Ben Clement Mineral Show 2018

Onyx and I made a quick drive down to Marion, Kentucky early Saturday morning, June 2nd, to take in the Ben Clement Mineral Show and visit with friends at the museum as well. It was a nice drive down on a nice day, not too warm at all. We arrived about 10 am and as I walked up to the museum, I spotted Ed Clement in front and visited with him for a few minutes before he was whisked away…I then had a few minutes to talk to Tina and Sherry, then found Bill Frazer inside and sat down to visit with him a few minutes before Russ brought him a taco pizza. We visited a few minutes more while they both chowed down on the pizza. Bill brought me up to date on some issues with the mine and museum before I walked over to check out the show. One of the main reasons I wanted to drive down there was to visit with everyone, including Gary Griffith and his son Walter, who are always set up with a fluorite booth at the show…they are great people and also donate a dumptruck load of rocks full of fluorite chips for the kids to dig thru outside the museum building each year. Gary lost his Dad Guy Griffith to cancer earlier this year…I always enjoyed talking to his dad whenever I stopped by their place to purchase great Southern Illinois Fluorite from them. I found Gary and Walter just inside the door this time….

…this time they had not only a couple of tables covered in fluorite specimens and octohedrons they chipped out, but they had one end of one table covered with fluorite jewelry…made by Walter`s wife….I purchased a couple of them as well, very pretty stuff. They also had discovered some neat stuff in their calcite pile at home recently…they normally separate the calcites from the fluorite, so they have a good sized pile of it and were going thru it recently and discovered fluorite cubes on the calcites, so they cleaned it up and brought it to the show…I purchased a few of them as well…

I sat on a milk crate they had behind the table and visited with them for quite a while, found out his Dad had cancer which slowly got worse and the pain finally became too much for him to handle at home, he had to be hospitalized to bring it under control. Def gonna miss talking to him as I am sure Gary and his family are as well. Gary told me a few stories about his Dad helping him and Walter when they were mining and Sherry told me a few about Guy as well.

Eventually I drifted down into the old school gymnasium to check out the vendors there….found Phil Daly up on the stage where Alan Goldstein is usually set up…Alan didn`t make it to the show this year…so I visited with Phil a bit and purchased some of his Kentucky minerals from his collection, which he is selling off…..

The dealer on the right in the photo above, had a beautiful cluster of smokey quartz crystals on the corner of one of his tables, sitting on a paper that stated the cluster was found in the Old Leatherneck Mine of Arkansas…which was the old mine that later became the Arrowhead Mine, both of which are now closed to the public….

…estimated retail price of $ 2300 only….lol…and no, I did not purchase it, but it sure is pretty. ūüôā

Around 1:30 pm, Onyx and I headed for home and soon after turning west on I-24, traffic began slowing down and a few miles down the road we discovered why….

…and no, it wasn`t due to road construction…take a closer look ahead on the EB side….

…as we approached slowly, I thought at first it was two tractor trailer rigs involved in a serious accident, could see the medical transport helicopter in front of all traffic and then saw the firefighters scrambling around…

…and then as we finally drew alongside the scene, I could see it was a tractor trailer pulling a pup trailer, the pup trailer appeared to be rear-ended by a trash truck, and it appeared the driver of the trash truck required extrication by the Calvert City Fire Department, who has at least seven trucks on the scene and were helping with traffic control further back in the eastbound lanes that were backed up for miles…

…hopefully no one was seriously injured…thankfully we did not see anything else like that on the way home…this time I decided to drive straight in on I-64 and cross the Mississippi River by the Arch….

…always a great view….was great visiting with everyone in western Kentucky once again.

 

 

My Mineral Rock Gardens

I often get asked about my rock gardens, what I have in them and how big they get…last fall I planted several small beds of tulips and other spring flowering bulbs in all of my rock gardens and this spring I moved rocks around by type and location where found…and photographed the results when the spring flowers started blooming. This first image shows the rock garden on the west side of my shed, containing purple fluorites from western Kentucky, some of my wavellite from southern Arkansas, and many geodes from central Kentucky and the Keokuk area as well as a few quartz clusters from southern Arkansas mines…

…and as you can see, it mainly contains yard rocks…and some lillies at the top and on the west side as well….where my propane tank sits, I have Eminence yard rocks and some hybrid tulips….

the garden on the east side of the shed contains more flowers but starts near the shed door with a bed of lillies surrounded by a variety of beautiful crystals….

and on the far side of that garden is another bed of lillies surrounded by quartz clusters….

and just a little ways away in the curve of that garden is a nook of geodes….

…and more hybrids in yet another garden….

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what my rockgardens look like. ūüôā

Annual Clement Mineral Museum`s 2016 Show and Dig

Every year when I get the chance at work to select my dates for vacation time through out the year ahead, I always look at the first weekend in June…and take it as vacation if I am slated to work it…because that is the weekend of the Clement Mineral Museum`s Annual Mineral Show and Dig, and I always travel down to host the Eureka Mine and free up the Museum Staff for other details. There are a group of people down there that I truly care about and they have a cause for rockhounds that I truly care about as well…the provide a place for rockhounds to go and dig for pretty crystals for one thing. They also have an outstanding Museum there that is truly worth visiting and admiring the gorgeous minerals and crystals inside, and for anyone that is into blacklight minerals and crystals, they have a room completely designed with you in mind as well. In years past, I have also taken them buckets of grab bag material, and although I had some still on hand, after giving ten buckets of material to MAGS back in April, they received some donations from some good friends of mine and were not in need of any this time around, leaving me room in the bed of my truck to take some Missouri minerals, Arkansas crystals, and purple fluorite to give away to anyone that struck out digging up some pretties that weekend. I also took some crystals down for their silent auction and took a few pieces of wavellite to give to some good friends of mine who I knew would be there.

Onyx and I drove down ¬†on Friday morning, with the intention of meeting a good friend in southern Illinois and doing some hiking at one of the pretty spots along the way. ¬†We met up with Mark about 2:30 pm and had a great hike at one of the scenic areas in that area, called RimRock Trail…..century old knarly cedar trees growing out of huge rocks, a very long staircase that descends to the bottom of rocks that are larger than houses, and in the valley below is a beautiful creek with bluffs lined with huge ferns….and a beautiful tunnel created by the huge rocks at the bottom of the stairs as well….

Stairs to PassagewaysFoot of the EscarpmentNarrow Passage Betw BouldersShaded Steps Passageway 2Creek and Ferns

 

…..even tho it was humid as could be and we were drenched by the time we returned to the parking lot 90 min later. Mark had the rest of the day off and decided to travel on down to the steakhouse and have supper with me, so we drove down to Cave-In-Rock and crossed the muddy Ohio River on the ferry and then drove ten miles to the Museum in Marion, Kentucky. We found several of the staff there making final preparations for the weekend working inside…Tina who is in charge of the show and manages the Museum daily, her husband Brad, Sherry who assists Tina with the Museum through the week, as well as David and Janyce Sorrell who serve on the board there and live nearby in Paducah. After visiting with them for a few minutes, Mark and I headed on down to the Days Inn at Kuttawa, where I always stay when down there, so I could get checked in before supper…I had also been in contact with Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon of MAGS, who were going to be there that weekend and let them know what time I would get there so we could go to supper together at the nearby Oasis Southwest Grill…one of the best steakhouses in the country as far as I`m concerned. We arrived at the hotel about 30 min later and freshened up and then as we walked out to walk over to the Oasis, it was threatening to rain, so Matthew loaded us up in his car and drove us over instead. Matthew is the ¬†newsletter editor of MAGS, the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society Club that I have been a member of for several years, and Carolyn is the Hospitality Director for the club as well, both are very nice and good friends as well, we often keep in contact by email and they have gone rockhunting with me in Missouri as well. We had a great visit and supper at the Oasis that evening, and afterwards, Mark and I walked back to the hotel as by then it had stopped raining. Mark headed back to the Carbondale area while I checked my email and walked Onyx before retiring to bed.

Onyx and I were awake by 7 am Saturday morning and after a walk around the hotel, then a good breakfast in the breakfast bar there, we headed toward the Eureka Mine. We arrived 30 min later…I unlocked and opened the gate and then drove on down to the mine to look things over…for many years past, I have always been joined by a good group of rockhound friends there each spring where we rent a trackhoe and operator, and dig out the pit in search of good material and to open up the pit to enable rockhounds that come there thru out the year afterwards, have a much easier time of finding some good crystals to take home with them. In the past few years, the new pit we have been digging had been headed toward the logging road that runs along the mine, this year we actually tied into the road with the pit and had to block it off with large rocks that were pulled from the ground and a berm on the other side of the open pit. Here is what the old pit looks like now, we filled it in at the request of the Museum staff last year, it is tied to the new pit only by a drainage way now…

06 Old Pit Area

Tina and David told me the day before that a private collector from New York state had been there a few weeks prior for a private dig, digging into the spot where my group had stopped with the trackhoe back in April. He dug by hand shovel and apparently found a nice vein there, which resulted in some nice cubes and plates, but also left some great stuff behind for others. Here is how the pit looked when we arrived….

01 Eureka Mine Saturday Morning

…and you can see a small pile in the foreground of the photo above next to my logo, and then there is a huge pile of material dug out and left behind at the other end of the pit….that`s more of the material that he left behind…..

04 Eureka Mine Saturday Morning

I put my boots on cause it was a little soft in places and wet in the pit below, and took my camera with me for a walk around to look for material, so I would have an idea of where to direct diggers to, depending on if they wanted the hard rock mining or easy surface collecting or combing thru the tailings with a handrake…we get all types of diggers showing up shortly after 9 am each day there during the annual show. After walking up on the huge tailing pile first, I was encouraged by what I found on the surface and cubes sticking out just a bit to tease and tantalize, so I knew that folks should be able to find some nice stuff there if they were using just a hand rake or surface collecting on that pile and the piles to the right side of the roadway above the pit. I then climbed down to see how soft the floor of the pit was…there was a small water hole down there but it was mainly just a bit soft mud due to all the rain they had received the day before. Then I walked up toward the end of the pit to check out the material the private collector left behind, and saw some beautiful cubes up there starting about the middle of the pit….

07 Eureka Freshest Tailing Pile

…and the farther up the pit I walked, the better it got…I know some folks were going to be real excited when they arrived and seen all of it sitting there waiting to go home with someone…

08 Eureka Freshest Tailing Pile

…including this beauty just laying there waiting to be selected, wrapped up, and taken home by some lucky collector….

10 Fluorite Crystals On Chunk

11 Fluorite Crystals On Chunk

This photo below shows the end of the pit where we stopped digging in April with the trackhoe and the private collector dug into and tapped into a vein….

05 Eureka Mine Saturday Morning

…I walked back toward the truck to get my crystals and minerals set up on the tail gate of my truck and almost stepped on this guy who was on his way down the small hill toward the watering hole in the pit….

13 Box Turtle

…and soon after, the first two diggers showed up, a wrecking crew of young men from Evansville, Indiana, who immediately headed to the end of the pit with the intent of finding some more nice cubes evidently…..

15 First 2 Diggers Are From Evansville18 These Two Guys Dug All Day

…and let me tell you, these two guys didn`t even stop for lunch…..brought their own water with them and all their tools too. Mary from Ohio was the next digger, she is a regular like me there…and just like that morning, always arrives early on no matter what….here she is on the right trying to help another digger new to the scene on what to look for in the pit…

20 Mary Moving Around Pit

Many people see others in the pit and automatically think that is the place to be to find some good stuff…they do not realize that in most cases, whether it be a fluorite mine or quartz mine, that that is where the hard rock mining takes place to get to the good stuff and then one has to work even harder and longer to get that good stuff out. In this case, this particular weekend, they were lucky and found some nice stuff laying around on the floor of the pit, having been left behind by that private collector, but it is normally not that way at all. Some folks found that out that weekend, when the good stuff ran out and they wanted to get down to the vein to find some pockets and possibly some plates or single cubes…I was able to explain to most of them that while it is possible to dig down to that vein, you have to be prepared to put some major effort into it, as that vein can be anywhere from six inches to two or three feet under their feet, and they have to remove alot of heavy mud if it is located deeper, then once they find the vein in the bedrock below, they then have to carefully look for the pockets with their hands and fingers…not their rockhammers. Another thing I have to watch for are young kids running around with rockhammers, cause they are naturally kids and always want to find a rock to pound that hammer on…the problem being that if they use those hammers on crystals on the rocks, they will destroy and decimate them very fast and some kids really need to be supervised there because in the past we have seen alot of unsupervised kids that ran around and started hammering on everything in sight, including crystals on rocks that collectors had set up on the bank above where they were working. Kids and some adults have no idea how soft fluorite can be, compared to other crystals like quartz which is much tougher, however one still does not want to hammer them because you can easily cause damage that can not be undone later on. At any rate, more people showed up and I was able to direct them to the right areas for what type of digging or collecting they wanted to do there….you will notice some came prepared for rain which we dealt with til mid morning and then it cleared off and became hot and humid….

14 Diggers Start Showing Up16 Father and Son on Huge Pile17 Digging In the Mud In The Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 Others Begin To Show Up

Then about mid morning a young man walked up with a couple of blonde headed boys with him…and introduced himself as James from Hopkinsville….I had talked with him earlier in the week regarding where he could take his boys rockhunting and I had suggested that he bring them to the dig this weekend since it was closeby for them…and here they were arriving…I showed them some easy pickins spots and they quickly started filling their big blue buckets….they were full of energy and fun to watch too…

21 Looking Everywhere For Crystals22 James Cassata Brought His Boys

A few minutes later, a couple more young boys showed up with their parents in tow, and turns out I had talked to their Mom by email also and made the same suggestion to her as well….here you see Coen about to step off in the mudhole and sink down before I could warn him…luckily his Dad was right behind him and able to rescue him before he sank too deep….and his brother Finn in the red shirt in the second photo with his Mom in the pink shirt on the left side in the pit…..

23 Cohen & His Dad Arriving24 Fenn Digs Into Wall

…both of these two lads had alot of energy as well and were very knowledgeable about rocks and minerals…I was astounded when they started talking and I could tell how much they knew about minerals and crystals, they were a total joy to be around that day and it was nice to see the parents there that fully supported them in their quest to find some nice minerals. I had that same type of support from both my Mom and Dad 49 years ago when I started collecting rocks and minerals…it sure makes a difference let me tell ya and creates a lifetime of lasting memories as well !! ¬†I met a couple of other lads that day that were a little younger than Finn and Coen but just as sharp and keen eyed on crystals and minerals, which really makes my day when out there all day long. Another highlight of my day was when Bill Frazer and Brad Walker showed up to check on us and see how everyone was doing…it`s always a pleasure to visit with these guys…they made sure everyone was okay before heading back to the Museum.¬†

As the day wore on, more diggers showed up, many of them checking out the huge tailing pile since the pit was often full when new folks showed up…..

25 Several Up on Tailing Piles

…and then as we approached 4 pm, we saw some more rain clouds approaching, but the rains held off til closing time before moving in…here you see Mary taking another water break and Onyx nosing around….

26 Mary Takes a Break

..and you can see the two young men still working the end of the pit while others have obviously sifted thru the tailings left in the pit by the private collector…the guy kneeling down in jeans actually dug down into the remains of that pile after Matthew and Carolyn worked it pretty heavily earlier in the day, and this guy found some nice larger matrix pieces with some nice cubes on them….

27 Evansville Guys Still At It28 Still Going Strong in the Pit

…by 5 pm, most everyone had cleared the pit and piles and remaining diggers were cleaning off in the creek below the bridge…soon after Onyx and I were locking the gate and headed back to the Museum to report the very few problems that we had, and found folks there that were just as tired as we were. I also got to visit with a few of the directors and staff that had not been there on Friday when I arrived.

Onyx and I soon headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and ready for supper at the Oasis again. On the way there, the storm clouds that we had spotted rolling in around 4 pm, were apparently part of some stray showers that were then followed by another group of clouds that came into view as I was leaving Marion headed south toward the hotel. I stopped a couple of times to photograph them, first catching this rainbow in the first set of clouds, that was a double base instead of an arch…never seen one like that before…

29 Rainbows After Brief Shower30 Another Storm Rolls In31 Storm Approaches From North32 Storm Approaches From North33 Storm Approaches From North

 

 

 

 

As I was driving and watching the clouds, I also talked to my buddy Chuck Reed from St Louis County who was camping at Paducah and decided he and his daughter Mackenzie would drive down and meet me at the Oasis for supper that evening. Matthew and Carolyn decided to try another restaurant in the area over on Lake Barkley instead….I stopped at one of my favorite spots to shoot some more clouds…..and then the center mass changed to a light blue mass in just a few minutes, I had never seen anything like that either….

34 Storm Behind Horse Barns37 Storm Behind Horse Barns38 Storm Behind Horse Barns39 Storm Behind Horse Barns

We had a great time, food as usual was very good there again and nice atmosphere as well. Chuck was going to attend the night dig that evening but his plans changed and they were going to head over to Mammoth Cave the next day and then up to the fun park at Santa Clause, Indiana for a few days afterward. We made plans to get together at the Park Hills show which was the following weekend.

 Sunday went well too, however I only stayed a few hours in the morning before stopping off at the show to shop a bit before heading home. As always, I had a great time helping everyone out and helping the new and young rockhounds find some nice stuff to take home and enjoy. Email me at jwjphoto7@gmail.com if you have any questions. 

 

 

 

 

Spring Fling in Kentucky 2016

After my recent trip to Kentucky, I might have to make this an annual trip and decided to come up with a name for it, so it will be easy to categorize and refer back to. For the past twelve years I have driven down to western Kentucky to perform a machine dig to help out the folks at the Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, as they provide great opportunities for rockhounds across the US and around the world as well. We rockhounds know that it is becoming increasingly difficult each year to find good places to go and spend a day or two digging for beautiful crystals, and this is one of those places worth going to visit and dig at. A small group of us get together each year and pool our resources to hire an excavation company and operator to come in, dig at our direction and move alot of dirt and mud out of the way, opening up new areas where beautiful purple and yellow cubes of fluorite can be found, sometimes with other minerals present, including calcite, sphalerite, galena, and occasionally greenockite. We dig into the Eureka Mine, that dates back to the early 1900`s, which as always been a fluorite mine, likely called a fluorospar mine back then, or simply ” spar ” as the locals referred to it. Much of the spar they were mining was massive and solid, whereas we look for the cubes of fluorite, in the form of small plates, clusters, and large plates and cubes associated with the other minerals present. By opening up additional areas of opportunity, we enable all rockhounds who visit the rest of the year, to more easily access those areas and an easier dig as well.

This year I was joined by rockhound friends Jim Ericson from the Minneapolis area, Chuck Reed from the St Louis County area, and David Sorrells from the Paducah area. Jim had quite a trip down there, leaving last Thursday morning early and driving through a foot of snow on the ground and roads, dumped there the night before from that storm that barreled across Colorado the day before, which stranded motorists all the way across the state under 17 inches of snow. Jim made it thru southern Minnesota and then Iowa as well, snowing on him the entire time until he safely reached Missouri, where the snow finally stopped clinging to everything and he was able to make much better time on the roads. He sent me some images of his harrowing, white knuckle drive down there….

Jimmy Drove Down Thru This Across MN and Iowa 2Jimmy Drove Down Thru This Across MN and Iowa

…luckily for him, his suv has all wheel drive, which combined with his common sense, steady nerves and rock solid determination, brought him through the snow and ice unscathed. The rest of us had uneventful drives, Onyx and I arriving by 2 pm in Marion…I had Onyx shaved down the day before by the groomer at my local vet office, but forgot to pick up some flea and tick prevention tablets for him, so after a quick call to Tina, who recommended a local vet, we drove over there to pick one up for him. That is when I spotted these gorgeous sunbeams near their rural fire station….

06 Sunbeams Over Marion Fire Station

…the night before, while packing, I noticed the clouds lining up for what appeared to be a good colorful sky as the sun dipped down, and as I made my way over to my neighbor Glen`s house to let him know we were leaving the next morning, I stopped in the street in front of my house to capture this stunning sunset….

01 Sunset Night Before My Trip

…Onyx chewed up his tablet and was set for the next thirty days…I had heard from several that the ticks in Kentucky can get quite bad and I didn`t want to take any chances with him especially. We then headed back to the hotel in Kuttawa to wait for Chuck and Jim to arrive, before going to supper. We were staying at the Days Inn there, next to the well known and liked, Oasis Southwest Grill, one of the best steakhouses in the country, bar none. Chuck was set to arrive around 8 pm and Jimmy figured he would be there soon after, but told us not to wait on him as he had munched on sandwiches all the way down there. Chuck and I walked on over to the steakhouse after he arrived, and ordered our food, and true to his word, Jimmy showed up about 45 min later to join us. We caught up on old times and then I explained the layout of the Eureka to them, as well as explained what our mission was the next day. Chuck had never been there and it has been several years since Jimmy was there. We had a great meal and conversation and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day.

David drove down early the next morning from Paducah, and was at the mine when Chuck, Jimmy and I arrived…we passed the trackhoe and operator as we drove down the hill to the mine. He followed us down to get instruction and directions on how to get the trackhoe down to the mine, and we found out his name is Marlon….he had never dug there and was unfamiliar with that particular area, but knew as we did, that the sixty thousand pound machine would not be able to cross the little metal bridge over the creek at the foot of the hill. I showed him how to drive down the hill through the fields on the other side of the road and the cattle crossing in the creek, offered to walk him down and assist with the gates, but he said he would be fine, and so we set about getting things ready while he returned to do just that. The new pit that we had dug out last year over the course of two separate machine digs, had weathered the winter pretty good, yet was full of water on one end while high and dry, so to speak, on the other….

07 New Pit After Winter

…I say so to speak, because it was as dry as could be expected after a half inch of rainfall the day before…dryer than we have found it in past years anyway. I can remember the early days when you stepped off in the old pit…that area filled in behind that water hole above….and sunk down to your knees easily, and wondered if you were going to be able to pull your feet out and keep your boots on. Many boots and waders have been lost to that Kentucky mud over the years, let me tell ya.

Last year, at the second machine dig, we brought the end of the new pit right up to the old logging road that runs along the mine on the west side….

11 Logging Road Along Pit

…..and stopped digging there, even though we could see a vein of purple at the base of it. Bill Frazer, the landowner and President of the Museum Board, discovered that there was an offshoot vein traveling off the original vein that we had followed for the first ten years, this one seemed to come off at a forty five degree angle…Bill came to this conclusion after looking at some of the old maps of the mine, then dug an exploratory trench two years ago and struck fluorite. We followed his lead last year with both of our machine digs and found more fluorite each time we dug, and we also exposed a large bench, or saddle, at the bottom that also produced alot of pockets of deep dark purple cubes and plates of fluorite…

09 Bottom of New Pit

This year, I consulted with one of my geologist friends Mike Streeter, who knows the area well and Bill as well, and we decided to explore under the logging road to see if the vein continued in that direction. Bill also asked if we could fill in the deep water hole on the east side of the new pit, so we had Marlon take care of that job first…here you see the new pit below and the deep water hole in the upper part of the image, as well as the pocket producing saddle in the lower part of the image…

10 Filled In This Section

12 Marlon Gets Started Filling In End of New Pit

…when he finished that job, he had covered that entire deep water hole and bridged across the hole at the end of the saddle…which is still accessible to the serious hard rock diggers who will come there to dig. He then moved around to the other side to move the huge tailing pile around for us….

Eureka Mine Machine Dig Trackhoe Arriving - Davids Pix

…..and when he did that, David climbed up on top to see if he was stirring anything up….

13 David Searches Tailings14 David Searches Tailings

Marlon then came back to the logging road on the south side and began extending the trench in the direction of the forest behind him….at the start I went down into the pit to direct Marlon on where to begin digging….

Eureka Mine Digging Out Trench - Davids Pix

…after that, Jimmy or Chuck stayed down in the pit at all times with me, to check his progress. Jimmy took the first turn and everytime we spotted purple, we would stop Marlon and then climb into the freshly dug dirt and check for cubes. David took some photos while Jimmy and I were down there, and after Chuck and Jimmy exchanged places, Jimmy took some photos of Chuck and I checking out the progress of the trackhoe…

David Looks Down As James & Chuck Dig in Trench

…and here is Chuck in the pit while I was getting my perspective again on the progress…hard to do when you are down in the pit and looking up, trying to figure out where you are at in relation to the logging road above…..

16 Digging Trench Toward Road

…and you can`t tell from the angle I shot this, but Chuck is a good thirty to forty feet from the new area that Marlon is dropping that bucket into…Marlon turned out to be an excellent operator and excavator…kept a watchful eye on us all the time and made eye contact each time he emptied the bucket and brought it back around. We were very impressed with his skills and methods…we had worked with Wayne Crider for many years and Wayne was excellent to work with as well…we found out that he had recently sold his business and retired, now in his 80`s…we wish him only the best of luck and health.

In the meantime, Jimmy and David were on top keeping an eye on us and on the goodies in the bucket each time Marlon would bring a load up from below….

17 Topside View

..and here is another view of Chuck down in the pit, while Marlon was working over the tailings, as the new pit expands into the old logging road….

Expanding the New Trench Pit

…we were finding a lot of little plates and cubes along the way…much of it mud covered and hard to tell what all we had…here is one of David`s little plates all cleaned up….

One of Davids Finds 2

We took the trench cut across that logging road, finding two veins of purple fluorite about two feet apart down the middle of the trench cut from near the top to the bottom of the cut. We were pulling a few small plates out…at one time, Chuck called me over, he found an opening in the matrix, and after retrieving my flashlight from my truck, I shined it inside and we saw one inch cubes on both sides of the opening, at least a couple of plates inside….David was able to take a nice photo of it…and then I proceeded to chip three plates out of it…

Eureka Mine Plates Inside Vein - Davids Pics

While the guys continued to dig out what they could find in the trench, I had Marlon cut a new temporary road thru the edge of the forest and back over to the main north side…he first piled some dirt and rocks up on both sides of the road cut, and we also staked a line across with some fence posts….

18 Setting Large Smooth Rocks On Road

…I had never seen large limestone/dolomite boulders like the ones he pulled out of the pit and piled up on the road, they were water worn and smooth with rounded corners where once I am sure, they had hard sharp edges. Tina drove down later and was immediately both drawn and taken with them, she wanted to take a couple of them home with her…one was even big enough to serve as a small picnic table. Once finished with that, I had Marlon dig a trench on the north side of the old pit to see if we could locate the old horizontal tunnel that we had followed in the first ten years of our machine digs, when we found quite a bit of good to great specimens along the way. Jimmy photographed me standing at the edge of the trench cut that Marlon is making for us, again it looks as though I am in the pit from the angle taken, but rest assured I am standing up on the bank and a couple of feet from the edge….

I am Looking For Signs of Fluorite North Side Trench Cut

We didn`t locate much of anything on this side, following some hunches, and the water table is very high here too, we were down maybe ten feet when Marlon punched thru some base rock and water started gushing into the trench cut…that alone would have made it extremely difficult to dig in even if we had found anything worthwhile there. It was noon by then and we decided to break for lunch. Bill had kept in contact with us all morning by phone, checking on our progress, so I called him once again to let him know where we were at. He was in Paducah but on his way back and said he would come by to discuss another place to dig at. Jimmy drove Marlon back up the hill to his truck so he wouldn`t have to hoof it up there, and he drove back down in his truck after his lunch break.

Bill arrived soon after and told us there was a location close by where a drill core several years before, had turned up some purple fluorite as well as some blue fluorite, calcite, and some other trace minerals, and if interested, we could have Marlon work a trench cut up the hill to see if we could find it. We all agreed to that, everyone likes blue fluorite afterall so we moved Marlon down to a likely spot, cut the fence, and had him commence trenching. He was having some difficulty in the spot we started him out at, so Bill relocated him to the hill above and had him begin again, eventually working his way up the hill behind him….

19 Moved Trackhoe Up to Hill By Columbia Mine

…as you can see, we were near the old Davis shaft tailings close to the old Columbia Mine, which is located down the hill to the left in the photo above, the Davis shaft tailings in the foreground above….and below…..

Digging Up Side of Hill in Pasture Near Columbia Mine 2Digging Up Side of Hill in Pasture Near Columbia Mine

…the next image shows the old generator building for the Columbia Mine which was back behind us and just down over the hill with the cattle grazing down in the valley near the creek….

20 Old Generator Bldg by Columbia Mine

…and since this was taking a bit of time for Marlon to complete, Chuck stretched out on the tailing piles to get a little shut eye time in….

21 Chuck Resting On Columbia Mine Tailings

…as Marlon continued to dig, Jimmy watched and hoped for a glimmer of blue or purple….

22 Jimmy Watches Progress of Trackhoe on Hill

…however, we reached the top of the hill with only a handful of chert and some sandstone found and Bill decided to stop the dig at that point. We had Marlon fill in the trench cut and he even went so far as to smooth it out as best he could for the sake of the cows that frequently graze that area….

23 Trackhoe Fills In Trench on Hill24 Trackhoe Fills In Trench on Hill

…I stayed up on top of the hill with Marlon as he completed this work, and sent Jimmy, David, and Chuck down to divide up the finds….and when I returned forty minutes later, found that they were still picking and choosing. We cleaned up shortly after and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and then over to the Oasis for another great dinner. ¬†The next morning, we slept in an hour extra and then drove over to meet Tina at the Clement Mineral Museum to get a tour of it…Chuck had never seen it and it had been some time that Jimmy had seen it as well, both of them were interested in seeing the rocks and minerals on display that glow under the blacklight lamps as well…here are some photos that Jimmy took there….

Blacklight room at the Clement Mineral Museum

Purple Fluorite Cluster with Calcite

…the Clement Mineral Museum is always worth a visit to see the gorgeous crystals and minerals there…no matter how many times I have been there, I love to go back inside and look around again…bout like a kid in a candy store there, can never get enough or see enough.

From there, we drove on over to Danville, Kentucky, in the central part of the state, where we would be rockhunting the next few days for mainly geodes, or so we thought. I had made contact with a buddy of mine who likes fluorite, too…I met Phil and his wife Shirley at the Eureka Mine a few years ago, two very nice people that were hosting the Eureka for a few years, and one day Phil gave me a piece of white fluorite with a hint of purple on the edges, that was simply beautiful. I had no clue until this year that he lived close to Danville…for whatever reason, I thought all those years that he lived further south and east in Kentucky. I emailed him a couple of weeks ago when I had a better idea of my trip schedule and he invited us out to his place on our arrival, to show us his collection and offered to take us to a few places. I gladly accepted his offer on behalf of my friends.

I had also made contact with the manager of a nearby quarry and he texted to ask me to contact him on our arrival in town, so he could show us the quarry that afternoon, so I called him when we arrived at our hotel and arranged to meet him there 45 minutes later. I let Phil know that we would be out there as soon as we cleared the quarry, then Jim and Chuck joined me and Onyx as we drove to the quarry…I should prob say that we would be joined the next morning by¬†a couple more people.¬†

This quarry is known for Limestone, Fluorite, Barite, Calcite, Sphalerite, and some fossils, in that order…here are a few photos of what has been found there before…

Barite With Fluorite 2Barite With Fluorite 3Fluorite With Barite On ItFluorite With BariteLavendar Fluorite CubesFluorite and BariteCalcite Crystals 2Calcite Crystals

We met the manager, Clay, at the front gate and loaded up into his truck and drove thru the gate…I left Onxy in my truck at the front gate with the ac running…knowing no one would mess with my truck because Clay said so and also because anyone that looked inside and saw a dog that looked like a lion would be a fool to try and break into it. Clay showed us the highlights and the lowlights both, areas to check out and areas to avoid, and explained why as well. He asked and we assured him that we had indeed brought our hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and steeltoed boots with us and would be wearing them the next day.

He wished us good luck and we headed down to Phil`s residence, which is south of Danville, about a ten minute drive. We drove by several black colored barns…

25 Barn Forkland Road Valley

….painted black down there either because black paint is and was cheap, or because many farmers grew tobacco leaves down there and those leaves were harvested and placed in the black barns to cure properly. I had always heard it was due to the tobacco farmers. We also drove up and over a steep knob to get to his house…knobs down there are what they call hills up here, they are shaped like doorknobs down there, tradional shaped doorknobs, that is, so they refer to them as knobs…..

19 Knobs of Central Kentucky

We arrived to find Phil waiting for us outside his tool shed, which is a large outbuilding and holds much of his rock and mineral collection. He gave us the grand tour, and let me tell ya, he has some spectacular stuff there, plus he has his 16 inch rock saw in there, faceting machine, grinding/polishing wheels, everything needed to make jewelry and he had some of that as well….

20 Agates21 Malachite24 Amethyst From Michigan23 Septerian Nodule Clock

…he¬†is a retired machinist and knows how to make and repair many things, he can wreak havoc or create stunning art. a master craftsman. Phil showed us some nice crystals of fluorite that he had been collecting the last few years, similar to the piece he gave me a couple of years ago, and told us he could take us to one of those mines to see what we could find. Since Chuck had been planning to leave Sunday evening for home, I asked Phil if he could take us to the mine on Monday morning and he said that would be no problem….luckily Chuck was able to get an extension on his departure. After checking out the rest of Phil`s collection, Phil took us back into Danville and had supper with us at Giovanni`s Pizzaria, where they have great pizza buffet style, as well as salad and pasta, all you can eat for about ten bucks each. We then retired to the hotel for the night and Phil said he would see us the next morning at 9 am. After a good nights rest, Onyx and I drove over to McDonalds the next morning for a good hotcakes and sausage breakfast, about the only meal that will stick with me all day long and hold me til supper…Mark Bishop was the first to arrive a few minutes later, and then Travis Tracey showed up, both drove up from Georgia and Tennessee early that morning, to join us for the next couple of days. We waited a few more minutes to see if anyone else might join us for the day, I had told several friends about my trip and some had indicated they might be available to go with us, however no one else showed up except Phil and so we ambled on over to the quarry from there. Clay had warned us that we might find the gate locked and if so, just give him a quick call and he would have an employee close by to come unlock it for us…and that is exactly what we found on our arrival there, so we prepared for their arrival….

Caldwell Stone Waiting At Gate - Mark Pic

..one of their dispatchers arrived shortly after and unlocked the gate for us…and we followed Phil into the quarry as he has been there before….starting at the lower level so he could show us the fault line…

Caldwell Stone Driving In - Travis PixCaldwell Stone View From Above - Mark Pic

We all donned our hard hats, boots, grabbed buckets, bags, and tools, and then listened as Phil explained the mechanics of the quarry and showed us the fault….which is that slanted white line on the right in the third photo down from here….

Caldwell Stone Tying My Boots - Chuck Pix

04 Phil Points Out Mineralized Zones at Quarry07 Fault Line in Walls08 Looking West Caldwell Stone

We went to several levels while there and found very little at the top, so we then relocated to the lower levels where more rock was laying around and then started to find some nice stuff….

Caldwell Stone 2nd Level - Chuck PixCaldwell Stone Chuck & Phil - Trav PixCaldwell Stone Phil Looking - Chuck Pix

12 Second Shelf Down Caldwell Stone13 Second Shelf Down Caldwell Stone

I think I was the first one to find something substantial, and just happened upon it by accident, big chunk of heavy rock with a beautiful face of white calcite, with small purple cubes on the calcite, and some barite mixed in….

16 One I Found in Pile 2nd Shelf16B Crystals on Face Up Close

17 Mark and Travis Search Rocks15 Looking Toward Entrance

Little was found as there was little fresh rock down, but we did manage to find a few nice ones…from there we drove out to Phil`s house to look for some geodes in his backyard creek….first we made sure to show Travis and Mark the beautiful collection that we had seen the day before, and soon after, Jim and Chuck ambled on down to the creek and began checking out the geodes there. Mark stayed behind to talk to Phil some more….

Phils Collection - Mark Pic

….and then came down and took some photos of everyone in the creekbed……

26 Chuck Looks For Geodes27 Jimmy Looks For Geodes30 Travis Searches for Geodes31 Jim in Fine Company32 Jim Creekside With Geodes Everywhere

Phils Location Group Discussion Creekbed - Chucks Pix

Phils Location Onyx in Creek - Chucks Pix

Phils Location Travis Mark & Phil in Creekbed - Chucks Pix

Phils Location Jim in Creekbed - Trav PixPhils Location Jim & Phil Look For Geodes - Chuck Pix33 Jim With a Gorgeous HalfPhils Location Mark & I in Creekbed - Chucks PixPhils Location Group in Creekbed -Chucks Pix

Phil had a couple of gravel bars we could search, however we never strayed from the one main one for the most part. As far as I could tell, everyone found as many geodes as they wanted to…Jimmy loaded up several buckets and then had to take them up to his suv, luckily he also brought a wagon that carried two buckets at a time….

Phils Location Jims Haul From Creek - Chucks PixPhils Location Jim is Exhausted - Chucks Pix

We left here and drove over to a few roadcuts on Highway 150 near Stanford, a couple of them Phil knew about and then we went to a few that I had been told about. We found some dolomite crystal pockets in some of them, and Travis found a nice calcite crystal in the bottom of one of the pockets, yet no one could figure out how to extract it from the pocket without damaging it…..

34 Searching Roadcuts36 Travis Looks For Minerals in Roadcut39 Crystal Travis Found In Dolomite Pocket41 Travis and Phil on Roadcut42 Phil on Roadcut Wall43 Phil on Roadcut WallHwy 150 Roadcuts - Mark Pic

After checking and digging into five roadcuts, we were tiring quickly and it was soon apparent that our breakfast had worn off long ago…so we soon loaded up and headed back to Stanford. As we approached the city limits, I looked to the north and spotted what appeared to be rain clouds coming in from southwest, rain had been predicted that day earlier, however we had not seen any yet…these slid on by without dropping any rainfall as well….

44 Dark Clouds Cruise By Stanford

The restaurant there that Phil wanted to go to was closed due to Easter so we headed on to Danville and returned to Giovanni`s for more pizza. Phil said he could take us to an old fluorite mine the next morning where we could also find barite and calcite crystals, so we decided to meet again at McDonalds the next morning. Onyx and I drove down to Stanford to my friend John`s house, where we would spend the next couple of nights. I didn`t get a chance to visit with John as much as I would have liked to, between his schedule and mine, we only got to visit between supper and bedtime. 

After another good nights rest, we were up and on the road to Danville`s McDonalds again to meet up with the guys on Monday morning. Phil was running a little late that morning, I think we wore him out the day before, but we had a beautiful drive over to the location for the morning dig. This old mine dates back to the early 1800`s and was always a fluorite mine, producing predominantly white colored fluorite cubes, some with yellow barite attached, sometimes attached in balls of barite, and sometimes in the company of calcite as well. Phil had dug there for a few years after befriending the owner of the privately owned mines and we had seen some of his collected crystals that were stunning, to say the least. We were all looking very forward to getting over there to see what we could dig up and take home as well. The morning dawned cool and cloudy, but it sure was pretty along the way, we drove down through some impressive canyons and saw a few waterfalls along the way too, finally arriving at the old tailing piles, which were pretty also….Phil led us up to the top of the piles and we began there, however a few of us throughout the day wandered around and checked other areas to see what could be found as well….

Old Fluorite Mine Digging in Tailings - Mark Pic

54 Mark Digs Toward Jim56 Jim Uses Shovel59 Jim at His Dig Spot

 

 

We discovered as Phil had told us, that you didn`t have to dig down very far to find some great stuff, many of the calcite crystals we were finding were just under the grass line even, like this one that Mark found….

Old Fluorite Mine Calcite Crystal Found - Mark Pic

Chuck found several alongside us and then had to hit the road headed home around noon…soon after he left, I dug into his spot and pulled out some nice small clusters of fluorite cubes and some calcite crystals too…then a few of us decided to take a break and grab some water and something to snack on. Mark and I made our way to the bottom of the hill as some folks were walking down the road, out getting their daily hike in…they stopped to chat with us and were very pleasant to talk to…the man`s name was Mark also and he was retired from Lipton…told him I sure did like their sweet teas and he said he worked in their spaghetti sauce branch for many years…I had no clue Lipton produced that. They were walking four miles a day so we saw them three more times as they passed by while we were there. I let Onyx out of the truck then as the sun was now out and the temps were beginning to climb, and he promptly went over and found a sunny spot in the grass and lay down to catch some rays….

61 Onxy Soaking Up Some Sun60 Onyx Takes it Easy

Mark and I wandered down the road a ways to stretch our legs after sitting up on top for a few hours, and came upon some pretty wildflowers and trees along the way…

62 Color in Rural Fields

…and afterwards, Jim and Mark returned to the top of the hill while Travis and I puttered around the base of the tailings pile….

47 Old Mine Tailings

I decided to dig into an area a few feet up the hill from the bottom that looked to be a seam or opening across the pile about thirty feet long…I had my small extendable ¬†potato rake with me and started raking a few rocks out and on the second try, I pulled two chunks of fluorite out about the size of a loaf of bread…was beginning to think I might be on to a pocket and said as much to Travis, so he came down and joined me on the right side of that seam. I reached in and pulled out yet another one and then called out to Jim and Mark…Mark soon came down to see what I had found and decided to join us there as well…eventually Jim came down and joined us on the left side too….

63 Pocket I Found At Base65 After Working It Over

…and we stayed there til about 6 pm, pulling several nice pieces of fluorite and calcite out of there. The landowner came by to check and see how we were doing and remarked that it was a good spot to dig into, and I have to agree with that. He asked about Phil and we let him know that he had to leave earlier in the day to take delivery of a truck…we thanked him for allowing us the opportunity to dig there that day and he wished us well, seemed like a very nice guy. Jim and Mark returned to the top of the pile for another thirty minutes, and then we decided to call it a day. There were some scenic areas about ten miles to the north that we wanted to check out and photograph, so we left with just enough daylight left to do so…..

69 Blue Door Barn71 Fence72 Shaker Village74 Stairway Trustees Office Shaker Village

…we got back to Danville just before dark and stopped to change into cleaner jeans, then headed over to Cheddars for supper. Everyone was going to head home the next day after our morning location…I had tried to contact Mr. Flynn to set up an agate hunt, but was told he was under the weather, so we opted to go to the horse farm instead…I had been in contact with Sharon and Richard, and they said we were welcome to come down and take as many geodes off their farm as we wanted to. Jim, Mark, and Travis decided to meet Onyx and I at the Stanford McDonalds the next morning about 8:30 am. I had to take three alleves in order to get to sleep that night, I was sore in every square inch of my shoulders, back, and legs from nine hours of digging that day, but woke up the next morning free of pain and just a little bit sore in places. After repacking my truck so I could get everything in, Onyx and I took off to meet the crew, arriving just ahead of them. On the way out, I noticed a bright and shiny Ladder Truck pull into the parking lot, so I drove over to talk to the driver as he was getting out…I was surprised the little town of Stanford had one, and he told me they were a fire district too and could afford nicer trucks due to that and they had quite a few tall churches and three story buildings. Turned out he was a paid firefighter in Danville and a volunteer firefighter in Stanford, and lived just a few houses down from my buddy John. Small world.

We headed on down to Eubank and then turned east and drove over to the horse farm, and Sharon came out to meet and greet us. Jimmy and I had been there a few years before while Mark and Travis had never been there, so she explained where we could walk to collect, they have several pastures there for their horses and had moved them around for us prior to our arrival. 

78 Kaleidoscope Farm

Sharon and Richard had moved down there several years ago from the state of Montana, to be closer to their horse buyers…they have nearly twenty acres of mostly pasture and the geodes come up each year with the thawing of the ground and cause them problems for their brush hog blades, so they welcome individual and small groups of rockhounds, they just ask for a little notice so they can move their horses around to accomodate rockhounds. If you are interested in going there, email me at jwjphoto7@gmail.com and I can put you in touch with them. Soon we were scattered across their pastures looking for geodes…Travis followed Mark and I up into the main pasture and soon found out that many of them were down in the ground and all you could see of them initially were the tops of them….

Kaleidoscope Farm Geode in Ground - Trav PixKaleidoscope Farm Pasture - Trav Pix

Jimmy started out in the wooded area behind the main barn, but then wandered over to a drainage area where he found some large geodes….and the rest of us soon found ourselves over there as well….

Kaleidoscope Farm Jim Finds Sev Big Ones - Mark PicKaleidoscope Farm Mark Finds Large Geode - Mark Pic

…and soon we all had as many as we could pack into our vehicles and headed for homes in all different directions…Jimmy had the longest drive home, fifteen hours or more, he arrived home about 2 am central time. Onyx and I arrived home about 7 pm. Everyone got home safe and sound, a little on the exhausted side, but also very happy. All in all, it was a very nice trip with great weather, great finds, and great friends !! Thanks to my friends for making my Spring Fling 2016 a good one !!

if you have any questions, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com

 

Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum`s 2015 Annual Show & Dig

I am back to work after taking a week off to rest up from the last few weeks, taking care of Missy and saying goodbye was pretty rough to go through and just exhausted me more than you can imagine…we spent sixteen years together and looking back now, I can safely say it was immense joy and she was a great companion to have in my life, and I really miss her. She was with me on almost all of my trips in and out of state rockhunting, sightseeing, and pretty much everywhere in town and the local area, even to fire calls when I was photographing for the local paper. She even made it to a barn fire with me in a fire truck one day, a few years back, when I wasn`t able to leave her in my truck at one of the stations out in the country, on a very hot day…I just lifted her up into the cab of the pumper and off we went to the fire and she rode just fine…think she enjoyed that as much as I did….lots of good times to remember for sure. I didn`t go anywhere much or do anything much, while I was taking care of her the last couple of weeks she was with me, stayed home and just took care of her and spent every minute with her, picking her up and dusting her off each time she fell over or just didn`t have the strength to get her legs up under her to walk, day and night….one of the last trips she made with me was down to the Fenton area to pick up a huge crystal cluster that I purchased from a friend who was moving from a house to an apartment and had no more room for…..

Huge Crystal Centerpiece 3

…my nephew Zach met me at Eureka and rode with me and Missy down to Fenton and he helped me in loading it into my truck…it weighs alot…covered with lead cubes and chalcopyrite on the back side and base…..

Chalcopyrite & Galena On Backside

….and it was all both of us could do to load it into the bed of my Colorado pickup, mainly due to its size and weight both, hard to move clusters with sharp edged crystals around. ¬†After wrapping it up good, I returned him to his car with much appreciation, and then Missy and I returned home, where my neighbor Glenn O`Leary helped me unload it and place it into one of my flower beds…..

Huge Crystal Centerpiece

I am doing better now and definitely appreciate everyone`s prayers, thoughts, hugs, and good vibes the past couple of weeks, as I move on to the next chapter of my life.

Last week I drove up to the Kansas City area to look at and test drive some newer trucks, I had been looking at Toyota Tacoma pickups for some time, always liked the looks of them and they have always been great workhorse trucks with good mileage too. While I have enjoyed my Colorado pickup the last six years, and put many miles on it, I couldn`t afford a newer one, they cost almost as much as my house did when I purchased it several years ago and they sure aren`t going to last as long as it, and a used one wouldn`t gain me much either, so I turned to the Tacoma`s instead. I test drove one at Jefferson City on the way up, and I have to say the salesman, Terry Volkart at Riley Toyota up there, was a very nice guy to deal with and talk to…while I did not purchase the silver Tacoma from him there, I definitely would have had no problem doing so due to his honesty and great personality to deal with there. I was very impressed with the staff there and while they made me a sweet deal on their Tacoma, the one I found waiting for me at Lees Summit the next day, was just a bit better.

After spending the night in Columbia, looking at a couple of trucks there, and having a late dinner with a good friend, I drove on up to Blue Springs the next morning and visited with Carrie Siems, a good rockhunting friend and dropped off a good will package of nice crystals from some area Doe Run Mines for her son Bentley, who was sleeping in that morning, and then drove on over to Lees Summit to meet up with Ken Auch, the salesman with Dave Cross Motors, who I had been talking to by email the past few weeks regarding a red colored Tacoma pickup. While I was unable to get up there to check it out myself, I had a friend in the KC area that was able to drive over and take a look at it for me. Jim Shelton and his wife Leah Raye Green Shelton, have been great friends for many years…Leah Raye`s parents Bill and Vi Green were our next door neighbors on Vine Street in my early years of growing up in Sullivan, Bill got my Dad started on the Sullivan Volunteer Fire Department over 55 years ago and found him a job with Complete Auto back then as well, transporting Chevrolet and GMC cars and trucks to auto dealerships in the Midwest. Jim is retired from his job of inspecting and troubleshooting the huge turbines that GE built and operated all over the world…he is one of those meticulous guys that inspects and checks out every detail on a fine machine, and boy did he do just that when he drove over to check out this truck for me. Ken and the other salesmen were very impressed with Jim and his inspection methods, leaving no stone untouched or turned over. He reported back to me and I decided I was definitely going to take a hard look at it if it was still there when I arrived…it was and I was equally impressed with it after a short test drive on I-470 and thru some of the local roads of Kansas City as well…I liked the color of it too, it seemed to be a darker candy apple red in the cloudy light that day up there, but in direct sunlight, it would turn to an almost fire engine red instead. After some back and forth on their truck and mine, they finally made me a good deal that I couldn`t pass up, and I drove home in it that afternoon, arriving home in time to get the truck packed and ready to roll down to western Kentucky the next morning, to assist Tina and her staff with the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum`s Annual Gem Show and Fluorite Digs in Marion.

For the past few years, I have driven down there to free them up  to take care of other responsibilities and hosted the Eureka Mine both days for them. The first year of that required me to get up early each morning and drive to the mine to start the pump, pumping water from the pit so that rockhounds showing up after the 9 am start each day, would have easier access to dig in the pit of the mine. I would also open the gate on my way in and then open the gate to the parking area in the cow pasture across the road. While the pump was pumping water from the pit, I always made a walk around the tailing piles and edge of the pit to see if I could spot anything promising so that when the diggers arrived, I could point out the promising areas to them and then would help them throughout the day to find some beautiful crystals there.

This year, I didn`t have to rise so early as the old water filled pit was no longer being used, a group of us had been there a few weeks ago and helped them dig out a new pit area and it was not water filled for the most part. After stopping off at the museum on my way to the mine Saturday morning, and visiting with Fred, one of the board members, and Tina`s husband Brad, wishing him a Happy Birthday, and Bill Frazer, who gave me a key to the gate, ¬†I drove on down to the Eureka Mine….Bill owns the property and is the President of the Museum Board, and is a tremendous supporter of rockhounds down there. I then opened the gate to the parking area and made my walk around the tailings piles and new pit to find the promising areas to point out to the diggers once they started arriving. I parked my newer truck under a big shade tree next to the mine pit and this is how it looks in shaded light and direct sunlight both….

01 New Truck at Eureka Mine

 

…and this is what the mine area looks like these days…the old pit on the left side where the trackhoe operator is cleaning out a bit on the south side when we were there in May…and the new tailing piles to the right and behind Alan and I…I was pointing out the bench of fluorite to Alan, that bench runs right up through the new pit area and is chock full of pockets of beautiful cubes of fluorite…..

30 I Point Out Poss Pocket to Alan

 

and here is it as it looked last Friday from the logging road that runs alongside the mine pit….

02 Pit in Its Current State

 

…as I walked around the tailing piles, I noticed alot of tracks left from deer visiting the area….

04 Deer Tracks in Puddle

…we rarely see the deer but always see the evidence of their presence in the area. ¬†Here is the new pit as it looked that morning from the tailing piles side looking back to the road where my truck is parked….

05 New Pit

…and the old pit to my right as well, still filled with water although not as deep as in years past. If you look farther back, you can see where the diggers drive in and enter the cow pasture at the very back of the photo to park at….

06 Old Pit

…and here are areas in the bench of the new pit where fluorite can be seen…one of the many promising areas to start searching at for cubes….

07 Fluorite Vein With Greenockite

…this turned out to be a very promising area where a lot of pretty cubes came from this past weekend by many diggers….

08 Vein In Bench

09 Vein In Bench

…and this is an old shallow shaft that we uncovered during our machine dig, now filled with mud and was a few feet deep, providing some a nice cool respite from the heat that weekend….

10 Old Shaft

 

…and before you knew it, the first wave of diggers started coming down the road and arriving to start digging for fluorite…pretty soon, there were several of them digging into the tailing piles, what we consider soft rock mining and digging, and some were tackling the bench and vein in the new pit, which we refer to as hard rock mining….I would give them their choice on their arrival and point out the areas for each one and let them decide where to go start digging at…..

11 Saturday Morn Diggers

 

12 Saturday Morn Diggers

 

13 Working the Tailing Pile

…there were also some areas further up the road on the right side where we had Danny, the trackhoe operator, stir up some old tailings in the woods and some folks found some nice cubes laying on top up there during the day too. By midday on Saturday, there was a family with four little gals that showed up briming full of enthusiasm and ready to tackle anything…their parents sat down up above the new pit and watched their girls go at it, working on the tailing pile removed from the shaft area….

14 Four Little Girls Working Hard

15 Four Little Girls Supervised by Parents

…while these two guys decided to dig in and handle some hard rock mining on the bench nearby….

16 Hard Rock Miners In Pit

…the guy on the right stayed hydrated throughout the day and by the end of the day had found some very nice cubes of fluorite, he was one of the many happy diggers that went home that day with some nice material for his collection….Mary one of my fluorite friends traveled up for the annual show again and is seen below on the far side of the old pit checking out one of her favorite digging areas there, while a young family dug into the slope below her….

17 Mary and a Family on North Side of Old Pitt

…and some were simply content to dig into the softer dirt of the tailing piles above us where one can find some nice plates and chunks of cubes dug up by the excavator, you just have to be wiling to stay and dig til you find them in there….and willing to withstand the temps as they rise throughout the day, once you find a good spot to dig in though, some bring umbrellas and park themselves there for the day…

18 Surface Digger on South Side Old Pit

19 Working Top of Tailing Pile

 

…one of the little blonde gals decided she needed more tools, so she returned to Mom and Dad to get them, and then had to cross the muddy trough between them, despite my warnings to them and everyone else that the mud there could be quite soft and deep, she decided to cross there anyway…much to everyone`s amusement….

20 Sinking In Mud

…and after getting stuck and extricating herself from the soupy mud there, not an easy feat especially after you have been digging there awhile…she decided to do the long jump across it…

21 She is About to Jump

…and flew over it like a graceful deer too….

22 Mid Air Jump

…their Dad told us all on their arrival that this was his work crew, he was going to let them do the manual labor, but later as they became tired, the tables changed and Dad had to get down into the mud to show them what hard rock mining was all about to extricate the pretty stuff. Here they are at noon, giving Dad the bad news….

25 Noontime Diggers Saturday

 

There was another young Dad there, this one from the Mayfield Kentucky area and had the beginnings of a baseball team with him…four nice young lads who proceeded to walk around and check out the entire place….

23 Mayfield Guy With Four Boys

 

24 Big Digger

 

…and this Dad had no problem getting down and tackling the hard rock mining in the pit either….

26 Looking for Fluorite

…while his youngest boy discovered there was not only water in the creek next to the mine, but tadpoles as well and for a few minutes, the focus of his boys shifted from pretty crystals to tadpoles….

27 He Came Prepared

…and after a short water break at noon, everyone got back to the job at hand….

28 Taking a Break From Heat

…and by 2 pm, even more diggers had shown up to embrace the unusually high temps for so early in the season, ¬†and dig in….some left and went to check out the other three mines offered for the weekend, and some even returned in the afternoon to the Eureka Mine, which holds the most promise for finding nice cubes…I always take a few flats of older material from my collection over the years of digging there, to give to the rockhounds who either strike out and don`t find anything at all or find just a little stuff…always like to see folks leave there happy….specially the little ones….

29 More Diggers by 1 pm Sat

 

…and about 2 pm, a young couple walked up to me as I was standing on the road over the pit, watching the diggers below and handing out advice when requested…and introduced themselves as Cody and Misty…I had talked to them the week before on the McRocks board website…they are a husband-wife team of geologists who moved to the Jonesboro, Arkansas area to teach geology at the local state college there, and came over to have some fun and find some cubes of fluorite as well. After pointing out the lay of the land there, they chose to get down into the pit and dig in themselves and see what they could find…

30 Cody and Wife Start Digging Saturday

…and a few min later, I got down into the pit to show a young Dad from Wisconsin, where to look for nice cubes along the bench…it was an area where most people had been walking on all day, between a promising looking pocket and the bench…once I uncovered that area, the young Dad revved back up and began looking more closely and trying to find some nice plates for his young son Zach, who was starting out at the age of eight…which is about the same age that I started rockhunting too….once we uncovered the bed of cubes, Cody and Misty came over and helped out too…

32 Vug Found Mid Sat Afternoon

…and shortly after, the young Dad pulled out a nice plates of beautiful cubes and their family packed up to return home with some nice cubes for Zach`s budding collection. Cody and Misty and Mary decided to tackle the vug that was now uncovered and full of cubes, some of them measuring about three inches square…..

35 Cubes in Bottom of Vug

…Cody became stuck in the mud and at one point lost one of his sandals even….

33 Cody Loses His Sandal in Mud

..but was able to retrieve it shortly after….lucky guy….sometimes you never find them til years later….

34 Cody Recovers His Sandal

…and then was able to more fully concentrate on the vug of cubes instead….

38 Cubes in Bottom of Vug

..and while down there in the mud and water, he decided to take my advice and feel around below the bench for more vugs and pockets…..

39 Cody Looks For Pockets

…finding none, he decided to see if he could pop out some cubes with Mary`s pry bar instead….

40 Cody Tries To Pop Out Cubes   41 And Partially Succeeds

…and was able to do so with some limited success….popping out a couple of smaller plates on the side closest to him….after that, everyone decided to pack it in and call it a day….

43 Wrapping Up Saturday

…and get cleaned up to head to the hotel and supper at the Oasis Southwest Grill and Steakhouse….here is Cody and Misty showing off one of their finds at the base of the pit wall earlier in the afternoon, shortly after they arrived and dug in….

44 Cody and Wife With Treasure

if you have any questions or wanna say hi, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com

 

 

Clement Mineral Museum Annual Show 2014

I had stayed in touch with Tina at the BE Clement Mineral Museum once again this year and volunteered to come help them get the show set up this year and host the Eureka Mine again as well.  

Throughout the years, I have had alot of artist friends suggest to me that I stop off at various places and do some sighteeing, but I had never done so. This year I decided I would drive down a day early and see the sights that everyone suggested in years past. I picked up a friend of mine on the way down, and Rob rode with me to the museum in Marion, Kentucky, and helped me unload the seven buckets of grab bag material that I always take to them for their show and museum sales as well through the remainder of the year. Tina had some extra muscle this year, in the form of a young man named Brandon, who also helped us unload the truck. This year they are trying to raise money to build a better roof on the building housing the museum. I also had some druse plates and combos of druse and poker chips for their silent auction during the Show, as well as some dogtooths and special pieces for Tina, including some of the black dogtooth crystals I had found earlier this year. I always try to take them a variety of material, but I seem to be known down there as Mr. Poker Chip by a few people. I visited with Tina, BJ, and Sherry, as well as some newer people, before heading on north on Hwy 91 to cross the Ohio River at Cave in Rock. Rob and I met another friend at Garden of the Gods and then Rim Rock Trail, and were able to do some hiking over there while seeing the sights. Great places for one to go if you have some spare time.

I returned to the hotel by 7 pm and headed to the Oasis Southwest Grill Steakhouse shortly after. They have a great atmosphere and really know how to cook good food, whether it be seafood or steaks that you are after…I have been eating there for several years now and always like the grilled porkchops marinated with a light bbq sauce, one inch thick and cooked to perfection each time. I ate there all three nights and had the same meal each night, perfectly cooked each night and always just right.

I was up by 8 am Friday morning, having called Bill Frazer the evening before to see what time I needed to be at the museum to help them out…we agreed on 10 am and after stopping off at Ms. Neda`s Donut Shop in nearby Eddyville, I headed that way. I passed by the red horse barn that I have photographed in the past….

Barns and Horses north of Eddyville

…and noticed this year that the owners are building a beautiful new home just up the hill to the right of the barn….and had constructed a large metal garage and workshop a bit further down from the house…thought it was nice that they had kept the old wood barn, perhaps they realize how well loved and appreciated it is by folks like me who drive by. Speaking of horses, one of my other favorite places along Hwy 641 on the way to the Museum, is a field of horses on the west side of the road just before you get to the right hand curve entering Fredonia….

25 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

27 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

…never fails, there are always several horses in that field. I drove on over to the museum at Marion…they have the annual gem show in the Fohs Hall, a stately and elegant old building that used to house a school there….

County Museum Marion KY

…I walked in and found several familiar faces already hard at work on various jobs that Tina had asked them to do, and Brandon, a local young man that Bill had enlisted the help of recently with several projects, already hard at work there as well. I met Brandon the day before when Rob and I arrived, and Tina asked him to help us unload the several buckets of grab bag material…found out that he was a football player, defensive end and offensive line, he def had the size and muscle for both positions. Tina showed me a vast collection from an estate sale that the museum had recently purchased…many specimens from the southern Illinois and western Kentucky fluorite mines as well as many other items too many to mention. She asked me to sort through the multiple boxes to see what all was there, they were trying to find certain items to get appraised for future sales. While doing so, I found out there were many fossils in the estate collection as well as some local minerals and even some slabs of lapidary interests, seashells of every type imagineable, and a few minerals and crystals from everywhere in the USA.¬†

Ed Clements and Tina`s husband Brad showed up about lunch time, and after a brief lunch with them, Brad and I walked over to the museum where Brad helped Brandon move some tables down from the upper floor to the dealers room and then we walked through the rooms to see what all was set up for the show, while Brandon went outside to help dealers move their tables and crates of minerals inside. Soon after, Bill Frazer showed up and we drove down to the Eureka Mine where he showed me the tailing piles turned over, the area looked ready for collectors the next day….

02 Ready for Collectors

03 Tailing Piles

04 Tailing Piles

and we discussed some areas that could be dug out to search for new material. He told me that he had some exploratory digging done earlier this spring and nothing so far, had been found, yet he was definitely wanting to find some additional areas of resources, so folks could continue to come dig and have fun doing so. Bill decided to head back down there and bushhog the field where folks would be parking and the sides of the road down to the mine, after dropping me off at the museum. Brad and I drove down to the mine about thirty minutes later to contact Bill, some folks from the city were looking for him and he wasn`t answering his phone. We found him at the gate, having problems raising the mower deck behind his tractor. We stuck around a while and nosed around the tailing piles to make sure there was some good material to be found there, tried unsuccessfully, to pull the suction hose out of the mud, ¬†and then started back toward the museum…..yet when we got back to the gate, we found ourselves locked in by persons unknown. We drove back down to let Bill know, and he drove up to the gate to let us out, and told me that he would unlock the gate for me the next morning and take the lock with him, so that wouldn`t happen again, seems it had been happening alot lately. I had a good chat with Ed back at the museum before heading back to the hotel and supper at the Oasis once again.

Saturday morning I got up early, stopped by the donut shop to grab a few donuts and chocolate milk, then headed to the Eureka Mine, to host there all day. Bill met me at the gate at 8:20 am and then headed to some more gates to unlock them as well, and I drove on down to the mine. He had made some improvements to the road leading down to the mine, with some larger gravel and it was a much smoother ride now….

01 Road to Mine Improved

 

I drove on down and changed into my boots, made sure the gate to the parking area was open, then walked around the tailing piles to see if I could see any purple so I would know where to direct people to dig at….I had found a few places the day before when Brad and I were down there and made a mental note of them once again. I also found the bad hole that Bill had referred to someone digging out into the top of the creek bank, which could compromise the creek bank, which is the only thing keeping the creek water from spilling into the pit…why someone would have dug down there is beyond me, they certainly didn`t think about how that could affect things.

05 Bad Hole Dug Here

Bill was concerned about folks digging into the bank there and further adding to any compromise, so I made a mental note to keep that from happening as well as a few danger spots that I have become familiar with over the years. Some folks enter a site and look for the host and ask questions about what they are looking for as well as where to look, while others just get so excited on arrival that they just walk in and start digging…sometimes having no clue about any spots that might have hidden hazards. Take for example, the north side of the pit…

07 North Bank of Pit

…it`s mainly made up of fill from tailing piles, so probably has some nice material in it, but several people have heard so much about the pit itself over the years, harvesting so much nice plates of cubes, that many want to go right down into the pit…this year the museum staff was unable to pump the pit down so everyone decided to walk right down to the waters edge and look around…not realizing that the mud at the very edge was extremely soft and one could sink to their knees very quickly. I was able to warn some and others found out the hard way. In the area to the right of that fill, there used to be a vertical shaft of an unknown depth, so we have always told folks to avoid that area, and I had to run a few out of there Saturday as well, for safetys sake. We had tried to get that area filled in last spring, yet the trackhoe operator was unable to reach that far to dump the fill dirt in there on top of it…it would have effectively sealed off the waterfall from the creek there as well.

I also bring a box of fluorite pieces with me, to show folks what they are looking for and to give to them, children especially, when they can`t find something nice to take home with them. Tina usually makes it a point to let folks know that when she knows they are coming to the Eureka Mine and I am there. There were several children there Saturday, that were working on their 4H projects, so I made a point of helping them look for some fluorite and giving them some extra pieces too. Their faces always light up when they get to pick out some nicer ones to take home with them. Well worth it right there. There was one visitor that I wasn`t able to help much on Saturday….

08 Natural Fan

 

…he moved way too fast for me, but he did have some younger fans there for him. ūüôā

Mary who is one of the regulars like me, was the first one to show up Saturday morning, she is one of the nicest members of the Magma Club that I know and she drives up there each year to dig and sometimes I see her at some of the public digs that the Museum staff host each month as well, seen here on the left side on the back of the tailing pile, doing a surface search for fluorite…

10 Mary Checks Back Side of Pile

 

..and soon after she showed up, others showed up in small groups…

09 First Few Diggers Sat Morning

 

11 Diggers In the Pit

12 More Diggers Show Up

13 Washing Some Off

 

…you see that little guy in the photo above in green shorts and shoes ? talk about a fearless guy…he wasn`t afraid of the mud or water either one, he was here to have fun whether he found anything or not…enjoyed throwing rocks into the creek and splashing Phillip who was trying to find some fluorite in the vein that runs under the creek. Phillip is another Magma member that is very nice…he and his wife Shirley drive up there frequently from the Danville area…Phillip told him that if he kept throwing rocks, he was going to to dunk him a few times in the water and see how much he enjoyed that…that`s his mom washing off some finds in the pit above in the blue shirt…when she found out what he was doing, she threatened him with a spanking and then we found out that he wasn`t so fearless afterall and he behaved a lot better after that…he sure had more energy than anyone I know of. I made sure he had a nice piece of fluorite when they left, too.¬†

15  Fearless Guy in Green

 

20 Fearless

16 Kids Having Fun

…his mom and a friend found some nice material digging down into the north bank of tailings used for fill on the edge of the pit…

17 Comparing Finds

..and for the most part, everywhere I looked, people seemed to be happy with their finds and enjoying their time digging there, young and older alike….

18 Hard At Work

Around mid morning there was a young father that walked up with his dad and his three young boys and I gave them some tips on where to dig at, and told them if they struck out, be sure to come see me before they left…they set out to look in my favorite corner of the pit…

19 Dad, Kids & Grandpa Hard At It

…and while they probably didn`t find alot while there, I made sure they left with a couple of pieces of nice fluorite, they were a nice group of diggers there that day. There was a couple of guys from the Bloomington area that showed up late morning, arriving with family but they were the only two that stuck around to dig…they came over to me and asked for a good location to dig at…I could tell they were serious about finding some nice stuff, so I told them about my favorite corner and told them how to get to the good stuff…

06 My Favorite Corner

….and they wasted no time in getting down into the pit and getting muddy to look for some good cubes….

22 Bloomington Guys Work Hole

..and still more diggers showed up to dig for cubes on the other side of the pit….

23 More Diggers in Afternoon

…I was keeping an eye on the Bloomington diggers, they soon got down to the right level and found some nice cubes…

24 Bloomington Guys Work Hole

…one with a touch of purple on one end and yellow and white color on the other end, in the hopper style of cubes, which looks like a stair step cube formation that is pretty neat to look at….Bill Frazer stopped by about that time on one of his many visits down to see us and I suggested that he take a look at their neat find….

21 Bill Visits With Bloomington Bunch

 

…I happened to find a few diggers from the state of Missouri there as well…Columbia area…Heinrich and two young ladies decided to dig into the west wall of the pit and try their luck….

25 Heinrich Digs Into West Wall

26 Heinrich Digs Into West Wall

…for awhile there, I thought he was digging down to China, but assured me that he was just trying to get down to a better level for finding stuff. By mid afternoon, we were all beginning to see signs of storms approaching…the forecast was that storms would hold off til about 6 pm, but it was looking more and more like we were going to see some sooner. I called Tina to have her check the radar on her computer at the Museum and she said there was a line of storms moving thru Paducah about that time, so we figured we had about thirty extra minutes of digging time and I made that known to everyone there. The Bloomington boys were still digging down and pulling some stuff out….

27 Ryan Takes a Turn in Hole

…..and pretty soon they decided to change out in the pit…

29 Ryans Turn to Get Muddy

…the second young man, I believe his name is Ryan, had a bit of a hearing disability, and he had removed his hearing aids before getting down into the pit because he said they were not waterproof…he was still down there when this loud clap of thunder rumbled overhead and then a strong bolt of lightning struck very close, possibly right across the creek from us and there was a very bright flash of white light with it, like a huge roman candle !!! ¬†While Ryan didn`t hear the thunder or lightning, he jumped straight up from the mud and told us that he had felt the energy from the lightning travel up both of his arms which were extended down into the hole, and up into his chest !! ¬†He then told us ” I`m done !! ” ¬†Everyone was pretty much in evacuation mode by then, heading for their cars as the rain was starting to fall as well. For most everyone, it was the end of a long day of digging and most headed back to the museum to get in a bit of the gem show before it closed. I stuck around til everyone left and then closed the gate, calling Bill to let him know I had closed it and everyone was out for the day, run off by the lightning.

I drove up to the museum as well, wanting to visit with Lamon Flynn, the Kentucky Agate King, at the show. I met Mr. Flynn a few years back in his neck of the woods, he took some friends who joined me there, on a hunt one day for the elusive Kentucky Agate. You can find that story and photos by looking in the column on the right side of my page for Kentucky Agate. I had a great chat with him, they had him up on the stage at the show, and I purchased some more agate from him as well…I have a lot of friends that cannot travel to Kentucky to find it themselves, and picked some up to share with them. He had some of his expensive pieces with him as well, the orange and black banded nodules and a few of the red and black banded nodules too. He also had alot of his belt buckles there and Heinrich came over and looked them over as well.

Heinrich was about to head home that evening, and I gave him directions to a good druse quartz spot in south central Missouri that I like to go to. He was undecided if he was going to stick around for the dinner that was being hosted by the Mineral Museum at the local Italian Restaurant on Main Street later that evening, or simply head home….the girls were telling him there was a tornado warning up in the St Louis area at that time, but by the time they reached St Louis it would likely be long over. I told him to email me if he ever wanted to go rockhunting with me as well, since he isn`t too far from me. I decided not to wait around for the Italian dinner as well and headed back to the hotel to clean up and then walked over to the Oasis for yet another grilled porkchop supper. After supper there, I drove down to the lake just south of there and snapped a few photos of the sunset….

30 Sunset Over Lake Barkley

..and then back up to the intersection in front of the Oasis Grill for another photo of the beautiful colorful skies….

31 Sunset at Kuttawa

 

The next morning, after a good sleep aided by a couple of alleves, I was on the road by 8 am after checking out of the hotel, and called Tina to let her know I could host at the Eureka again til noon, if she needed some help…she said she had a new member there already but suggested that I go and see if he needed any help as he had never hosted there before. I drove over to the mine and met up with Dave there…Bill Frazer showed up soon after and then a few diggers started showing up. Mary showed up again early on and decided she was going to take over Heinrich`s spot in the west wall from the day before and see if she could dig down to the location where David found some calcite dogtooth crystals two years before….

33 David With Plate of Dogtooths

 

32 Plate Dogtooth Crystals David Found

In the meantime, I decided to dig down into the hole left by the Bloomington boys and see if I could find anything else in it…and a guy showed up a few minutes later from the state of West Virginia and decided to dig down into the hole that the Bloomington boys had originally started out with, about four feet to the right of me. In about an hour, using the long handled spade shovel that someone had left there, I got down to the top of the vein and laid down a gunny sack to lay down on, then reached down and started feeling around in the mud to find some crystals…I never can do that with gloves on, can`t feel the cubes except with my bare hands. I didn`t feel any pockets in the vein, so I started feeling around the mud on top of the vein and pretty soon I was pulling out some cubes…I haven`t cleaned mine up yet, but will post some photos of my finds soon. The guy next to me found a small round plate of nice cubes about 90 minutes after he began digging down…he was a bit up hill from me and had to dig down a bit further to get to my level, but seemed content with what he found. He left by noon to go check out another mine in the area. Mary was still digging when I decided to head for home about 45 minutes later. I was going to meet a friend at Garden of the Gods at 2 pm, so by the time I got out of there and cleaned up a bit, I had about an hour to get there, so I headed to the ferry crossing at Cave in Rock. We had a good hike there and then went to Rim Rock Trail, even met up with the Bloomington boys and their family down at the foot of the escarpment as they were walking out…stopped and visited with them a bit and told them both to give me a shout if they wanted to do some rockhunting in Missouri sometime.

I got home later that evening, tired but happy, having had a great four day vacation, nothing better than good friends, good food, and good fun.

The only problem I had with the entire trip should be noted here, as I would not want anyone else to experience this on future trips down there. I usually stay at the Days Inn hotel in Kuttawa when I am down there for my rockhunting trips….when I made my reservations a few weeks before, I was quoted a certain rate and told that the Days Inn gives rockhounds a ten percent discount on their rates…I told one of my Memphis rockhound friends about that and he made a call after me and was told the same thing as he made his reservations there too. It has always been a clean and friendly place to stay at and their rates have always been affordable and as quoted by staff.

The second night there, I discovered fleas in bed with me, biting my legs,  and I was constantly getting up and pulling the covers back and killing fleas by snuffing them out. I prob had about four hours rest total that night and when I told the night clerk about it at 7 am the next morning, his answer was to ask if I had a dog with me. I told him not only was my dog not with me this trip, I would never take my dog to a hotel knowing she had fleas and I protect my dog`s health with the flea and tick killer chewy tablets all the time anyway. I asked him to have the housecleaning crew change out the linens on my bed completely and he did so right then and there, and said he would have them spray the room as well.

I returned that evening to the room and could def smell a different odor in there, such as if they had sprayed it and I slept alot better Saturday night with no fleas in bed with me. However, the next morning when I checked my bank records online, I discovered that not only had they charged my account while I was there…. they usually wait a few days after you check out… they had also overcharged me. I talked to the day clerk, who was also the Assistant Manager, she asked how my stay had been and I told her about Friday night, and then told her that I had been charged fifteen dollars a night more than the rate I had been quoted, and let me tell you, she got a defensive attitude about it real quick and did not care one bit, referred me to call the Manager about it on Monday and take it up with him. I saw that he had an email address on the business card she handed me and so I emailed him when I got home. After no response for a week, I emailed the corporate headquarters of the Wyndham Group, who now owns and operates the Days Inn Hotels, and within a day, I had a message from the manager….I returned his call and told him of my ” not so great ” experience at his hotel recently, after having stayed at his hotel several times over the course of seven years. He promised that he would look into it and get back to me…however, ¬†I never did hear from him again, so needless to say, I wont be staying there again. Just saying.¬†

James ūüôā

jwjphoto@fidnet.com 

Ben E Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky

Hey Folks, 

Tina from the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky, called me this afternoon and asked me to let everyone know that the Museum suffered some flood damage earlier this year, to the roof and interior of the museum. The Museum Board of Directors has received several bids to replace the roof once again, however they are looking to construct a gable roof this time so that this hopefully will not happen again. They had the flat rubberized surface roof replaced just a few years ago by local personnel in their area that supposedly knew what they were doing, however, as it now turns out, apparently did not know what they were doing roof work wise. At any rate, the roof is failing and in the past few months of extreme winter weather, they now have multiple leaks inside the walls of the museum and are seeking financial assistance from not only local banks and tourism agencies within the state of Kentucky, but would also appreciate any donations from rockhounds nationwide. They have launched a ” Raising The Roof ” Campaign to raise funds to build a gabled roof. At this point, they have several bids and most are projecting costs up around $ 50,000 for the gabled roof.¬†

They are also offering Museum Memberships to rockhounds nationwide for $ 20 per year, which would allow any members unlimited visits to the museum at no charge with an id issued membership card, and all membership fees will be used toward the new roof as well. 

If you have any questions, feel free to give Tina a call at the Museum at 270-965-4263 and their address is 205 N. Walker Street, Marion, KY 42064

Tina can be reached at the Museum Wednesday thru Saturday 10 AM to 3 PM from Oct to May, and June to Sept Monday to Saturday at the same hours.  

BE Clement Museum Gem Show and Dig Celebration 2013

Several of us had a good time in Marion, Kentucky this past weekend, despite a lot of rain and storms pelting the area Friday morning before our arrival as well as later into the night before finally ending late Saturday  morning, turning everything at the Eureka Mine into a gooey muddy mess.

I arrived at the museum around 2 pm on Friday afternoon and found Tina supervising a busy crew of helpers, that were assisting dealers and vendors at Fohs Hall in setting up their booths and preparing for the rock and mineral show on Saturday and Sunday. I transported some more grab bag material, and some druse/poker chip pieces for their silent auction as well and they helped me unload that too. Tina`s daughter, Jesse,  took me back to get a quick look at their new display room in the museum while there, a project that Tina and a few members have been working on since the first of the year and let me tell you, they have done a great job with the new display cases that were built by the Amish community handimen to the north of Marion, and they look great, they have each one holding specific crystals and minerals of a specific type/category, nothing is mixed up any longer. their cubed display glass cases were moved out away from the wall and their new maps were placed up on the back wall for easier viewing. this room is near the back, one before the black light room.

As I walked outside the museum with Tina, I ran into Lamon Flynn, who had traveled up for the gem show with his grandson and they were unloading their Kentucky agate to sell and a large display case that holds his agate keepers, to show off as well. We talked for a bit, he was asking about Ian from Colorado, and Peggy of the Twister Sisters and if she had survived the latest round of storms in the Midwest. I found out his grandson had just graduated high school and was preparing to attend college and become a police officer. 

After chitchatting with them a bit more, I headed to the hotel at Kuttawa and got settled in there, and then had a great supper at the Oasis Steakhouse next door. I heard from my mom, who told me about the bad storms that struck the Oklahoma City area once again, we have family members there, and then the St Louis area later in the day, at least three tornadoes. I then watched the local weathercasters, who were calling for the storms to move southeast and hit the Marion area around 3 to 5 am, with rain then forecast to fall much of the morning. I wasn`t sure how bad it would get the next day, so I retired early to get as much rest as possible. 

I woke up about 6 am and discovered the rain pouring down outside my room, not sure if you can see it in this photo, but it was coming down in sheets, I could only hope it would clear off by noon as the forecasters were calling for…

01 Rain Pouring Down Sat 6 AM

 

…and after grabbing some donuts at Miss Neta`s Donut Shop in Eddyville, I headed to the Eureka Mine…..and¬†arrived about 7:30 am to begin pumping down the pit. ¬†I had contacted and offered to help Bill Frazer ¬†and free him up from his many other tasks for this weekend, and he accepted my offer. I pulled up to park near the mine and found ¬†a muddy mess all over the place….

02 What a Muddy Mess

 

03 Tailing Piles Turned Over

 Apparently between Friday morning and Saturday morning, the pit area received about five inches of rainfall, so when I arrived, there was an additional two to three feet of water in the pit more than normal, and as a result, it was almost noon before I was able to pump the pit completely down to where diggers could even access and dig in the pit. For the first three hours of pumping, I wasn`t even sure the water level had dropped at all.

04 Pit Full of Extra Water

¬†By 10 am, diggers started showing up…Mary from Ohio, was the first to arrive and soon after, several more showed up.

05 Diggers Sat Morning

 

By noon there were approximately 35 diggers at the Eureka and while many stayed on top and worked through the three tailing piles, a few ventured down into the pit. I can safely say, it was the sloppiest gooey muddy mix I have ever seen there, every step on top was about ten inches down in the wet sloppy mud and down in the pit, you were lucky if you didnt lose your boots or shoes…even those with the pull on galoshes were experiencing problems keeping them on.

07 Hunting Thru the Piles

 

Around 11 am, a carload of geology students from the University of Illinois at Champaign showed up and began digging.

06 Navigating the Mud

 

A few of them were brave, daring to move around the muddy mess barefoot…..

08 Braver Than Most

 

09 Barefoot In the Mud

 

They were walking up to take a look at what Robin had found in the tailing pile back behind them, what was left of the huge pile on the north side of the pit last year, and had been turned over a week before the show and dig. Robin had found some ¬†nice cubes and showed them what they should be looking for in the mud….

10 Robin Shows Off Finds So Far

 

…and Robin had found some nice ones by the time the geology students arrived, one of them a nice small set of cubes seen here close up in his crate….

11 Robin`s Finds

 

…including that green bottle that I found in the mud that morning at the top of the pit…I hollered out, ” who collects bottles ” and he answered ” I do ” and got the bottle. I have discovered people collect different things these days in addition to rocks….

11 Robin`s Finds Close Up

 

Diggers were looking through the tailing piles on both sides of the pit, this guy checking out the pile on the south side of the pit…

13 Looking Thru Tailing Pile

 

and you will notice he has his rain gear on, as many of us did, until around noon or a little after, when the sun came out finally…some went without rain gear deciding a little wet wasnt gonna hurt them at all since they were gonna get muddy anyway…..

15 Little Girl Blue

…and the mud created hazards on its own, making balance very important…

14 Balancing Act

 

….and getting back to looking for fluorite everywhere…this next guy John, one of the Maryland crew, I found him down in the muddy water pit about an hour later, looking for crystals…I think he figured it was worth a shot since it was near the backfilled area…

16 John from Maryland

 

…and here are a couple more of the Maryland crewmembers, washing off crystals in the outflow from the pump….

17 Maryland Crew

 

…but no matter what, people still showed up and continued to dig all day out there, in all age groups too….

18 Digging All Over Pile

 

19 Digging All Over Pile

 

20 Look What I Found Mom

 

21 Another Maryland Digger

 

22 Ohio Steve Clearing Out

 

…..above is Ohio Steve clearing out after searching all morning down by the creek bank, he actually found a rockhammer down there buried in the mud…..and below is my buddy Steve from Memphis, walking around looking for treasures on the north side of the pit….

23 Steve Looks for Treasure

 

…and more afternoon diggers shown and raingear set off to the side as the sun was now out and it was humid as well….

24 Afternoon Diggers

One of the geology students, Cody, stood out when he showed up completely prepared for any type of weather in waders, and by the time he left for the day about six hours later, he was muddy from the front toes of his boots to the very top of the waders, looked like he had gotten down into the pit and rolled in it, but I can tell you Cody was one happy digger by then, having a few large yard rocks and some smaller cubed clusters as well for his muddy adventures. He was also happy because some rockhounds from Maryland….yes I said Maryland… had given him some instruction and assistance in hard rock mining as he was trying to tackle a pocket he found in the saddle in the middle of the pit. After learning how to hard rock mine some cubes, he was quite happy just to have learned the method, even though he really didnt extricate any cubes from the pocket. He was working over on the south side of the pit when Robin and Sandy joined me on the north side to take a closer look at the old tunnel entrance…..

29 Old Tunnel Entrance

….we tried digging it out to see if there was anything worthwhile in the mix, but didnt find a thing in it. After I explained the saddle to Cody, he moved to it to try and work the pockets, we then moved over to the south side where I ¬†began moving mud away from the base and digging down to the bench level and pulling out some small clusters of fluorite cubes.¬†After a bit Tammy Bromley and her sister joined me on that side, staying up on top and sifting thru the tailing piles, after looking around on the north side all morning. Steven and April Gibbs arrived around 1 pm and stayed up on top working the spoil piles as well.¬†

As I stated, there was an entire group that traveled down from the state of Maryland for the dig at the Eureka Mine, a club outing for them and after talking to them a bit, discovered that they do this quite a bit, and are planning now for an upcoming trip out to Utah to look for geodes red beryl, ¬†and agate. They had made the drive down here straight thru, and it required around fifteen hours. They stayed the entire day with us at the Eureka and around 4:30 pm, Bill Frazer came down the road to warn us of a dark storm cloud approaching from the northwest…we could see it coming down the valley but couldnt tell much about it due to the restriction of the trees blocking our narrow view of it, but as it neared our location, it suddenly changed direction and headed in a more easterly direction toward the highway from the pit. By that time though, all of us had bailed from the pit and decided we were tired and muddy enough to retire early for the day. The Maryland crew decided to stick around and take advantage of the waterfall under the bridge to clean up at before heading out, while the rest of us headed back to the hotel to clean up and go to the steakhouse. As I got to the intersection of Hwy 60, I could see the cloud that concerned everyone and saw that it was a roll cloud, a very long reaching roll cloud, several miles long and neat looking as well. They can be quite scary looking when accompanied by dark colored clouds. After a brief stop at the museum to talk to Tina, I headed to the hotel and stopped briefly near Fredonia to photograph the pretty horses that are always in the field next to the highway……

25 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

 

26 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

 

27 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

 

28 Pretty Horses Sat PM Sunlight

…and then I headed on south to the hotel to get cleaned up and then meet Steve, April, and her mom at the Oasis for a great meal and catch up on old times. They are great rockhunting friends from Memphis and I hadn`t seen them for about a year, so we caught up on events in the past year through supper. They are creating jewelry with their treasures these days so they were going to the show on Sunday morning. I had brought them some agates and other gems as well.¬†

Sunday morning dawned early for me, it didnt seem like I had gotten enough rest and I had a long day in front of me. I arrived at the mine about 7 am this time and started the pump, the water level back down to its normal level this time and so it only took about 90 minutes to pump it down. I stopped after about an hour though and diverted the flow to the water hose and washed off the bench in case there would be any hard rock miners this time. Even though there were no hard rock miners there in the morning, there might have been some later on. Tammy and her sister were the first ones to arrive after Mike the host, ¬†and I put them down in the corner pocket I had been working the day before….

31 Corner I Worked Sat PM

….and after helping them for a while, I took off for home, stopping off at the museum to give BJ the gate key and then walked over to the gem show to visit a bit. I bought a few pieces of agate from Mr. Flynn and he invited me back to hunt with him anytime in the Irvine area and I told him I would def do that. As he said, springtime is better as far as less leaves covering the ground, but early fall has its advantages as well, as the deep creek holes are usually drier by then too. These days with the recession still making things difficult for many people, there are many more folks out hunting for it and selling it on the side, so you have to be careful as some of them are a bit on the shady side.

¬†I soon headed home from there, taking Hwy 60 to Paducah due to the restricted roadway and construction stupidity on I-24 from Eddyville to Paducah. I stopped in Paducah to fill my gas tank, gas there 3.37 a gallon and then headed west on Hwy 62 and 286 to Wickliffe, crossing first the Ohio River and then the Mississippi River on the twin steel structure bridges near Cairo…..

33 Mississippi River Bridge

….as I entered Charleston, Missouri, I encountered the lowest priced gas pumps seen so far on the trip, at the truck stop there, 3.25 a gallon and kinda wished then, that I had filled up there instead. Oh well…

On my way home, I made a pit stop at a great location that a buddy of mine told me about in south central Missouri, and filled my entire truck up with beautiful clusters and single crystals of calcite and druse, some that were several inches in diameter and length, and in many colors including some pinks and greens. ¬†I had several huge clusters in the front passenger seat and the entire back seat filled up, as well as the bed of my truck…I had to leave several behind because I simply had no more room to put them. I found some gorgeous orange dogtooth crystals there as well, and carefully wrapped them up and placed in several of my blue bags.

Hopefully they will still be there in a couple of weeks when I return with a rockhunting friend from the St Louis area. I was very tired when I finally got home about 11 pm Sunday night, but also very happy. It looks like my next few days off will involve alot of crystal cleaning and catching up on my blog site as well, as I now have about a dozen bags of wrapped crystals to clean up. As soon as I get them cleaned up and some photos taken, I`ll post them then. 

if you have any questions or wanna say hi, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com

March Fluorite Digs at the Eureka Mine in Kentucky

Bear with me folks, I am going to have to re-write this article for the fourth time, sure hope WP saves it this time. 

After many months of planning another machine dig at the Eureka Mine in Marion, Kentucky, and coordinating all the details with Tina at the Ben E Clement Mineral Museum and Bill Frazer, the mine owner, Mike Streeter and I set the dates up for the last two weekends in March this spring. As usual, we set the machine dig the weekend before the group dig and Mike took care of getting the machinery set up for it, contacting Wayne Crider to once again dig out the pit for us. Wayne always does a great job and is quite easy to work with, and he operates his trackhoe with great skill and precision, plus he is a super nice guy to be around. 

As the time neared, we ran into a unexpected roadblock…I received a call from Bill Frazer, seems some jerk called the Kentucky DNR office and complained to them about the way the digs were being handled at the Eureka Mine and made up a few other things as well. The DNR decided to shut down the digs and entire operation of the Museum, until the complaint could be investigated. Bill advised me that it should be just a temporary halt, but said he would keep me updated. I called Mike and he advised the other guys what was going on, and we let our group members know that the scheduled dig might be postponed as well.¬†

True to his word, Bill called a couple of days later and let me know that we were back on for both digs and with just a few minor stipulations set out by the DNR, that we could easily live with. After a few back and forth emails and phone calls, we decided not to let some jerk spoil things for us, nor the hundreds of rockhounds across the nation who enjoy traveling to the Eureka Mine to dig for pretty fluorite specimens to add to their collections. It was decided that three of us would be making the trip this year for the machine dig and then I would return for the group dig as well. 

I contacted Tina to let her know about what time I would arrive on Friday, March 22nd because I would be hauling several hundred pounds of crystals to them, ¬†for their grab bag booth at their annual show in June. The weather forecast was calling for all sorts of weather again this year…thought we might be up to our eyeballs in mud the first day and snowed on the second day… one never knows what to expect down there in March, or here in Missouri for that matter, so I packed rain gear, cold weather clothing, and warm weather clothing, three pair of boots and six pair of gloves….ready for the best and prepared for the worst. Since the forecast wasnt for much dry weather, I left Missy with my parents for the weekend. She loves to go on walks with my Mom, who takes about three walks a day, so I knew she would be better off with them this weekend.¬†

I took off on Friday morning, getting a little later start than I had anticipated, and when I filled up the gas tank, it was 3.59 a gallon here, when I crossed the river into Illinois, it was 3.83 a gallon, and then when I arrived in Paducah, it was 3.43 a gallon…I had decided to drive all interstate this time, since a good friend of mine told me that the road construction delays in Illinois were a thing of the past, much of it completed finally, and she turned out to be correct about that. I took my time cruising down the roads at 65 mph and got 23 mpg for it, even with the heavier load in the bed. I crossed over the Ohio River and arrived in Paducah about 2 pm….

01 Crossing Ohio River

….and called Tina from the gas pumps at the Pilot Truck Stop on the north side of town, to let her know I should be there in an hour….little did I know that there was a major traffic jam waiting on me in a road construction zone about twenty minutes east of Paducah. She wasnt aware of it either or she would have warned me to take Hwy 60 instead, but as it was, Kentucky DOT didnt want to let anyone know about it either, apparently, because their warning signs were pretty much nowhere to be found…I was up and over the Tennessee River bridge on I-24 before I realized that the long line of traffic stopped in the left lane was for the construction lane restriction ahead, rather than for an accident ahead. Luckily, I was able to slow down fast and get over in front of a truck driver and instantly get bogged down in the crawl ahead for ten miles…here I thought only our state allowed stupid road construction zones…I say stupid because driving along for the next ten miles at a crawl, we did not see one, NOT ONE area of construction activity on that eastbound side at all !!!! NOTHING !!!! ¬†and at the very end, maybe half a ¬†mile from the end, on the westbound side, was one very small area of roadwork activity, and even then, the road crew was off the roadway, over on the right of way, prob fifty feet from the shoulder, placing rock into a ditch to prevent erosion, or so it appeared to me…but they had to have traffic both directions crawling along for that….thought to myself, this is exactly the type of stupid stuff we see in Missouri on a daily basis.

So I arrived at the Museum about 20 minutes later than I should have, and found Tina hard at work with one of the Museum volunteers, moving cabinets around in one of the display rooms to make room for some maps…they also showed me the new cabinets designed and built for the Museum by the Amish folks just north of town and let me tell you, they were very nicely built. They were getting ready to put them to some very good use in all the display rooms there. Tina helped me unload my haul of crystals with her trusty dolly and then I presented her with some more druse quartz for her personal collection and a nice chunk of chalcopyrite as well, from one of the Doe Run Mines up here in Missouri…I had picked it out special for her from a buddy of mine that works at the mines.

After visiting with them a bit and catching up on everything, I headed out to the Eureka Mine to see how it looked. It always fills in over the winter months with alot of heavy mud from the walls and the natural sump will fill in as well. Here is what it looked like after I arrived ten minutes later…

02 The Pit on Friday Looking North

 

 

….I`m standing on the south side looking to the north, toward the bridge over Hurricane Creek…and as you can see, alot of mud had drained down into the pit on all sides of it. I walked around to the north side to shoot back to the south…..

03 The Pit Looking South

 

…and as you can see, the south side had been filled in somewhat by the dozer sitting near my truck….Bill had Wayne`s crew come out the day before and fill in a bit on a couple of sides. This is also the side, where much of the mud slides down into the pit and covers up the natural sump below….

04 Road Side of Pit Looking South

 

….and you can see here, it looks like the entire bank just slid down and into the water below.

I called Mike to let him know what it looked like and he was glad Bill had some fill work done, as we had intended to have it done as well. The only problem with it, was that we also intended to have Wayne dig that end out a little to see how far back the saddle with purple fluorite pockets extended back that direction. Oh well, something to work out the next day. After talking to Mike and then to Jeff Deere afterward, I headed to the hotel at Kuttawa because I was starting to get hungry for one of those great tasting steaks at the Oasis Grill next door to the hotel. Earlier in the week, I had talked extensively to both Jeff Deere, of Georgia and Pete Stoeckel of eastern Pennsylvania, about the drive to the Eureka Mine. Jeff planned to get up very early Saturday morning and make the five hour thirty minute drive up…Pete left at midnight Friday morning, with a thousand mile drive ahead of him…told me he was going through West Virginia and would stop at Eubank, Kentucky, and visit with Sharon and Richard Michael, and get some more of their crop of geodes that they harvest each year at their horse farm. Pete said it would make a great pit stop after being on the road all night and day…he got there about noon and then after a few hours of digging out geodes, he drove on down to Pennyrile State Park to set up his campground spot and then headed over to my hotel, the Days Inn, to go to supper with me. He texted me as I was driving to the hotel to check in and let me know he was on the way from the campground. I also got a call after that from a buddy in Paducah, Kayden, who was also driving down to visit and have dinner with me, as he was going to be busy the rest of the weekend making a move to St Louis.¬†

I got checked in and soon after, Pete showed up, no doubt as hungry as I was, after digging for geodes and cracking some open at the horse farm…I explained to him about Kayden, who I figured was stuck in the traffic jam just west of us. and as it turned out, he was… so after he arrived, we all walked over to the Oasis and ordered some delicious food…the atmosphere in there, as always, was great, lots of friendly people chowing down on good food. Normally it gets a little loud in there on a Friday and Saturday ¬†night, but we were there much earlier than normal. After a good supper, Pete took off and headed back to the campground to take advantage of the well heated bathhouse to get a shower and get ready for the next day, and Kayden and I returned to my room to catch up on old times. The next morning came early, despite hitting the hay right after the news…I headed over to Miss Neda`s Donut Shop in Eddyville and then grabbed a sausage and egg biscuit before driving on out to the mine…finding Bill had been there just ahead of me and got the pump started…I also saw that Wayne had a newer and smaller trackhoe this year, the larger older one apparently had worn out and he was unable to get parts for it any longer…the only problem with this smaller one was that it didnt have the reach the older one had and the bucket was a bit smaller.¬†

03 The Pit Looking South

 

…..Wayne`s crew of Danny and Mike showed up soon after I did, and then Pete showed up soon after. Jeff arrived right about 8 am, as he had planned on and pulled the maps out that Mike had sent him with the tunnels and shaft information.

Danny was new to us, we had never met or worked with him before,…Mike explained to us that Wayne was letting Danny take on more of the trackhoe work because the rattling around in the seat was beginning to hurt Wayne`s back…after seventy years of digging, I could definitely understand that and I would think Wayne should be able to take days off as often as he wanted to…so we talked to Danny and Mike a bit about what we wanted to do this year with the pit. At some point they were going to need to dig out a containment pond to satisfy the requirements of the DNR, to pump the water into once it became muddy after stirring it up. As they went off to fire up the dozer and trackhoe, Jeff and Pete and I decided on what we were going to do as well.

Danny started by digging out the south side where the saddle was located, so we could check on the extension of it……

17A Pit Backfilled Some

 

….and then he moved down the logging road side of the pit to clean up the bank. Shortly after, the investigators with the DNR showed up and Danny moved over and began digging out the containment pond so that the now muddy waters could be pumped into it….

15A Containment Pond

 

 

…and while Danny was digging the pond out, we had Mike move some of the backfill from the tailing pile over into the creek side of the pit to reinforce the creek bank itself and attempt to shut down the water coming into the pit from the creek. This has been a major problem in years past, since the pit now sits below the creek, the creekwater wants to naturally filter through the clay and dirt banks and into the pit, sometimes coming thru the bank in a waterfall or two.

16 Attempting to Backfill Corner

Mike was able to shove a lot of dirt and clay over there while Danny was busy working on the containment pond….and once he finished, we had yet another tailing pile above the pond for rockhounds to explore…

14A Tailing Piles by Road

 

…the other tailing piles we had placed once again, between the logging road by the mine and the pit itself…once Danny finished digging out the pond we had him return to the road side and finish cleaning out the high bank, then move around to the north side and begin expanding the pit in that direction. He began concentrating on the northwest corner first…

11B Digging Out North Side

 

….and pretty soon it became evident that he had found an old horizontal tunnel of sorts…first slicing down through and bringing up some old timbers and we began to see changes in color in the mud and clay as well…

08A Sand & Timbers NW Corner

 

 

..and pretty soon the darker dirt and mud began to collapse downward, leading us to believe it was a horizontal tunnel or shaft at some time…

10A Appears to Be Old Tunnel

 

 

…and up closer here…the lighter colored stuff looked more like sand but seemed have some stickiness to it like clay too…

12A Dug Out Area of NW Corner

 

…and after about another thirty minutes of digging, we hit the four hour mark and had them stop digging. As Danny was going across the north side of the pit, he was finding no fluorite whatsoever, not to mention that the saddle or bench on that side, just dropped off into nothing at all and basically just disappeared. We certainly werent expecting that at all. The last few years we had been inching across the pit and finding luscious purple cubes, occasionally some yellow cubes, galena and sphalerite, and now we were basically finding absolutely nothing coming up in the bucketfuls of dirt and mud. More so than disappointment, we were actually more scared than anything, because this mine and the public digs here are what keeps the Museum and their staff going each year.

After paying Wayne for digging it out for us, we pumped the remaining muddy water into the containment pond and began exploring the saddle and bench to see what we could find. Here is the pit after the digging was done…..

17B Pit After Digging

 

….you can see the bench on the far lower left, full of galena and fluorite pockets last year, and you can see how it just abruptly stops on the far side, just drops off and there is nothing beyond it….Jeff and Pete began working on that bench and tried to cobb it down some, succeeded somewhat, but found very little on, around, or even underneath it…we also checked out the saddle on the south end and found just a few small pockets….

19A South Side Saddle Has Fluorite

 

 

…and after a long day of waiting and digging, even longer for Jeff who got up early and drove up, we packed it in for the day and headed out, except for Pete, who decided to stay til nightfall so he could go up to the Columbia Mine and check out his new blacklight with the hope of finding some fluorescent minerals for some friends of his who enjoy the ” glow in the dark light ” minerals.

Jeff and I headed to the hotel, him to check in and clean up, me to clean up, and then we met over at the Oasis Grill for supper. We had been snacking all day long, but after a few hours of digging in the pit and the tailing piles, that little bit of food was long gone. I was out in front of him when I left and as I neared the top of the hill, I spotted a few whitetail deer in the field on the north side of the road….

20 Deer in Field Leaving Mine

 

…they apparently didnt like the barrel of my lens sticking out the window of my truck and may have mistaken it for a rifle barrel…they wasted no time in taking off for higher ground…..

21 Deer Flee For Safety of Woods

…..but soon regrouped at the edge of the field by the wooded area for yet another group portrait…

22 Deer At Edge of Woods

While waiting for our food to arrive, we discussed what we found today, as well as what we expected to find and yet didnt find…and we were both very concerned about it…I was sure Pete was as well, he was staying busy to likely keep his mind off it. Jeff told me that he wished he had thought to ask Danny to back off from the north wall and make a trench cut across to see if we could relocate the vein again…see if it was still there closeby….maybe it had just pinched off where we stopped Danny earlier. I suggested that we see if Wayne could come back Sunday morning and dig a trench across there and see if we could relocate it…he was in total agreement so I called Bill and pitched the idea to him…he called Wayne and set it up for us…Wayne agreed to come do the digging even… and we soon felt much better with an improved plan of action and disposition. Supper sure tasted great after that phone call.

We arrived at the mine the next morning bright and early once again, and Wayne showed up about 7:30 and fired up the trackhoe…which by the way, I forgot to mention, is a smaller version than the one he has operated the past several years…in fact, he told us that it got to where he couldnt find parts for it any longer and had to part it out. This one takes a cubic yard less dirt than the older larger one. He brought a new guy with him this time, another one we werent familiar with, and after talking to him for a bit, found out that his father had done quite a bit of digging in the fluorite mines in the area as well. Wayne came over and asked us what we wanted to do, something we really like and respect about him…we pointed out where we wanted him to make the trench cut and so he started on it right away. Once he got back to a certain area, he started hitting solid bedrock about ten feet down and pretty soon, the water started pouring in as well. He began backing up and Pete had to jump in and move his Hummer…good thing he did, cause a few minutes later, Wayne pulled up a huge boulder, it was about ten feet long and three feet thick, and as he was setting it over in the spot Pete had been parked, he took out a dead tree which fell right where Pete`s Hummer had been sitting. Whewww…..that was close. Pete and Jeff took a closer look at the big…excuse me….HUGE boulder, and began trying to cobb it down some to see if there were any cubes on it. I stayed with Wayne and within a few minutes, he had dug down and sliced through the horizontal tunnel that we thought we had spotted over at the edge of the pit, again coming up with timbers perfectly preserved in the clay mud and then slicing down thru that black dirt once again…..

25A Vein Relocated With Tunnel

…..only this time, there were chunks of galena and some massive fluorite as well mixed in….plus the collapse was alot more evident this time, too. Water again poured in to the trench cut and we had Wayne widen the cut here just a little more and then we had him stop digging…..here I am zoomed in on the tunnel to see the galena shining at us….

26A Tunnel Top

….and that yellowish looking stuff next to it, is actually yellow massive fluorite that was combined with deep purple fluorite down there in the tunnel….here seen closer up….

27 Purple & Yellow Fluorite

 

 

….well we were elated that we had actually found some more fluorite, even if it was more massive than cubed…we like the cubes more than anything but didnt find any down in that trench cut anywhere…leading us to believe more exploration needs to be done to find the vein once again. Bill came by to check on us and we showed him what we found, the massive that we found was the purple and yellow combined, but no cubes….he was now as concerned as we were for the future of the Museum and its purpose. He headed back to the Museum and we decided to see what else we could find….I didnt stick around very long, as I had received a phone call from my Mom, letting me know that heavy snow was falling at home and making its way east across Illinois, so I decided to hit the road and see if I could make it home. Jeff took off shortly after I did and made it home safe and sound, while Pete decided to stick it out a few hours before heading home. He would have to cross the mountains in West Virginia and he figured the longer wait time would give road crews a good chance to clean the roads off before he arrived. He actually ¬†made it home safe and sound as well, early the next day, after driving all night long. I hit the snow just west of Mount Vernon, Illinois on I-64, but luckily for me, the roads just stayed wet and the heavy fluffy looking snow just made everything look pretty….

29A Snow Gets Pretty Near O`Fallon

 

 

31 I DOT Snow Plow on I-64

 

 

32A Approaching JB Bridge

 

 

33A Heavy Snow on Trees

 

 

34A WB At Antire Hill

 

 

35 Pine Grove Near AH

 

 

 

 

Only had to shift into four wheel drive once I reached the road to my parents house to pick up Missy…their road rarely gets plowed early on….

 

36A Approach to Mom & Dad`s

 

The following week I had taken off the entire weekend, which gave me the entire week off from Wednesday to Wednesday, so I had more time to pack the truck with more crystals for the Museum`s grab bag adventure at their annual weekend show in June. I was able to take off a bit earlier this time and had Missy with me as well and after unloading the crystals at the Museum again and visiting with Tina once again, I headed to the hotel to get checked in. While at the Museum, Tina told me that a couple from the Atlanta area had been by earlier in the day and toured the museum and were probably staying at the same hotel as I was. Mike called me later in the evening to see if I would like to have supper with him and his wife at the Oasis, and I thanked him, but had already ate and was just about to conk out from the long day. The next morning, I grabbed some donuts at Miss Nedas in Eddyville again and then headed to the Museum to get checked in there and help everyone who was coming for the dig. Mike Streeter and I had sent out emails to everyone that had made reservations for the trip, and we had warned them about the results of the machine dig the weekend before…everyone said they still wanted to come and see what they could fine despite this. I had prepared myself for the worse, but as it turned out, the day was a pretty good one for them.

I no sooner pulled into the parking lot and parked next to a dark colored van, rolled my windown down and discovered it was Tammy and Todd Bromley from central Michigan…boy did they have a long drive down there. While waiting for the others to show up, Doug Harris and his son came in…Doug is a math teacher at a high school in north central Illinois. He and his son were also interested possibly in the night dig but decided to wait another time for it. Several of them took a brief tour of the Museum while there, led by Fred, one of the Directors, as Bill Frazer was out at the mine getting the pump started for us. I met Fred a few years ago at one of the celebration digs, he is a very nice guy and a great asset to the museum as well, a man of many talents, as he was there to help another member work on the cabinets. Tammy and Todd and I talked to his partner who had family up in central Michigan near them, but he had moved down to the Marion area himself a few years prior from the northeast coastline where the winters are as brutal as Michigan.¬†

After the tour, I took the group outside and gave a short safety talk on the mine and then we headed out to the mine in our vehicles. I called Bill on the way out and he waited for us to arrive, told me it was a muddy mess because Wayne`s crew had come in the day before and filled in our trench cut and stirred up the piles as well. Since I had four wheel drive and no one else did, I was able to drive up the mine road and park in the edge of the woods so Missy would have some shade, but the others had to park in the field across the creek and on the right side……

01 Arrival Sat AM Muddy Mess

 

 

As soon as they got their boots on and assembled their tools, we met at the edge of the pit and I pointed out the pitfalls to watch out for and the tailing piles to search and then they took off for the piles…..

02 Diggers Hit Upper Tailing Piles 1st

03 Diggers in Upper Tailing Piles

 

While many of them worked the tailing piles on the south side, I wandered over to the north side older pile and started finding cubes and small plates all over the place…Todd and Tammy Bromley saw me picking up cubes and plates and came over to check it out and I told them to start looking all over cause there was stuff scattered all over the floor in the mud and in the piles. Pretty soon more of them came over to the north side and began finding some as well. The pump was starting to lower the level of the water considerably by now as well, so it wasnt long before we were able to check that out too. Mike and his wife found a nice plate, she found it actually, upside down in the mud, we possibly even stepped on it a few times and when she turned it over and discovered cubes, she called Mike over and he promptly took it to the waterfall under the bridge to wash it off. I never did see it but understand it was quite a honey piece and they left soon after.¬†

Pretty soon, many had left before the water level dropped enough to enter the pit, leaving it to Tammy, Todd, David, and myself to find some stuff in the pit. My curiousity got the better of me soon and I climbed down in the pit on the south side saddle to see if I could locate any other pockets in the mud…I began pulling mud from the south backfil wall and soon enough, had pulled some nice cubes out from the mud down under. I gave some of them to Tammy and after about an hour or two, turned the pockets over to her to keep searching in. I had decided to leave by 2 pm and head home, as I had some other things I had to do on Sunday. I gave them some nicer specimens of fluorite before I left and let Bill know that they would be returning on Sunday morning and he told them he would meet them at the Museum at 9 am Sunday.¬†

All in all it was a good weekend as everyone went home happy as far as I knew. While I am concerned for the future of the Museum and the public and private digs there, as many of us are, several of us have pledged our continuing support to Bill Frazer and the Museum for their future and assistance to rockhounds. I told Bill many of us stand ready to help in any way we can, and are ready to respond and assist if needed. I will keep you all updated as future events unfold there and information becomes available. 

 

if you have any questions or wanna say hi, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Mom`s New Rock Garden

Wednesday afternoon last week, I woke up early and went over to my parents house to help them clear off an old flower garden and convert it to a rock garden with rose bushes and iris flowers. I had been gathering several medium to large druse crystals for it lately and put it all together by Wednesday evening. While we were out there arranging things and digging up older flowers to take out, I kept hearing wild turkeys chattering around the area, and finally spotted six of them deep in their neighbors backyard across the street…they were running all over the place and didnt seem to mind us out in the yard working…

Wild Turkeys Across the Road

 

Wild Turkeys Across the Road 2

…there appeared to be a couple of gobblers and four females…they almost looked like large geese, since a couple of them were pure white…anyway we finished the garden about suppertime…

Just About Finished

…there is druse, Arkansas Quartz, Poker Chip Calcite Crystals, Bladed Barite, and Fluorite in the Garden now…with the knockout roses my Mom put in there too.

Finished

 

…and a few more I helped her create this past year as well….

 

Front Yard East Side

 

Main Front Garden 2

 

Main Front Garden

 

Closeup Main Front Garden