BANG!! A high pitch noise suddenly fills the air. Sitting at the kitchen table having lunch, I look out my window and smoke is rising from my slab saw on the back driveway. AH CRAP! Springing up fast from the table gives the dogs a scare and they start frantically barking as to say; “What!..What the hell is going on? Is there a squirrel outside!” Running with the barking dogs in tow, I get to my smoking saw and I quickly turn it off. The belt is smoldering and smells of burning rubber. I open the saw hood and the big Willow Creek Jasper chunk I’m cutting has come out of the vise and has jammed the blade to a stop. Not good.
Backing off the vise I see the $450.00 new blade is not bent…I’m lucky…this time. My cell phone suddenly starts to ring, but I can’t answer it because my hands are covered with oil. I reach into my pocket anyway and the phone slips out of my hand into the oily muck of the slab table (where the slabs fall after being cut). My day is not starting out very well. Just what is it when a phone rings and our animal instincts take over , believing it’s a life or death situation to answer it? In all likelihood, it’s just the kids wanting to borrow the car, the wife wanting you to finish her ‘honey do list” now, or she’s not going to make Dinner for me tonight or it’s a Telemarketer wanting my money?
Anyway, I answer the phone and an older gentleman says slowly, “I hear… you buy rock?” Over the years, I’ve learned to qualify my answers by firstly saying, “What’s your name? What kind of rock do you have?” and “Did you pick it up off the ground?” This narrows the conversation down quickly to the type of rock I buy and the quality I would expect. He answers saying, “Ohh…I picked a lot off the ground over the years and I got a big back lot with lot’s of piles.” I think instantly…“junk”. Typically, rock that has been sitting on the ground for many years, and perhaps hundreds of years, before it’s picked up by someone, is exposed to the environment. This makes it fade, crack and fracture, rendering it worthless. He continues… “ But, I’ve been going to Quartzite for 40 years and bought a lot there too.” Ding!Ding!Ding! We may have a winner! Turned out to be a good day after all.
The very next day, I drive to his home, pull into the driveway and notice the tell tale sign of a most rock hounds…chunks of fractured petrified wood and other various big rocks lining the driveway and surrounding the front gardens. I get out of my truck and walk over to the trailer house where he lives. Looking around some more, I see his large yard behind his trailer surrounded by a tall wooden fence, that I can’t see over. I knock on the door. It opens and an old grizzled, unshaven, gentleman walks out very slowly. He greets me with a firm hand and toothy smile. “Philip?”, he says. “I’m Earl. Nice to meet you. Suppose you’re here to look at some rock?” Earl continues to say that I’m the only one that he’s ever let look at what he has and he’s been collecting for over 50 years. Curious, I ask, “Earl…how did you hear about me?” He says, “I heard about you through one of my friends and he said you’re an up front guy and no bullshit.” Taken a little a back, I say “Well, I hope that’s good?” He laughs ,“Yep, I prefer it that way.” Then, without any more small talk, he waves me on to follow him to the side of the trailer. Earl is 82 and I can see he’s not in very good condition. I follow slowly behind him, as he gingerly places each step, until we come to the side gate. He opens it up and my eyes widen . I hear a huge chorus in my mind singing, “Haaalleluiah! Haaaalleluiah!” Rocks everywhere! Piles, countless 5 gallon buckets, 55 gallon steel barrels, stacks of crates, rows of gallon glass jars, large wooden bins, large water troughs and boxes, all full of rocks. I turn to Earl and look at him. He has a straight face. I raise my eye brows and he says with a chuckle ,“You’re going to have to make your own path, I’m afraid.” This is the most rock I’ve ever seen by a private owner and it will take days just to skim what I can see on the surface. Finally, I said, “Earl looks like he picked up every rock out there in the Owyhees.” He says, “Well, this is just this side of the house.” He then says, “Lets go to the other side and I’ll open the gate, so you can see what I got over there.” We go out the gate and by this time, I’m getting very excited. I’m following him very, very slowly to the other side of the house. Time seemed to go by so slow… it was pure torture for me. When we get to the other gate, he opens it up and my eyes widen again. I see more piles of larger rough and…a School bus?? “Earl, what’s with the School Bus?” Earls says, “It’s full too”.
Needless to say, it was a bit overwhelming. Earl said to take my time and that he’ll be in the house and to let him know when I’m ready to go. We agreed on a set per pound price and then I was off into the piles. Opening up several 5 gallon bucks and 55 gallon steel barrels, I noticed they where full of Snakeskin agate. Snakeskin is from the Owyhee/Oregon area and has hardly any lapidary value, other than it has an extraordinary polish and, it can be was used to make Fischer Stone. To make a long story short, Fischer Stone is a man-made dendrite made by soaking slabbed Snakeskin in Copper Chloride for a Chrysoprase type coloring and then placing a small piece of iron wire on the wet slab. This will in turn bleed into the agate, making a nice moss- like dendrite. Snakeskin is also an agate display oddity of sorts. He must have vacuumed up the desert , because there are a few thousand pounds of the stuff! The day is getting too late to look around any more, so I ask Earl if I could come back in the morning and bring a friend. He said that would be fine. I drive home thinking, ” It’s going to be a long sleepless night for me.”
“Hey Jake! Let’s go rock huntn!” I got my friend Jake Jackobitz on the phone the next morning. Jake had major surgery several months back and then had to stay in Idaho over the winter, rather than Arizona. I knew, he being a miner, was having cabin fever and was just itching to get out. He says, “Sure! Where we going?” I said, “Oh, I found a great place. I’ll come out and pick you up.” I drove over to Jake’s house, picked him up, and then started driving back towards Boise. Jake say’s, “Where the hell are we going? I thought we were going rock huntn’?” With a straight face, I said ,”Yeah, I found a great spot ….. in Kuna.” The look on his face was priceless! With a puzzled look on his face and a laugh, he says, “Kuna? There’s no rocks in Kuna!” (Kuna, Idaho is a small farm town about 35 miles south of Boise). I say, “Oh, I found a spot I know you’ll like.” Teasing, I say, “Ahh Jake! You must have missed this place , because there is some great rock there. He shakes his head. Then I say ,”I’ll bet you five dollars, you’ll find something you like!” He squints his eyes and looks at me carefully…He’s starting to know me too well. “Alright, what’s the damn catch..” I just can’t keep a straight face anymore. I burst out laughing, shrugging my shoulders saying, “What? What catch? There’s good rock in Kuna!”
We pull up into Earl’s driveway. We walk over to meet Earl. I introduce Jake. We walk over to the gate. I open it up and glace over at Jake to see his eyes widen. He says, “Man! That’s a lot of rocks. Should be able to find some treasure in there!” With a smile, I say, “You owe me five bucks my friend”. Working our way from one end to the other, I find a great deal of treasures from the Owyhees, California, Arizona, Nevada and others I’ve never seen before. It’s very slow going, mainly because there is other stuff mixed and piled up all over too. I step over a Vietnam era first aid box, deflated faded out plastic beach ball, metal pipes, wood pallets, glass panes….basically junk on top of the piles of rock. Wading though and moving around is tough going, and a bit dangerous too. I open up another 55 gallon barrel that is filled to the top with Indian Scrapers and choppers. These ancient artifacts had a variety of uses but mainly to scrap hides. Seems Earl had permission to look for rocks at a Ranch in the Owyhee’s, near the Mahogany Mountains. Moving on and stepping lightly, I see a large pile of rocks with a tarp over it. I shout over to Jake to give me a hand. We struggle to move the tarp up to get a glace under it. There’s a kitchen table underneath with rocks on top of it and under it. In the shadows, there are large boulders…I see…I see…green and white. Holding the tarp up, I say to Jake, “Look under there… do you see what I see?” He’s says, “Sure as heck do.” Huge boulders of Morrisonite. We pull out about a dozen large gemmy boulders of green Morrisonite. The largest boulder, weighing 48 Pounds!!
As the day wears on, we push, throw and move a great deal of rocks. Jake finds a large amount of a rare picture jasper, called Craig’s Gulch. He said he’d been looking for more, but never found anything but a few small stones. Now, he’s looking at about 100 pounds of it! The list of treasures found here is long and I’m sure in the coming weeks, I’ll find more hidden. I drive Jake back to his house with his buckets full of great rock. I can tell Jake had a great time and I feel very happy that he did. Before parting, Jake’s wife opens the door and say’s, “Where did you boy’s go? I saw you heading back to Boise”. Jake says with a smile, “We went Rock huntin’ in Kuna.” After a long pause she say, “There’s no rocks in Kuna!” We both had a long, hard laugh.