After preparing the Eureka Mine as best we could last weekend, we prepared for our group dig there over the Easter Holiday. The weather was going to be nice and much cooler, so I decided to take Missy with me on this trip. I had to work the night before, and after a three hour nap, we got up and took off. I had to stop off in south central Illinois on the way down Friday, to photograph some antique fire trucks owned by some good friends of mine, and after that I headed on down to Kuttawa to get checked in to the hotel.
I was meeting up with Pete Stoeckel and Nick Richard there, we had talked ahead of the dig about lodging and meals, they decided to stay at the same hotel I was staying at, the Days Inn, which is next door to the best steakhouse in the entire area, the Oasis Southwest Grill, which is where we all wanted to eat at as well. I texted Pete to let him know that we were leaving my shoot and on the way, and should arrive about 6:30 pm. He and Nick were driving in from the east, they had left eastern Pennsylvania about midnight Thursday night and drove down to Kentucky through Maryland and West Virginia. They took advantage of one of my tips on a good geode location in south central Kentucky, and stopped there after twelve hours on the road. Pete told me they had found several nice geodes there and then got back on the road and would be waiting for me at the hotel.
True to my word, we arrived at the Days Inn about 6:30 and got checked in fast…I was as hungry as they were I`m sure…fire truck shoots just wear me out mentally and physically. We walked over to the Oasys and ordered steak dinners…well I should say Nick and I ordered steaks and Pete ordered barbecue brisket…a few years ago the staff of the Oasys added on a barbecue menu and boy was it good…but I always order the grilled pork chops with a barbecue glaze…two large center cut chops that completely take up the space on the entire plate, big baked potato, and a big bowl of steamed broccoli….yummmmmyyyyyy. Pete and Nick are both connoseiurs of draft beer as well…and the Oasys didnt let them down…they always maintain a good selection of beers for guys like these two. We talked and caught up on rockhunting adventures since we last saw each other at the Eureka, and then headed off to our rooms for a good night of restful sleep.
Mike and Chrissy decided to come back down for the weekend dig as well, and for some reason I didnt notice, but they were parked right next to my truck when they arrived. I guess I was so tired, I didnt even see it. Nick and Pete and I had decided to get breakfast at the Marion Cafe the next morning before meeting everyone at the museum and registering for the dig. Nick told me that the cooks at the Cafe believe in feeding people very well for little cost. I stopped off at Miss Neda`s Donut Shop in Eddyville and got some donuts for later on….very good donuts at this little donut shop…and then Missy and I headed for the Marion Cafe. Its catecorner across from the new Marion Fire Station…beautiful brick building with three glass bay doors and a big time clock on the street side, has that old tyme firehouse look to it, charming but elegant…
Nick was right…I ordered two eggs,bacon and toast with grape jelly….I have never seen toasted bread that thick…Nick told me it was homemade bread. Pete had ordered French Toast and I couldnt believe how much was on his plate, there must have been half a loaf of toast on there…the equivalent of eight pancakes….and our cost was like $ 4.00 a plate…unreal…definitely alot of food for a little cost.
The lady that owns the Cafe showed us a nice chunk of fluorite that was on display there, it was quite exceptional in beauty and form. While they were talking to her about it, I slipped out the door and drove on over to the museum to verify that someone was there and found VJ there helping several earlybirds check in and register for the dig. I visited with him a few minutes, he is always very pleasant to talk to and work with on such events. Within the next hour, several more showed up to register and we were able to meet and talk a little bit until it was time to assemble outside to get ready to go. I introduced myself and we walked outside for a safety talk before driving on out to the mine. There were a few folks there, some with young children, who were somewhat new to rockhunting and definitely new to the Eureka Mine, so we talked a bit about safety and what to look for and where to look as well. We then drove on out to the mine and got ready to do some serious digging and prospecting.
We arrived to find Mike and Chrissy working on pumping out the water in the pit….
…and once everyone gathered up next to the pit, I pointed out the area of the vertical shaft that we wanted to avoid. For those new to collecting at the Eureka, I pointed out the two tailing pile areas that are known to be rich in tailing specimens, both areas that were producing nice small clusters of crystals last week, eroding from the dirt banks from past rains over the winter.
While most waited for the pit water level to be pumped down, the young family with the two little boys got busy and quickly started finding some nice crystals…soon we heard this little guy while digging with his mom, say ” look what I found Mom “……
…and his brother, digging nearby with Dad, found a large boulder in the dirt with crystals on it…they decided to try and dig it out together…..
…and pretty soon, rockhounds were digging all over the place while the pump was still lowering the water level in the pit….
…Nic had settled into the dirt bank on the north side of the pit to do some surface collecting while waiting and looks to have found a few nice enough pieces to get his wrapping paper out to wrap them up….
…and other rockhounds were in the same area, and digging in the dirt on the north side and began finding small clusters of crystals as well…
…some nice cubes with some pretty balls of calcite nestled in between the cubes….
…and while Mike and Bill tried to work the pump to fully pump out the water in the pit…..
…..Chrissy decided to dig out the side ledge area…
MAGS members Dave and Lenora decided to try and see what they could find down on the saddle bench while the pit was being pumped out as Li Liu, also with MAGS, is seen surface collecting in the background….
…much material was left laying around from the weekend before for others to find and take home if they wanted to.
Pete helped run the pump while Mike worked the strainer to get the pit down to the right level to work it…
…and once the pit was pumped down, several diggers got into the water and the mud and waged battle with the rock and pockets to produce some nice fluorite cubes and plates. Mike and Pete worked the saddle pockets and liberated several nice plates of cubes, even some with some beautiful areas of greenockite and sphalerite. Chrissy was joined by Dave Murray over on the side ledge area of the pit, an area that once produced some beautiful large specimens of fluorite with greenockite a few years ago. Once I had everyone finding some nice specimens, I joined Nick on the north side of the pit and helped him dig the mud layer back to expose the ledge on that side so he could work a few areas that I had worked the weekend before. He soon was finding some nice small clusters along with everyone else. However by 2 pm, several rockhounds had left the mine and the ones remaining were those digging in the pit area.
We were often visited by Bill Frazer and Ed Clements and his daughter Andrea, joined us later in the afternoon. We found out during Ed`s visit, just how tough and serious a rockhound Pete can be…at some point while pounding away on a chunk of rock with his four pound hammer and chisel, he missed the chisel and struck his right hand….breaking at least one bone in his hand….none of us became aware of it until dinner time much later….I still cringe when I think of it and can only imagine the pain he endured the next three hours as he continued pounding on the baserock, revealing pocket after pocket of beautiful cubes, and probably some exhilaration as well…I saw some of his finds and there were some absolutely beautiful plates that Pete found in that saddle.
We all ran out of steam around 6 pm and decided to go back and clean up and meet at the Oasys for dinner. Sunday morning dawned bright and early, with a few less people at the dig from the day before, but with a few new additions as well…Ian Merkel, a geologist friend from Colorado and Marty Meskill, a good rockhound friend from upper state New York, arrived at the hotel at 3 am, flying in to St Louis and then drove down to join us. They both planned to go over to south central Kentucky on Monday and continue their three day trip, but for Kentucky Agate this time….I was able to help arrange that part of their trip for them and put them in touch with Lamon Flynn, a well respected authority on Kentucky agate, in the Irvine area. I had the pleasure of meeting and hunting with Mr. Flynn back in September last year, joined by a small circle of rockhound friends from all over the country, and we enjoyed it immensely.
Soon after checking my email Sunday morning at the hotel lobby, Ian came around the corner of the building looking for my room and ran into Pete and Nick who were up and talking with me out in front. They all headed to breakfast and we met up later at the museum to sign in for the day. After everyone showed up and registered for the dig at the museum with Bill Frazer signing us in, we drove out to the mine…apparently losing one car and two rockhounds along the drive out…prompting a call to Bill who escorted them out to the mine a few minutes later. On our arrival, we found Chrissy and Mike busy pumping the pit down and giving everyone a chance to look around and see what needed to be done today….
Nick was walking around down at the edge of the north side of the pit looking right and left to figure out where he was going to start digging today….when I snapped this photo I was reminded of that old saying…decisions, decisions….lol….
…pretty soon everyone had chosen their spot and dug in…..
..Pete and Mike continued to work the saddle on the south side while Dave and Chrissy, who cannot be seen, continued their work on the left side of the north wall…Chrissy was burrowed into that wall….Marty dug into the center of the north bench, Nick sits on a bucket, and then Ian in the green shirt is seen working my pocket, and Mary continues to dig the east bank. Lenora is seen sitting on the high bank watching Dave dig.
In the next photo Ian can be seen playing in the mud above the vein and pulling small clusters of deep purple cubes out….
…and here is Chrissy, slowly working her way into the west wall and pulling small clusters out along the way….
…while Nick and Ian work the pockets that Nick and I followed the day before….
…and Dave continued to work that bench on the left as Marty started working a pocket dead center of the bench….
I wonder if anyone knows what a tough guy looks like…I can safely tell you that I saw a tough guy in action Sunday for the better part of the day…only captured him on film a few times but here he is in action…Pete Stoeckel…swinging away with a sledge hammer to bust out a boulder and uncover some pockets of deep purple fluorite cubes…all the while doing so with a broken right hand….
Nick and Ian continued to pull out some nice clusters of cubes in the pockets……I had filled a bag there on Saturday myself, so I knew there had to be more stuff there…and there was….
…and Mary continued to dig from the east bank of dirt, pulling out some nice clusters as well…its obvious that Bill was right, there was some virgin material underneath the mud there…
…here are a couple of boulders of fluorite that came from the dig last weekend….
About mid afternoon, Marty found a beautiful small cluster of stair step down cubes…one right after another in a domino fashion that was just spectacular to look at….definitely a rewarding pocket find…
…and here up close….
…by mid afternoon, Mike and Chrissy loaded up for their seven hour drive home and I left about an hour later….there were four left in the pit by this time and the pump was kicked on for a little more lowering of the water level to explore for more pockets…within a few minutes the big pit was drained dry and the smaller pit lowered to explore a pocket or two…I reached down into one of the smaller pit pockets and a large frog came jumping across my arm and hand and out of the pit….and naturally as startled as I was, I let out with a loud word or two and everyone looked up to see the frog flying through the air.
Here are some of the finds left behind for others to find, Tina and Bill had informed us that a college group would be there Wednesday and so we left behind some goodies for them to find, like these….
..and I`ll post some of my finds when I get a chance to clean them up…havent had a chance to do so yet and now we have five days of rain starting today, so no sunshine to photograph them in either.
I`ll leave you with one last photo of Colorado boy Ian, playing in the mud….