Cancer Claimed My Buddy Girl Missy

Many of you who know me and have gone rockhunting with me here locally, or on my travels out of state, know that my buddy girl Missy accompanied me for the past several years…she basically traveled with me everywhere except to work. She was the sweetest dog I have ever had, very loving and very protective as well,  a Border Collie for the most part with a little bit of Black Lab mixed in…..

14A Sittin Pretty

…and even those who I have not personally met, but who have followed this blog site, know of her from my stories with photos over the years. She was faithful and generally stayed by my side or close by when I was rockhunting at quarries and mines…..

10 Ever Attentive

10 Missy`s New Look

17 Missy Stretches Out Next to Me

Crider Quarry at Eminence Today

…I acquired her several years ago from the Humane Society`s local office and she and I became inseparable for the next sixteen years, she traveled with me on my vacation trips in the fall to Colorado and Arkansas, fire calls when I went to photograph the scenes for the local paper, shopping, sightseeing, and pretty much all of my rockhunting trips in and out of state as well.

Shortly after coming to live with me, she alerted me to smoke filling my home one night, before the smoke detector even sounded that was twenty feet closer to the smoke source…which turned out to be my old fridge compressor catching fire under the fridge and igniting the linoleum floor. I called the fire house and the guys came down to check it and found the source to be the fridge compressor. For a dog that didn`t bark much, she sure had a knack for it at the right times and had no problem alerting when someone was approaching the house or door to a motel room as well. She even chased some guys down the street after they tried to break into my Ford Explorer several years ago, parked under my carport…I never heard them but she sure did…needless to say, they never came back.

Missy began experiencing some problems with her mobility a few weeks ago and I took her to my local Vet to have her checked, figuring I would need to get her a cortizone shot for arthritis….however after checking her out and taking an xray as well, the news was much more grim than I ever expected. Dr Koch confirmed his suspicions with the xray and told me that she had a large tumor growth attached to her spleen…I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach and I just about broke down right then…luckily, he knew exactly how I felt…he has a Border Collie as well…and he gave her a shot and suggested that I take her home for doggy hospice care.

Missy Sittin Pretty 2010

 

I was relieved yet dreaded what was to come eventually….I watched her slide downhill the next two weeks…she took one more trip with me to pick up a huge crystal that I purchased from a collector nearby, but she eventually stopped eating even though my Mom and I were trying everything…the girls at Du Kum Inn were cooking her hamburger patties for us and she ate them for about the first week, we even tried canned dogfood cause it was softer for her, but she eventually just completely stopped eating everything and just continued to drink water all the time. Her mobility got worse, she was sliding on my wood floors all the time, so I put more rugs down to help her get around better and that helped her out alot.

After a couple of weeks tho, her breathing became more labored, to the point I worried that she would suffer a heart attack, and she got to the point that she could no longer get around much at all, I was carrying her up and down the few stairs…and I decided it was time to put her down…something that everyone can tell you that I did not want to do, but I could not bear to watch her get worse and struggle to breathe, so earlier this week on Tuesday, I took her to my Vet and had him put her down…it was a matter of time at any rate, her age was against her for surgery to remove it, and she had lived four years past the average lifespan of Border Collies, so I felt blessed to have had her for that long, even though I truly miss her to this day. My house is empty without her and mornings are the hardest time cause she was always waiting for me at the door when I came home from work, always as glad to see me as I was to see her. One of my dispatcher friends sent me a poem that relates to our pets as angels on loan to us….

Angels on Loan to Us

 

…and I truly look forward to the day I see her once again as spelled out in the Rainbow Bridge poem that my friend Peggy had sent me as well…

Rainbow-Bridge-Poem

…I truly appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers for Missy and I over the past few weeks and hope to find yet another sweet and loving companion pet again soon.

Machine Dig Eureka Mine May 2015

 For the past ten years, I have joined with a small group of rockhound friends from all over the country and performed a machine dig at the Eureka Fluorite Mine in western Kentucky…for a couple of reasons. Our main goal has always been to help the folks at the BE Clement Mineral Museum, by digging out the old mine pit, which provides safe digging opportunities for rockhounds  of all ages for the remainder of the warm season. By doing so, we remove alot of heavy silt and mud from many of the digging areas, mud that would require hours of hand digging to remove to even get close to the crystals…believe me, we have been there and have done the hand digging ourselves in the first couple of years before we even found out we could use a machine to remove it…we literally wore ourselves out but the rewards were well worth the efforts, too. There are some that would criticize us for what we did, call us opportunists and other things, and yet, given the chance, they would have done the same thing albeit for different reasons than ours.

It is becoming increasingly difficult each year to find places to go and collect rocks and minerals, a passion of mine since I was about eight years old, a passion shared by thousands of people worldwide. The folks who operate the mineral museum at Marion, Kentucky, share that same passion and have opened their hearts to thousands of rockhounds for the past ten years, sharing the passion as well as their making several old mines available to dig into to find buried treasures. Many of the mines in this area of western Kentucky date back to the 1800`s and early 1900`s and were originally operated and mined for zinc and silver, then fluorite later on. The Eureka Mine has always been known for beautiful deep purple and yellow fluorite cubes, occasionally a rockhound will find small lead cubes and sphalerite attached to them as well as smithsonite in a beach sand color, and we have found pockets of greenockite as well. Several years ago, the board members of the Clement Mineral Museum decided to make some of the old mines in the area, available to rockhounds on certain dates each year…that expanded to one public dig per month from April to October and an annual gem show and dig the first weekend of June. Their efforts paid off and thousands of rockhounds in the past ten to fifteen years have greatly benefitted from it…it has become one of my favorite places to visit a few times a year. My group normally performs a machine dig early in the springtime, however this year we were not able to locate a trackhoe operator that was available to work with, so we had to wait until one became available, and that was last weekend. 

After driving down and scouting the exploratory digs performed in April, I checked with my group to see if anyone was interested in a machine dig for May this year, after Bill told me that he could find us a trackhoe operator to work with. Several in my group had begun contacting me back in January and February, indicating that they were interested in traveling to the Eureka Mine again to look for fluorite and asked if I would be interested as well…I definitely was and so I set about finding out who was still on board with the idea. It turned out that several were going to be unavailable the first weekend in May, so I had to recruit a few new guys to join me…Alan Schaeffer is a good friend from the Memphis Club MAGS that I am also a part of, and had indicated to me on my way home from my spring trip in Arkansas, that he would love to join me on my next dig there, so I naturally let him know about it and he said yes. Jeff Deere, one of my good rockhunting friends from northern Georgia, also was on board but was tied up that weekend so he found a great replacement in Mark Bishop, and soon there were three of us…Alan found another guy to join us, MAGS member Marc Mueller, and we were set. I let Bill Frazer know that the four of us would be down there ready to go Saturday morning.

I again drove down there after my shift ended at work early Friday morning, and arrived around noon at the museum. I visited with Tina and Sherry for about an hour and then drove out to make sure I had the right key to the gate…and even though the gate was wide open, it turned out my key wouldn`t open the lock, so I returned to the museum and found board member Russ there…Russ also works full time in geology related work and accompanied me back to the gate to resolve the lock issues. We drove on down to the mine to make sure no one was down there trespassing and looked around a bit…passing the trackhoe parked on top of the hill….

08 Trackhoe Using On Saturday

….they had a torrential rain shower a few days before and there were cubes and hints of purple laying all over the tailing piles and the bench, as well as pieces of fluorite left by the group there in April…some nice stuff even, which greatly surprised me, but as Russ said, they must have found some really super nice stuff if they left this material behind. Needless to say, I was even more ready and rarin to go the next morning.

As I drove over to the hotel at Kuttawa, I passed through some beautiful flower fields at Fredonia….

05 Flowers As Far As One Can See

02 Flower Fields Near Fredonia KY

03 Flowers Near Fredonia

…I had never seen these flowers down there before, having never been there before in May, so they were quite a sight to see and a local young man there told me they were ground up for canola oil, so most folks called them canola flowers he said. 

04 Flowers Up Closer

I drove on over to the Days Inn and got checked in and then took a nice nap….woke up in time to have supper with Alan when he arrived and checked in. Marc arrived from Memphis soon after and we walked next door to the Oasis Southwest Grill and Steakhouse, one of the best steakhouses in the country in my humble opinion. I eat there all the time, food is absolutely great and the service isn`t bad either.  Steve, the General Manager there, is one of those guys that truly cares about the quality of food and your dining experience, he moves around the huge dining areas and checks on everyone…and if something is wrong, he does his best to fix it. Alan found that out that night….I ordered my usual, one inch thick grilled pork chops with a bbq glaise on top…he ordered the eight ounce filet mignon medium rare…as soon as he cut into it, he knew it wasn`t right, overcooked…so they took it back and left him with his veggies. He soon had consumed the veggies and they were nice enough to bring more with the new steak, which now was undercooked…this time Steve came over to check with him, offered him another steak cooked right this time…they left him with the undercooked one, and said they would be back in eight minutes with yet another steak…I know how he felt, been there myself before and he was hungry, so he wound up eating both the undercooked one and then the properly cooked one, and got two steaks for the price of one. My chops, as usual, were cooked to perfection. Marc had appetizers, having ate before he left home. We all retired early in anticipation of the dig the next day, Marc camped out on the lake nearby. 

I was up early Saturday morning, expecting Mark Bishop to arrive around 6:30, as he decided to leave Georgia about 3 am and drive up thru Nashville…and as it was, he arrived about 30 min early and we were able to have a short breakfast there at the hotel, Marc joining us soon after. After a short stop at the donut shop in Eddyville, we were headed to the mine to meet up with Bill Frazer, who arrived there just ahead of us and unlocked the gate. We visited with Bill for a few minutes and then heard the trackhoe fire up on top of the hill…while waiting for the trackhoe operator to walk it down the hill, I took some photos of the new pit area as the guys walked around surface collecting….

09 Before Photo of New Bench

 

11 Waiting For Trackhoe

12 Mark Checking Out Tailings

 

13 Mark Checks Bench

 

Pretty soon, we heard the trackhoe come walking down the hill…Bill had told me the operator would have to veer off the road into the field on the other side and cross the creek at a pasture crossing, so I walked over and opened the gate for him….

16 Trackhoe Crossing Creek

17 Crossing Hurricane Creek

 

19 Danny Drives Trackhoe Across Field

…and then walked it over to the mine where he stopped and introduced himself as Danny, said he was looking for Mr. Johnson, lol….

21 Walking It Up To the Mine

…we lined out digging plans out for him and he got started right away…first order of business was to try and retrieve the pump hoseline that was mired in the mud, for the museum, who had been unable to remove it by manpower….

22 Cleaning Out the Bench

..and as soon as he got that completed, we had him work on the new pit area, removing some mud and cleaning it out in general to make it easier on us as well as any other diggers to find more crystals…the next three photos were taken by Mark Bishop and shows Danny digging into the new pit area….

30 I Point Out Poss Pocket to Alan

 

…while I point out the fault area fluorite at the base of the bench to Alan…

31 Showing Alan the Vein and Fault

32 Cleaning Out the New Bench

..pretty soon it was apparent to us that we needed Danny to turn over the bench so we could see if there were any better material underneath….first photo by Mark Bishop….

35 Working Hard to Find Plates

 

25 Bench Area Dug Out

…we then checked the bench area for cubes while Danny did some work with the tailing piles behind us. I then had him dig into the tailings on the north end of the pit and stir them up a bit for future collectors too….

23 Filling In Old Tunnel

 

 

…he then walked it back over to the south side and cleaned out the bench pit wall on the road side for us….

27 Danny Cleans Out Bench Bank Wall

…there was a mudhole down there that turned out to be extremely deeper in mud than what we thought, at least on the wall side, while on the bench side it was maybe ten inches deep at most….you can see it in the light colored muddy spot in the photo below….

25 Bench Area Dug Out

..and here Danny is removing about four feet of mud from that one little spot alone….photo by Mark Bishop….

36 Danny Digs Out Mudhole

 

…as the guys were digging into the overturned bench area and pulling some nice cubes out…I walked up the road with Danny and the trackhoe and had him make an exploratory cut across the other area across the road….

28 Danny Walks Trackhoe Up Old Road

29 Site Clean up Work

..during this cut, he came across some massive orange colored fluorite, there were no cubes at all, just massive spar, but it sure was pretty. Danny lowered me down in the bucket once again…I have to say it was smoother than any elevator ride I have ever been on and I felt completely safe too…I pulled some pieces of it out of the wall and we found some in the tailings above too. Afterwards, I had him stir up some of the old exploratory piles laying around the forest floor near the logging road, and then we paid him and thanked him for his immense help to us.

We divided up our finds and Mark Bishop headed home to Georgia….while Alan and Marc and I continued to dig around and find some good material before wearing out about an hour later.  After another great dinner at Oasis, Marc headed home to Memphis, and Alan and I stayed over and then Alan headed home in the morning and I drove over to Eminence to check out the quarry there…check out my next story on that part of the trip….I pulled out the biggest poker chip cluster I have ever found there. 🙂

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

Eureka Mine Scouting Trip April 2015

 For the past ten years, I have joined with a small group of rockhound friends from all over the country and performed a machine dig at the Eureka Fluorite Mine in western Kentucky…for a couple of reasons. Our main goal has always been to help the folks at the BE Clement Mineral Museum, by digging out the old mine pit, which provides safe digging opportunities for rockhounds  of all ages for the remainder of the warm season. By doing so, we remove alot of heavy silt and mud from many of the digging areas, mud that would require hours of hand digging to remove to even get close to the crystals…believe me, we have been there and have done the hand digging ourselves in the first couple of years before we even found out we could use a machine to remove it…we literally wore ourselves out but the rewards were well worth the efforts, too. There are some that would criticize us for what we did, call us opportunists and other things, and yet, given the chance, they would have done the same thing albeit for different reasons than ours.

It is becoming increasingly difficult each year to find places to go and collect rocks and minerals, a passion of mine since I was about eight years old, a passion shared by thousands of people worldwide. The folks who operate the mineral museum at Marion, Kentucky, share that same passion and have opened their hearts to thousands of rockhounds for the past ten years, sharing the passion as well as their making several old mines available to dig into to find buried treasures. Many of the mines in this area of western Kentucky date back to the 1800`s and early 1900`s and were originally operated and mined for zinc and silver, then fluorite later on. The Eureka Mine has always been known for beautiful deep purple and yellow fluorite cubes, occasionally a rockhound will find small lead cubes and sphalerite attached to them as well as smithsonite in a beach sand color, and we have found pockets of greenockite as well. Several years ago, the board members of the Clement Mineral Museum decided to make some of the old mines in the area, available to rockhounds on certain dates each year…that expanded to one public dig per month from April to October and an annual gem show and dig the first weekend of June. Their efforts paid off and thousands of rockhounds in the past ten to fifteen years have greatly benefitted from it…it has become one of my favorite places to visit a few times a year. My group normally performs a machine dig early in the springtime, however this year we were not able to locate a trackhoe operator that was available to work with, so we had to wait until one became available, and that was last weekend. The board of directors had performed some exploratory digging in early April one day and I was invited by Bill Frazer to come down and scout it out soon after.

I drove down the day before their first scheduled open dig in April, leaving work on Friday morning at sunrise….

01 Sunrise Friday Morning STL

….and boy what a beautiful sunrise it was…..

03 Sunrise Friday Morning STL

 

….arriving in Marion by noon. After visiting with Tina and Sherry at the museum, and taking them some goodies to sell in their museum gift shop to further help them in their efforts, I went with Bill out to the mine to see what they had already dug out…finding that Bill had dug into the older pit area on the south side and over to the old logging road. They had made an exploratory trench cut in October of 2014 and a large vug of beautiful fluorite plates were discovered in the bottom of that cut at the very back wall of it….

Trench Cut Toward Road

…..so this dig expanded upon that effort to locate even more purple, as Bill stated to me. He had the operator stop digging as soon as they started seeing purple….here is how it looked when I scouted it in early April….

04 New Dig Area Foreground

…and found some pockets of purple fluorite all over the place in the new pit area, most of it centered around this bench left in the middle….

10 Fluorite Pocket

…none of that was really spectacular looking, but did indicate that there was some good stuff to be found in that general area, it was down at the vein or fault level, which is where we have found it in years past. There were also several old bottles found during this dig in October, like this snuff bottle I located in the tailing piles…

13 Snuff Bottle Found

…and on up the old logging road that runs along the mine, Bill had some exploratory digging done, looking for the fault that runs alongside the logging road, as indicated on the old maps…..

15 Dig Area Across Road

….and where I found a small plate of nice cubes that morning….

20 Small Plate of Nice Cubes

…there were some other cubes laying around in that same area, again giving me good indicators that more could be found there. I walked back down to the new pit area….

25A  From Up The Road

 

…and climbed down into the pit area to do some looking around…finding a few pockets of cubes and digging out a couple of basketball sized chunks with some cubes on them as well….

29 Fluorite Chunk

…I decided to stick around and see if I could help the rockhounds the next morning at the open dig. I arrived at the museum about 8 am and visited with Tina again, who told me that Bill was tied up with some work and asked if I could provide the group with a safety talk and then lead them out to the mine…we stepped outside and I gave them some history on the mine and then they followed me through town and out to the mine. After I pointed out some good areas to check out, based on what I had observed the day before, they scattered out and began digging….

35 Sat Diggers

36 First Open Dig

…and this group went up the road to the other spot where I found the plate of cubes the day before….

40A  Other Dig Area

 

….I was up there when a gal pulled out a huge plate of cubes after digging down two feet into the pile to liberate it….let me tell you she went home one happy camper….I walked back down to the new pit area and found this group on break…

44 Break Time

I left there about 1 pm that day and headed home and heard later in the week from Tina that they had found some nice stuff after I left…the young couple in the photo above were sitting in a prime spot and should have pulled out some nice plates. The couple across in front of them, were from the St Louis area, not far from where I work even, and the guy by the green bucket is from Effingham and on the volunteer fire department there…there was a family from Ohio that liked to go flint hunting too.