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….
…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….
…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….
…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….
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….
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.
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…
…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….
…he moved way too fast for me, but he did have some younger fans there for him. 🙂
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…
..and soon after she showed up, others showed up in small groups…
…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.
…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…
..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….
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…
…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…
….and they wasted no time in getting down into the pit and getting muddy to look for some good cubes….
..and still more diggers showed up to dig for cubes on the other side of the pit….
…I was keeping an eye on the Bloomington diggers, they soon got down to the right level and found some nice cubes…
…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….
…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….
…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….
…..and pretty soon they decided to change out in the pit…
…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….
..and then back up to the intersection in front of the Oasis Grill for another photo of the beautiful colorful skies….
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….
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.