Missy and I loaded up the truck and headed south to Marion, Kentucky last Friday, June 1st, for the Clement Mineral Museum`s 2012 Rock Show and Dig Weekend. I had been planning this trip for sometime, talked with my good rockhunting friends Steven and April Gibbs from Memphis, who were also planning to go there, and talked with Tina, who runs the museum, earlier in the week. Tina told me they were in need of some pretty pieces of soda straw and bubble druse quartz for their silent auction, so I loaded up some and took to them. I never have a problem donating to a worthy cause, and the Clement Museum Staff do provide great locations and opportunities for rockhounds everywhere, for a very low fee, something that is becoming harder and harder to find these days.
Since Illinois I-57 is loaded down with road construction, I decided to stay in Missouri and headed south to Sikeston. Little did I know that Missouri has loaded up I-55 with road construction zones as well…which wouldnt be so bad, except you have these long five and ten mile stretches of cones and one lane, limited to 45 mph, and nothing going on except in one or two spots. Give me a break, there is no reason to make motorists drive that slow through long stretches of inactivity…geez….if only our Highway Department could enforce the rules for contractors on these projects and keep traffic moving between work stoppages…..seems to be a rampant problem everywhere these days.
Enough of my soapbox for the day….as we approached Sikeston, from as far away as Cape even, we started seeing huge, high clouds of smoke and I began to wonder what was on fire…I stopped in Charleston to fill my gas tank at the Caseys Store, gas there was 3.29 a gallon, and a resident there told me the fires were wheat farmers burning their fields off after harvesting the wheat crops….here is one of the clouds of heavy smoke as I was headed south toward the Twin Bridges near Cairo….
I crossed the Mississippi River on the first of two beautiful steel structure bridges shortly after….
…this bridge in particular was repaired in the past year after a barge struck one of its support pillars last year and damaged its structural integrity. I crossed over it and then crossed the second of the twin bridges, this one spanning the Ohio River and into Kentucky, a few hundred feet after crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.
About 90 minutes later I was pulling into the Clement Museum in Marion and with help from the staff members there, I unloaded the druse for the silent auction and then registered for the dig the next two days. While talking to Tina, I volunteered to start the pump at the Eureka Mine and Bill Frazer said that would greatly free him up to take care of other things. I headed down to Kuttawa to get checked into my hotel room at the Days Inn, and then after cleaning up, walked over to the Oasis Southwest Grill for a good steak dinner. Steaks arent the only thing they cook well, they have good surf and turf combo plates too and great bbq as well, having invested in a smoker a couple of years ago. Several of us rockhounds have been eating there the past few years and there is a good atmosphere inside as well…it gets a little noisy inside on Friday and Saturday nights, but the food is sure worth it.
After supper, Missy and I headed down to Lake Barkley and after walking around a bit waiting for the sun to settle for the night, I snapped this sunset photo at the edge of the water….
We got up bright and early the next morning…I spotted Steven and April`s truck in the parking lot as we headed north to the Eureka Mine….this was the sunrise that greeted us as we left the hotel….
After stopping off at Miss Netta`s Donut Shop in Eddyville and picking up half a dozen donuts for the day, we drove on over to the mine…as we were driving down the hill approaching the creek bridge, we came upon a very large Bull at the side of the road…anyone who has been down that mine road can imagine this well…a two thousand pound curly brown haired bull standing on the side, leaving me just a little bit of extra space to veer around him and give him all the space he wanted. I rolled down the window and said, ” hey there buddy, you look a little lost to me “…. he just gave me a look and I decided to keep on driving…..didnt figure he needed any help from me….and drove on over to the mine….
I got the pump going quickly and it started pumping fast.
I then called Bill Frazer and told him about the bull in the roadway and he said he would come out and see if we could get him back in the fenced field somewhere before folks started arriving at the mine, wouldnt want that to be the welcome wagon for them. While waiting for Bill to arrive, Missy and I took a look around at the dirt piles that Wayne Crider moved around with the backhoe to get things ready for the rockhounds…
…while walking around, I nearly stepped on a beautiful plate that was covered with crystal cubes on both sides. I saw alot of potential cubes in the overturned area and figured there would be alot of happy diggers today. I also removed a couple of bags of crystals from years past and dumped them on the ground near my truck for kids to go through as a sure thing. Some kids burn out early and give up easily…course there are some adults that do that as well, so I always try to bring some extras along for them just in case. Hate for anyone to go home empty handed.
Missy and I walked down to the creek bridge…..
…and looking up the road, I no longer saw the bull, so I figured he must have walked up that hill to an opening….
…so we walked up to the base of the hill to see if we could spot him at all and waited for Bill to arrive….
….Bill arrived and we couldnt find the bull so he decided to look for him up above after placing a few parking signs for the diggers. He later told me he found the bull had wandered down the field up by the old garage building at the top of the hill by the mine road turn to the gate….Missy and I walked back to the pit and waited for the miners to start showing up. We didnt have to wait long, Rex was the first to arrive, having pre-registered with Bill ahead of time….
…he is from Albuquerque, New Mexico and no stranger to fluorite mining…we talked for a bit and I showed him a few areas and he settled into one quite nicely…here partially hidden behind this sprig working on the bench area. By 9 am, there were several miners hard at work in and around the pit itself….
…including Chris and his dad David, from Connecticutt, who settled into the bench area working the pockets right beside Rex….
..and these guys worked the north side of the pit across from them for much of the day….
..while even more decided to try to find the goodies in the overturned dirt piles….
and luckily, with the help of some much needed rain earlier in the week, the digging was much easier to do than it would be had it turned off hot and muggy instead…the weather over the weekend was near perfect for digging long hours…alot of kids and families showed up to dig as well….I spent most of the morning helping others find a good place to dig in and even helped spot a few crystals for some of the newbies…and when the kids couldnt find anything good, I had them check out a pile of crystals I had placed on the ground near my truck for them to look through….and I worked the pump all day long too…
…but by mid afternoon, only the more serious diggers were left working on site….
Steven and April made it out to the mine about 10:30 am and April`s mom was with them again this trip, she decided to see what she could find up in the loose dirt tailings, while Steven and April came over to the pit where I was at and we decided to dig down to the vein like we did last year. We were a bit higher up on the bank this time and so Steve had to dig down a little deeper to find it…about four feet down in fact and then widened it so at least one of us could get down into it.
I jumped down into it first and began pulling crystals and clusters out right and left…I was standing on what I thought was the vein, and was pulling some clusters and crystals out from under it…after a bit, Steve was able to get the shovel under it and pry it up and then we found out it wasnt the vein, it was simply a boulder with big crystals on the underside of it…eventually I was able to lift it up and lift it up to Steve who pulled it on out of the hole and set it nearby…it is now resting comfortably in my mom`s rock garden. Once it was removed, we started pulling clusters and crystals from the bottom clay layer about ten inches above the bottom of the hole as well as from the floor of the hole, and this worked out well for us too. As soon as I get some cleaned up, I`ll post them on here.
In the meantime, Chris was taking that bench he was working on, back about three feet slowly but surely…by mid day it was moved back about two feet….
…and he was finding some really nice pockets throughout the bench….
…that contained some beautiful purple cubes and sphalerite….
…he was having a lot of difficulty early on, getting into the pockets due to someone having used a rock saw and hammer drill on a prior dig there….some people will tell you that power equipment like that makes it easier for others to follow but in all truthfulness, it makes it much more difficult for the next person or group to access the pockets. One of those things that sounds good, but in all actuality, its not really a good thing, helps one at the time but wont help anyone who follows later. Chris did find a few chisels wedged into drill holes that those folks werent able to get back out as well….guess that would be Karma…what goes around, comes around….
The hosts for the Eureka Mine, Phil and Shirley, were found both days working the dirt pile at the south end of the Eureka Mine and were very helpful again as well…..
…Phil showed me some white, almost crystal clear fluorite that he found down in central Kentucky at some older fluorite mines near the Kentucky River that were quite pretty. Like me, they make several trips to the Eureka Mine for the public digs and are great to sit and visit with as well. They found some nice material in the south side dig pile too.
By 4 pm, most of us were tired enough to come to our senses and stop digging for the day…I decided to drive back up to the museum and check in with the crew up there regarding the pump on Sunday morning and talked to Bill Frazer who gave me the go ahead to start the pump again Sunday. As I was driving back to the hotel, I passed the new fire station and saw that their trucks were inside this time so it was obvious they had dedicated it finally and moved in….
…what I wasnt aware of though, was the fact that they had a ladder truck in their fleet…having seen the old firestation, not much more than a small shed, I didnt figure they had anything like that….takes a pretty good sized building and bay area to house a custom made fire truck like that…ladder trucks are pretty good sized trucks and lengthy too….
..I stopped and took a few photos and then beat feet back to the hotel as I had told Steve and April I would meet them at the steakhouse for dinner by 6 pm. As it was, I was able to return in time and we had a great dinner at the Oasis SW Grill. A word of warning if you go there…watch out for their addictive hot rolls…just sayin…
Missy and I slept in a little later Sunday morning and still made it to the Eureka Mine at 7 am….
…and we no sooner crossed the creek bridge and turned left to start up to the mine when a big gobbler ran from the mine`s south side and turned to run up the mine road toward the Mary Belle Mine…it happened so fast, I couldnt get the lens on it quick enough to snap a photo.
I started the pump up again…the water level didnt seem as high this time…….
…and it pumped down pretty quickly…..I also found about ten gallons of water in the hole April and I had pulled clusters out of the day before, so I had to lay down and let my five gallon bucket fill and then get up and raise the bucket out of the hole and turn around to dump it…I decided to wash off the muddy bench and ledges with it and kill two birds with one stone.
The diggers started showing up about 8 am this time, led off by Chris and his dad David, and Chris started pounding those pockets out once again. Steve and April were going to check out the rock show again, so I did a little exploratory digging down on the saddle where Rex had stopped digging the day before. By the time they arrived about mid morning, I had pulled a few more clusters out of the side pockets that Rex had found on Saturday and let April take over and work it. Steve decided to work across the water pond from us and dig out the side vein going to the right, and April`s mom can be seen up the bank behind Steve….
Well it didnt take Chris long to get going Sunday morning…he started popping more pockets out right and left and was finding alot of fluorite with sphalerite and greenockite as seen here in his basket of goodies…
I was tracking his progress since I was working alongside him this morning….and he found some fantastic pockets along the edge of the bench he was still working on….here is one of the pockets up close that he found….
…but let me tell you, the attention quickly shifted Saturday mid morning to his dad David, who was continuing to work the corner next to him, especially when David hit a pocket of calcite dogtooth crystals on some plates. Here is the first small plate that he found up behind this huge boulder that required both him and Chris to muscle out of the way….
…..a small plate of half inch high orange dogtooth crystals that were absolutely beautiful to see, here up closer….
…I pulled my cellphone out and called Bill Frazer, and told him about it and he said he would return to check it out….here is the area that David was working in and found the pocket of calcite in…
….well a few minutes went by and David found yet another plate of calcite crystals…these looked like little orbs of calcite melted down on a bigger plate……seen here close up…..
…and a few minutes later, David started digging back further and it was starting to look like he was tunneling in now…
…and he found yet another small plate of calcite crystals….
…by this time, Bill Frazer had returned and came down to see the specimens himself…and after careful study of them, he stated what I was thinking the entire time….he had never seen anything like them and nothing like them had ever been found there….but very pretty looking.
And in the meantime, Chris started tapping out a few more big plates from pockets that he was finding in the bench….
..here he is tapping out a big chunk from the pocket below….
…and he reached down and pulled a small cluster out of that pocket down there, it was about to fall out into the water hole and then he would have had to put on scuba gear to find it….
…and here it is up close….
…so after setting this one down, he grabbed his small pry bar and started gently tugging this chunk out….
…and then carefully picked it up once loose….
…and turns with it in his hands and a big smile on his face…..
…and up close, showing heavy sphalerite and cubes above a wise seam of calcite….
…and here are a few more chunks with pockets of cubes in them…the one on the right is the one he let me take home because he didnt have room left in their truck for it…due to the many geodes from northeast Missouri….
…the one I took home has four pockets of fluorite cubes, one pocket of galena cubes and fluorite cubes, and there is greenockite all the way across it….
…and here is a pocket on one side of the other chunks that he took home with him….very pretty deep purple cubes inside it….
A few more kids showed up at the Eureka Mine on Sunday and I was able to provide them with some nice crystals to take home, left over from the day before. I was even able to provide some crystals to the parents as well. This was the first time I didnt have to take any of the give away crystals back home with me as well.
I had been planning to leave Sunday about noon and head home by way of Eminence, but received a call from my mom who was checking radar for me…the forecast the night before was for storms in the Eminence area on Sunday. I decided I really didnt want to drive over there if it was going to be 85 and storming, so I stayed til about 3 pm and then headed home. Steve and April headed to the rock show to shop a little more before heading to their home in Memphis. I stopped by the museum to change clothes and say goodbyes to all my friends there, and then headed home. I was one tired puppy and Missy was the only one refreshed, having sat in the ac for the past few hours. Luckily I had a few Arizona Green Tea cans with me for the trip home…they are about the only thing that keeps me awake and worked well….I crossed back over the bridges near Cairo and crossed back into Missouri….
…an amazing bridge with amazing structural steel support….
…and as I rolled west by Six Flags over Mid America, I spotted these neat looking sunbeams….
…and then later saw this beautiful sunset as I was getting ready to eat supper….