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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rock hound

I can’t remember when dad started picking up rocks.  In the beginning our vacations were to see places and things.  But in my teen years there was a shift to looking for rocks and visiting mines. 

Camping places near falling mountain streams were the big deal one summer and we picked through the stones in creeks to find garnets.  They aren’t much to look at; just little brown nuggets.  We never found any big enough to polish except in the rock tumbler. 

Truth be told, I was not very interested in looking at or for rocks.  Mom, dad and my brothers were more than welcome to spend an afternoon in a diamond mine or an emerald mine. 

 I stayed topside and amused my little sister. 

 To the best of my knowledge no one ever found a diamond, and Jan and I found the emerald.  Under a tree, in a field.  I’d walked myself to death minding Jan and she wouldn’t wear out.   So I parked us under a tree and we sorted through stones that were all over that field.  Jan was four or five, and obligingly toted stones to put in the pile.  I was more interested in keeping her interested than in what I might find, not that I had an idea what to look for.  I picked up a black stone, turned it over and the inside was white.  With an emerald crystal right down the middle.  Everyone who admired it told me it had good color.  The emerald and my garnets lived in a dish on my dresser for years, until they went into the ether of that other reality where the real treasures go.  No idea what became of them.

Dad never quit collecting rocks.  After the rock tumbler came a cabochon machine, a faceting machine, a geode splitter and the rest of a roomful of stuff I can no longer recall.  Most of that transpired after I’d left home.  We’d visit on the weekend and find him cutting facets or polishing.  He and mom went to rock shows and rock shops all over the southeast.   Dad and mom both twisted gold wire around tumbled stones and made necklaces and earrings for gifts for daughters and daughters-in-law.  Beth, dad’s oldest grandchild, got big enough to enjoy some quality rock time with her grandpa.  I remember one latter vacation with my parents, my husband and the girls to find moonstones in North Carolina.  They are lovely little things.

Dad kept his rocks and geodes in peck baskets on metal shelving in the basement.  An entire wall of shelving, and I’ll guess more than a hundred pecks of rocks.  The basket ends were labeled by rock type in his precise engineer’s printing. He was so set up for retirement.  But his health was relentlessly failing when dad retired at age 65.  He’d been treated aggressively for histoplasmosis, including two surgeries, and insult to injury, was stricken by adult onset seizure syndrome shortly after he retired.  He described that as falling asleep in his chair and wakening in the hospital.  The beloved rocks lived in the basement and the lapidary equipment was donated to the school.  The rock tumbler kept on turning for two or three more years, but dad eventually refused to be interested.  Mom got help to get those baskets of stone up the basement steps and spread around trees or in neighborhood rock gardens.  The best we could say was, “Well, they’re going to wonder what tidal wave washed over this little part of Ohio when it’s excavated some millennium down the road.”

An Ohio flint geode that dad slabbed .  My daughters and granddaughters took this to school for show and tell.


  1. So sad that he didn't get more time to devote to his hobby.

  2. Happily, he kept on taking pictures.

  3. I'm so happy that your dad could move on to hobby #2 after his retirement. My Mom was always going to write after the kids left left home. She was stricken with Parkinson's and writing became a real struggle. Instead, she and Dad ran a book bus through BC to towns who didn't have a book store. They kept it going for many years until Mom's health forced them to stop. I love stories about parents!!!