Tuesday, April 29, 2008

R-O-C-K in the U.S.A.

Boy, oh, boy, I had some fun on Sunday afternoon......attending the Blackhawk Gem & Mineral Society's annual show in Waterloo......for the first time in my life. The habit of focusing on rocks was forced on me from early childhood onward due to the fact that every spring we had to spend many hours out in the farm fields picking up rocks before the crops were planted, or after they were planted, before the corn or soybeans got too tall. Just us peeps and our waterjugs and snacks and a tractor pulling a flatbed wooden trailer, which would end up heaped with rocks by the end of the day.

With picking up rocks, you decide its either a miserable activity or something possibly interesting and intriguing. Choosing the latter option makes the job almost fun. One factor for me was the possibility of finding an arrowhead. Everytime we picked up rocks, I desperately hoped to find one. It never happened.......but, I was always hopeful; and to this day, I still dream of discovering such an artifact.

On Sunday, I picked out an assortment of colorful polished stones to buy at the show: In the photo below, starting with the orange one and going clockwise: Carnelian from Botswana; Malachite from Zaire; Rhodonite from Madagascar; Blue Lace from Namibia; Fluorite from China; and in the center, Hematite from Brazil. They are sitting on a polished slice of Jasper.

Upon arriving at the show, I attended a presentation given by a guy who is digging out fossils at a quarry near Independence, Iowa. Recently, the quarry employees discovered a stratum of rock which contains numerous big spiral, curly mollusk fossils, from the Devonian Period, he said. Supposedly, the land area which is now Iowa was once covered with ocean and was situated down around the equator......before the continental drift took place. These sea creatures were from that era. It was fascinating to see the fossils!

After that, I went downstairs to the big room where the displays were........many varying collections, a rock-tumbling and polishing demo, a guy picking fish fossils out of rock slabs from a quarry in Montana, a guy making arrowheads, etc., etc.

While at the show, I ran into only two people that I know.......and oddly enough, they share a common connection to my life situation. Right when I stepped into the display room, I saw a lady who used to live RIGHT ACROSS THE ROAD AND TO THE LEFT of the farm I grew up on. During my junior high and high school years, I babysat many times at her home, for her son and daughter......the daughter being also there at the rock show with her several children. I haven't seen any of these folks in years! I used to love being at their house......they didn't believe in having a TV, so I was able to easily read and do homework there after the kids went to bed.........no TV to tempt or distract me!

Now back to the present and the rock show......later, while watching the guy using the little picking instrument on the fish fossils, I suddenly realized I was standing next to my neighbor lady who lives RIGHT ACROSS THE ROAD AND TO THE LEFT of the farm I live on now!!! She's a year older than me and has two children in their twenties.......and an eight-year-old caboose son!! She told me she belongs to the Gem & Mineral Society, and she and her young son go on digs in quarries. As we spoke, her son was absorbed in watching the fish fossils being picked at. Incidently, my daughter babysat for him all last summer!

Well,......so much for that silly little coincidence of the day! (Only one other lady fits the description of having lived RIGHT ACROSS THE ROAD AND TO THE LEFT of one of my homes........oddly enough, she wasn't in attendance at the rock show!)

The photo below shows a creek waterway on our farm that was excavated last fall to allow more water to flow through it. I've been spending time down there this spring, when possible, searching for interesting rocks in the dirt piles.......before the grass and weeds take over!

Red rocks seem to be plentiful in this area. This one below looked like a ball of hardened playdough ( I don't know if its red ochre, the red rock that Native Americans would crush to use for dyes and war paint and ceremonies. If I'd have been a Native American woman......they could have given me the task of searching for red ochre.......I'd be happy and content doing that.)

Like I said, I'm always hoping to find an arrowhead. This rock below is obviously not one, but its an odd shape for a rock to naturally occur in. My stepdad and my son's fiancee's father think it is a tool.......a sharpening stone. A section of it is broken off and the inside surface is hard, gray sandstone, just like a whetstone.


My favorite find of the spring so far is the red, whitish, and caramel-colored rock shown below. Ollie's close-up kitty face distorts the perspective of how large the stone really is. It weighs five pounds. After being at the rock show Sunday, I now know that this is a hunk of Jasper. Very lovely and colorful, especially when moistened with water. That's how I found it, actually........the morning sunlight was catching a little end of it glistening bright red in the creekbed. I had to wade in to retrieve it, filling my boots with water! So this little piggy went squish, squish, squish......all the way home!

In the next post, I'll show you a Great Lakes Agate I found a few years ago out in the cornfield. Oh, yes, and almost forgot to mention........the first "career" I recall wanting to pursue (back in third grade) was archeology. Yes, I would tell my parents I wanted to be an archeologist, to which I'm sure they just rolled their eyes. But, hey, you know what...... even though its at the lowest amateur level possible, I AM declaring myself the chief resident archeologist/geologist here on our farm. You're greatly impressed, aren't you!!?? Maybe you'll be even more so once I make myself a badge out of cardboard and aluminum foil!!!

Are there any rock nuts out there amongst those of you reading this blogpost? Or are you at least a fan of John Mellencamp's song?? Or can you tell me who sang this line in a song (my memory fails me at this moment): "I've been a miner for a heart of gold..........and I'm gettin' old......."?


Russell said...

Most interesting.... Yes, I, too, remember picking up rocks every spring - and often in the fall! Apparently rocks sort of rise to the surface, is that right? It seems so, at least.

I can remember using a spade to dig down and around a rock so we could put a chain around it and pull it out with a tractor. Then we would come back with a loader and haul it away. Of course, most rocks were much smaller. You certainly did not want to hit them with a plow, planter or especially a combine!!! I have had a few rocks go into the combine and it is not a prett sight!

I often would pick up rocks when I was cultivating corn or beans and if they were too large I would put an orange or pink flag in the ground to mark them.

Yes, rocks, rocks, rocks!! I remember well!! Take care.

sugarcreekfarm said...

My parents' farm lies along the Cedar River. Lots and lots of arrowheads found in their fields. My brother has quite a collection, the next door neighbor has a veritable museum of Indian artifacts found in my dad's fields.

I remember one time my mom was gone and my dad was itching to get into the field. So he convinced my brother and I it would be fun to walk along behind the tractor as he plowed and look for arrowheads. I don't think that plan probably lasted too long, and I don't remember finding any. I was never patient enough to have much luck, unlike my brother.

abb said...

Neil Young!
...That keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old...

When my mom goes on vacation she brings home rocks. I have a bowl full of the most beautiful green and rust rock from Ireland she brought me and you should see the rocks she got on the Italian coast! I love rocks as well and have them "artfully" (and I use that term loosely) all around my home.

I grew up in Missouri and I remember the dad of one of my friends would go on one of his walks and more often than not come home with an arrowhead. I was so jealous! Like you, I've always wanted to find one, again like you, never have.

I've enjoyed your blog - it's very nicely done!

Jeannelle said...

Thanks for the enjoyable comments!



Sounds like you had BIG rocks to pick up. We carried a pail and a long screwdriver to help coax rocks out of the dirt.

Hey.....your pickup post might land you a date, from the looks of the comment section!!



Oh, I'm green with envy because you grew up on a farm that had arrowheads! It must help to be along a river. I know of people who have found lots of artifacts on elevated banks along the Wapsipinicon River, which is a few miles from here.



Welcome! Thank you for your kind words.

Yes.....it is Neil Young.....sheesh.....I simply could not think of his name!

Um...yes....I, too have many rocks sitting around inside the house and outside in the landscaping. As our milkhauler jokingly says (his wife has the rock-gathering habit, too).....our house will never blow away because it is weighted down with rocks!

Pat - Arkansas said...

You ROCK! Loved your photos and your descriptions. Thanks for a very interesting post.

Jeannelle said...

Welcome,"pat-an arkansas stamper"! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I'll have to check your profile to see what "an arkansas stamper" is.

Sherry said...

It's weird. I too have become more interested in rocks as I grow older. In Michigan they have Petosky rocks which are some of the oldest on the planet. I used to go to gem and rock/jewelry shows a lot in Detroit years ago.

I have always dreamed of finding an arrowhead. I used to walk the fields looking after a plowing. I guess going along stream and rivers would make more sense. I often wander around the meadow and imagine who might have walked the land before me.

Stitches said...

I think there are lots of rock-a-holic's out there. I love rocks!! I have a small rock polisher and have polished quite a few bunches, it is a lot of fun to see what a ho-hum rock can look like once it's polished. One of the items on my bucket list is to go geode hunting, I hope to do it next summer with a grandson..this was a nice post about rocks, thanks