these guys. I start with Thom. He tells me the detailed story of how he once owned the great Morrisonite collection that Gene Mueller is currently selling for the current anonymous owner. He went on to say that Betty Warrington was the original owner. Then, Jake pipes up and tells some long tales, that I can’t really relate here to the whole world, but they are pretty, “thought provoking”. Well, it’s getting late and at the end of this mining day. Only a few sacks of Regency were filled, in addition to several sacks of standard gem Graveyard-type plume. Gene Mueller said it was a good productive mining day.