My vacation end of June could not arrive fast enough, once again, same feeling I had end of April when my spring vacation approached. My full time job is very stressful much of the time, but things beyond my control, have increased my stress this year over years past. I get another break in August, but it will be shorter, due to even more circumstances beyond my control, code for problems and events in the past few years that prevent some of us from taking additional time off from work. A year ago mid June, I lost my Dad to a massive heart attack, and this year, on the anniversary of that very day he collapsed in the yard, Mom began having problems that prompted a trip to the emergency room of our local MOBAP hospital. Luckily for us, Dr Draper was on duty that evening…he was the attending physician the evening that Dad collapsed and we really liked his bedside manner and attitude…too many times these days, you rarely find a good physician on duty, one you can understand and one that understands you, emergency rooms are often a training ground for new doctors. Last year we found out that Dr Draper is a keeper, with thirty five years of experience, we were delighted to find out that not only did MOBAP keep him on staff, they also promoted him to Chief of Staff in the ER here. Mom had shortness of breath and the evaluating nurse quickly whisked her inside to a room right away and began trying to get to the bottom of it. From the get go, Dr Draper figured it was either pneumonia or congestive heart failure and xrays eventually confirmed it was pneumonia after she was admitted later that evening to the intensive care unit of the hospital. She was hospitalized for a week and then released on the one year anniversary of the day we laid my Dad to rest, scarey timing for my sister and I for a few days there. Later it was determined that Mom had one of the bad pneumonia`s and told it would take at least four weeks before she could go outside, which was fine with her as she barely had the strength to walk up and down the hallway at home. She has had home health care nurses taking care of her daily and they released her today due to the progress she has made with her daily exercises and she can now go outside and attend to her flowers once again as well as go to church services and eat out once again.
I was able to take my vacation and go quartz crystal hunting in Arkansas once again after receiving her blessings, aided by good neighbors checking on her often and my sister staying in touch and visiting her often as well. Onyx and I took off by 7 am on Thursday the 29th and took the shorter route, south on Hwy 63 to Hwy 67 to 440 around Little Rock and then I-30 southwest to Hwy 70 west into Hot Springs. When I was down there in May, I learned that Arkansas highway crews were expanding 70 between Hot Springs and I-30 and had made much progress since we were there then. This time as we entered from the east end, it was obvious that traffic would soon be traveling on four lanes at least ten miles in toward Hot Springs before running into active construction work. Crews were building a few bridges in the middle of the construction area and that was slowing down the progress, but I am sure that by the time we return in November, it should be four lanes of traffic moving thru there. We had to come to a stop a few times thru there for large dumptrucks turning in and out of specific areas, giving me a chance to look at roadcuts looking for quartz veins…while I didn`t see anything in the shale cuts, after mentioning that to Robert Kuhn later on, he told me that is how quartz is often discovered in that area. By the time we arrived at the condo early afternoon Thursday….
….it was already getting very warm outside. I noticed this time, there were no bugs flying all around the doorway and the flowers were in bloom and quite pretty, including all the crepe myrtles at every condo building…
I quickly unpacked the truck and moved everything inside the condo, where I discovered soon after, that my laptop had bit the dust and would not even power up, so I made a trip to Walmart to get a new universal power cord for it, but even that didn`t work, so after a subsequent trip to Walmart to return the cord and replace the laptop with a tablet, I was back in business for email and internet browsing. I soon discovered tho, that I would not be able to load up any of my photos as this was more of a chrome book, not a true tablet. Needless to say, it was replaced as soon as I returned home.
Chuck and his family were set to come down and join me on Saturday evening, so I had contacted Tony to see if we could hunt and dig at his mine on Sunday and Monday, instead of our normal Friday and Saturday. I planned to visit friends and mineral dealers the first couple of days, starting with Johnny B on Friday morning and then checking on Fisher Mtn Mine once again, which is under the control of Judy`s Crystal Shop these days. I ate a couple of bananas on the way down there and by 2 pm, I was good and hungry, so Onyx and I drove over to the south side of Lake Hamilton, to get some fried catfish and jumbo shrimp at Bubba`s trailer…he was a little busy when we arrived but the wait is always worth it, as well as the price. I checked in with Mom by phone to let her know we made it down safe and sound and then went to Scoops to get a few quarts of home made ice cream for the next few days of dessert, then settled in to make some contacts and set up some visits for the next two days. That evening we enjoyed a nice sunset….
The next morning we were up early preparing to head up to Mt Ida to visit with Johnny, when I spotted radar indicating some strong storms quickly heading our way from Fort Smith, so as I started to let Johnny know by email about it, I noticed he had already emailed to let me know of the storm activity. I told him I really had no desire to be on the road between here and there in a bad storm, so we decided to postpone to Saturday morning instead. I decided to go over to Roberts house and visit for a short while, before the storms arrived…as Onyx and I headed to the truck, we noticed some fishing activity going on not far west of the condos….
Robert had cleaned up his property quite a bit since we were there in May..it was very weedy and grown up in brush in the area that he had several quartz clusters laying on the ground back then…but wow, what a difference this time around. He had done some extensive weed eating and brush removal, I could clearly see all the clusters this time around and he had separated damaged crystals that he gives away to a local charity, from the good stuff. Unfortunately, he had also discovered an unwanted visitor on his property…a thief no less, who came into the quartz areas and helped himself to some very nice select quality items, so he was trying to secure some of those areas to prevent it from happening again. I did not blame him a bit for being upset about it and made a few suggestions of locks and cords big and strong enough that they could not be cut open or compromised. I was glad that the thief did not get the small clusters that he had from Hogjaw Mtn Mine that I wanted to buy and told him I would return in a day or two to make my selections. Onyx and I drove down to Bubba`s to get some more food and then returned to the condo ahead of the approaching storms…
…boats were still out on the lake that morning, but were beginning to thin out and head for safety, as the drivers noticed the darkening skies…
…it took a couple of hours, but that storm finally rolled in and across the lake…not near as intense as the forecasters warned it would be…about the only thing I did accomplish that first day was a good visit with Robert and finding out the weather forecasters down there are the same as the ones in St Louis as far as sensationalizing the weather with very little truth to the matter. Often wish I had that type of job…be wrong 98 percent of the time and still keep my job, not to mention making two to three hundred thousand a year. We did manage to have a nice sunset that evening tho….
The next morning, after a good nights rest, Onyx and I drove up to visit with Johnny B, arriving about 8 am on his advice of getting there during the cool of the day. I have to admit it was a little cooler than the heat of the day, but the humidity sure did not make you think it was very cool that time of the morning. We found Johnny washing off some crystals he had been cleaning in Iron Out as well as muriatic acid…John uses small dumpsters as acid vats…
…and then he took me on a pallet by pallet tour of his property, including the pallets of huge crystal covered boulders in his front yard, which you see as you come down his driveway.
This is the first pallet I spotted as I walked up his driveway to his dealer area tho…the color of the crystals is what caught my eye first, then the size of the crystals, and then the size of the boulders, the first two options far more important than the third one…
…now if that does not grab your attention, nothing will in my humble opinion…just beautiful quartz crystals there…and I am a big fan of the yellow and orange color staining on the crystals…it really makes them stand out and grab your attention !! This by far, was not the only pallet of beautiful crystals that he had on hand that week, he was getting ready for a few mineral shows, one this weekend out in North Carolina and another one next week, so he was doing some major cleaning of crystals to take out there with him. I will show you the highlights of what I saw there…
the ones above were new, from Collier Creek Mine, and the two below from there as well, showed some interesting formations of crystals, kind of like clusters of flowers, on a sandstone druse…very pretty and he gave me a good price on them..wish now I had purchased at least one from him…
If you are interested in any of these, I can put you in touch with him, he is easy to deal with on pricing and he has some gorgeous stuff…he also has some that would require a small crane to lift and place in your truck bed, which he can accommodate you with as well. He also had some clusters from Sweet Surrender Mine, if you are interested in what they look like when they come out of the ground…covered in a heavy coating of magnesium….
…they can be cleaned up and the magnesium removed if you have plenty of patience as John does, and plenty of acid as well….to look like this eventually….
…and here are some photos of what I purchased from John during my visit there…some green enhanced Dragon quartz from China….
…this HUGE flatsie as John referred to it…at least 22 inches across and 18 inches wide….
…and this unusually shaped cluster of crystals….
By noon, I was on my way back to the condo, stopping off in Mt Ida at the Phillips 66 station to fill my gas tank…both of the Phillips 66 stations have been bought out by Valero…then I stopped off at Judy`s Crystal Shop and briefly visited with Judy on the state of the lease she has for the Fisher Mtn Mine, in case we needed a place to hunt at on Tuesday. Judy was doing much better than the last time I saw her, when Ray Roth and I hunted there a few years back one afternoon…that was shortly after she suffered a stroke and was on crutches then…she looked much better and was now using a walker for long jaunts she said. Her husband Ray McGrew is back in the welding shop and still making the Gad-Pry bars, the ones with a point on one end, great for quartz crystal digging in the rock walls, and still does some major digging with his machines too.
After a nice chat with Judy, we headed on down to the condo to get ready for the fireworks display later that night. I wasn`t sure what time the parking lot would start filling up at the condo, so I didn`t take a chance and go grab some chow. Last year when we returned to the condo from digging all day, I had a hard time finding a parking spot mainly because of so many guests parking in the spots of renters, instead of up on the hill above where they were supposed to park at. This year, it didn`t get that bad. Soon after Chuck and his family arrived, I ordered a pizza and then set up my tripod and camera to get ready to shoot the fireworks display…in the meantime, it was boat city out on the lake behind the condo that afternoon…
…and I was surprised to see the US Coast Guard was on the lake as well as local law enforcement….
…and there was also another thunderstorm system headed our way, so I decided to stay put at the condo and see what happened…it looked as though it might even clip us and stay somewhat south of us once again, but over the course of the afternoon, more clouds began to build up and approach from the southwest…
…and there were so many boats out there going in multiple directions that even the ducks and geese were swimming over near my condo unit for protection….
…and by 6 pm, the Belle of Hot Springs started out across Lake Hamilton on their normal sunset tour….
…the clouds continued to stream in and build up, and boat traffic seemed to only increase as well….
…by about 6:30 pm, this huge dark cloud covered much of the lake and every boat operator out there headed for safety….this storm dropped a little rain and created some high winds briefly, causing a few tense seconds….Chuck arrived in the area and I texted to let him know of the storm blowing in…they rode it out inside Walmart shopping. Soon enough the storm just blew on over and continued to the east….
…and about an hour later, as the storm blew on by to the south, this boat and crew grabbed the first parking spot out on the lake, waiting for the display to start….
…and by 8:30 pm, even more boats were gathering on the lake behind the condo…keep in mind, this is on the west side of the Hwy 7/Central Ave bridge and there are just as many or more on the east side of the bridge, all filled with people, meaning there were several thousand folks in boats on the lake watching the show, not to mention folks like me on condo and hotel balconies, backyards and docks along the water of this huge lake, from one end to the other…mind boggling for sure….and once the show starts, the bridge over the lake becomes a parking lot….as it got darker, more and more boats took up position….
…and then several private fireworks shows started popping up all over the lake, on both sides, some even to the side of us….
…and the next thing you knew, it was pretty dark and we were just waiting on the release of the first burst….which began about ten minutes later…..
…I didn`t find out til the next day….but shortly after the fireworks display, there was a huge structure fire two miles west, where four rental homes burned to the ground, right on the lakeshore next to Airport Road and seven fire departments responded to the blaze. It started from a gas leak in a jeep ignited by a roman candle, the jeep under a carport attached to one of the homes, spreading to three other homes, at the Kleinshore Properties. Luckily there was no loss of life and kudos to the fire departments that fought the blaze, keeping it from spreading to the remainder of the homes there.
Early the next morning, Onyx and I met up with Chuck and his wife Lynn and daughter Mackenzie, and her friend Faith, who I had met at the Park Hills Show when she came down there with them, at the Valero Station on Higdon Ferry Road and headed west as soon as I filled my cooler with some ice. We stopped off on the way to Mt Ida at Burls Country Smokehouse, located on Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, to get some sandwiches for lunchtime, and got a sandwich for Tony as well, then headed west once again. We arrived around 8:45 am and met Tony at the lower mine entrance, paid him our dig fees and talked to him a bit about his new mine, then set about getting our digging clothes and boots on, grabbed our tools and bags, and walked up to the back wall of the mine….
On the way up there to the wall, I told Chuck to take the wall pocket, cause I really wanted to look around down below in the pit and around it for some yard rocks, and then wanted to go up above and do some surface collecting, especially since Tony was able to turn some piles over for us up above. He and Lynn, for her first time even, started working the huge vein pocket in the back wall and removing plates of large crystals….
…..while I poked around about forty feet below them and found some nice plates on boulders, which I was able to chip off and wrap up. I did also spot some nice yard rocks, but they were buried under a pile of other boulders, so I figured I would wait til the fall to get them. Here is one of the plates I chipped off….
….and here is the pocket in the wall that Chuck was working on to remove the plates from….John had worked this wall pocket back in May and left several intact plates and crystals in there…
After a few hours, I decided to drive on up to the top and do some surface collecting. Onyx rode up with me…I parked near Tony`s trackhoe and opened the tailgate and got my sandwiches out…one for Onyx and one for me…smoked ham on white bread with mayonnaise…
Right after Onyx and I finished our lunch…and no he isnt spoiled…much….yes he had his own smoked ham sandwich, double meat same as mine…and yes I got him a sausage and egg biscuit before we met up with Chuck`s crew that morning…but that was because I forgot to bring some milkbone crackers with me for him to snack on thru the day…so if you must judge, then yes, I am guilty as charged. 🙂
I started surface collecting around where I parked first, found five or six nice crystal points and a small cluster right off the bat, literally right where I put my feet down getting out of the truck up there, and then we started over toward the trackhoe where Tony had stirred the piles up…..
…you cant see it in the photo above, but there are piles of fresh dirt on the right side where Tony stirred up the tailings there and it was a crystal bonanza over there, crystals laying everywhere…as PJ said back in May when she first walked up there from the lower mine that morning…” it was like Disneyland up there ” !! and then I moved over to the left under that hydraulic arm of the trackhoe when I spotted several small clusters laying everywhere over there…and then as I was bending down to pick up one, I got stung right above my left eye on my forehead…I raised up and looked to my right and there was a swarm of four or five red wasps…it felt like he got me in a glancing blow, maybe a sideways hit , def not a full force sting as I have experienced in the past, but I knew I had been hit and had to get out of there quickly….you see, I am one of the fortunate few thousand that is allergic to bee, wasp, hornet, and yellowjacket stings, and I have to either seek medical help right away, or get a shot of adrenaline right away, within a certain time frame of mere minutes, not hours. I had my eppy kit with me, in the truck, so I grabbed my crystals, my tools, my gloves, and ran to the truck…I looked back when reaching the truck and was relieved to see that the swarm of wasps did not follow me…yellowjackets and hornets would have done that…I got Onyx into the truck and then I climbed in as well, got turned around and then got out of there and down the hill to the lower mine again. I let Chuck and Lynn know that I had been stung and was going to inject myself with my eppy shot…Chuck let me know that Lynn was cross trained in giving those shots at school where she teaches and could give me the shot, and so I let her give me the shot instead.
Believe me, if I had to do so myself I could, have never been afraid of needles, was a human pin cushion for many years growing up with allergies, receiving a shot once a week for about fifteen years, and these kit companies make giving these shots to yourself a picnic these days…the needle is retracted to make it safer, and long enough to go thru jeans or other clothing, all you have to do with a shot of adrenalin is get it under the skin, more effective to do that then try to find a vein according to Dr Crawford, who was my family doctor way back when I found out I was allergic..he said back then get it under the skin and it will go straight to your heart faster than getting it into the bloodstream. These kit shots are only about half strength of the type of shot you would get at a hospital tho, but it was effective and slower moving it seemed like. I remember taking shots in the past in Dr Crawfords office one day, after being stung by several yellowjackets while mowing a yard, and I was standing in the hallway of his office when the nurse gave me the shot…it moves quickly to your heart and in such a rush that it knocks you on your butt if you arent sitting down…and you cannot do anything but rest for quite a while after taking a shot like that. Lynn did a good job giving me the shot, you have to punch it thru the jeans and then push and hold the button at the top of the shot for ten seconds, giving the liquid time to go into your leg under the skin…she gave me about eleven seconds and I could feel it accelerating my heartbeat after about ten minutes, so I knew then it was working. I decided to take a full strength Allegra tablet as well, just for an extra insurance boost…little did I know then, that by doing so, I had probably done far more good for myself.
We decided to stop digging for the day and head back to the condos, we had some good stuff by then and Chuck had liberated some nice plates from the wall pocket and was happy with what he had accomplished that day. Lynn needed to take the girls to another location, so she drove Chucks truck out and Chuck rode with me. I decided to stop by the ambulance shed in Mt Ida on the way back, to make sure I was okay, as it is another 30 min drive on down to the hospital at Hot Springs. I called the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office and spoke to a dispatcher who gave me directions to the shed, and once there, talked to one of the paramedics who told me that I had done the right thing and would likely be just fine. We then drove on back to Hot Springs…my buddy Justin Baird called me as we were pulling up to the ambulance shed, and I called him back once we were on the road again…making arrangements to meet him at his apartment to see what crystals he had for sale, as he was moving to a new house he was buying, and in the process of moving everything over to it. We pulled into his apartment right ahead of him about 20 minutes later and checked out what he had not packed up yet…I wound up purchasing some of his collections and then we headed back to the condos to clean up before heading to Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper.
Tony had given us a key to the gate for the next morning, so we decided to go up there a lot earlier and get a jump on the heat…however, a line of storms hit the area about 5 am and lingered on for a few hours, delaying our departure time to about 9 am….it was just Chuck and me today, so he rode up with me to leave his truck for Lynn and the girls to go shopping in. We arrived about 10 am and started at the top of the hill….this time I stuck a can of raid wasp and bee killer spray in my apron just in case…and I should point out here, that Robert had told me that wasps liked to nest in those machines when they sit around unused for long periods of time, so it was my fault for not being more aware of my surroundings the day before…I should have been more prepared and more aware of where I was and what I was doing. Had I been armed with a can the day before, I still might have been stung, but as John Wayne used to say, ” you might get me, but I`ll take a heck of a lot of you with me before I hit the ground “. Chuck and I both skirted around the machine and kept our distance and we were still able to check out the area that Tony had stirred up, we walked on up, around, and behind the trackhoe and then Chuck wandered over to the old walls to see if he could chip off some more plates.
Onyx and I discovered some plates hanging around a wall of sandstone behind the machine about fifty feet and I chipped a few of them off and then wandered over to where Chuck was at…as I passed thru some small pine trees and brush, I got zapped by something unseen, on the right side of my neck and my right index finger thru my glove no less, at the same time…I continued walking over to Chucks location and waited to see if any swelling occurred in either area, but after five minutes of nothing happening, I dismissed it and continued on. I had another eppy shot with me but was mildly relieved I would not have to use it.
We drove back down to the lower mine so Chuck could finish up the wall pocket while I surface collected the huge tailing pile there. Onyx opted to remain in the ac of the truck, keeping things cool for us when we returned about 90 minutes later. Up on the pile I found a few nice single points and then pulled a medium sized cluster out, and behind it a nice one sided yard rock that was a bit bigger than a loaf of bread…within that area, I started digging and pulled out some smaller clusters and points that were nice too. Chuck joined me up on the pile and we searched another 30 minutes and then decided to call it a day at 2 pm. After locking the gate behind us, we headed back to the condo to get cleaned up and then drove over to Roberts house to get some flats of crystals. We had a great time visiting with him, and I purchased three flats of small clusters from him, that he had dug at the Hogjaw Mountain Mine, similar to the beautiful golden healer clusters I had purchased from him on my trip down there in May.
Afterward, Chuck and his crew headed over to a Mexican Restaurant on the south side of the lake and I headed to the Outback Restaurant where my buddy Jake was working that night. I decided to have the filet steak there with a lobster tail this time around, ordered my steak cooked medium as I always do…I had to wait awhile to get Jake as my waiter that evening, this place was rockin` and busy as could be, standing room only at the door, but getting a good waiter like Jake is very important at places like this, because he is the type of waiter that takes very good care of his customers. About 20 minutes later, he brought me my plate and sat down across from me in the booth, asked me to check my steak…it looked like a piece of leather and trying to cut it with a knife confirmed it was way over cooked..he thought so too and took only the steak back, leaving me with the lobster tail, baked potato, and broccoli to eat, stopping to tell his new manager about it…I didn`t hear what she told him but ten minutes later he reappeared with another plate…and on the plate was a very thick medium cooked steak that was easy to cut thru and delicious as well, and in addition to that steak was another baked potato, more broccoli and another lobster tail !! So I had two great lobster tails, two great baked potatoes, two great plates of broccoli, and one very delicious filet steak for supper that evening…and to top it all off, his new manager let me have the entire dinner at no cost whatsoever !! I did leave a nice tip for my waiter tho. 🙂
The next morning Onyx and I were up at the crack of dawn for some reason, and Chuck and his crew headed home shortly after. I actually thought about leaving by mid morning, but some friends that had been unable to get down there earlier in the week, let me know they could come down early afternoon to visit, so we decided to stick around afterall…besides I had paid for the condo til Wednesday so might as well stick around and rest up. That evening the weather forecast had me kind of thinking maybe I should have left at some point that day, forecast calling for storms and showers the next morning. I had a good supper with one of my friends at Outback again, this time I had one of their great hamburgers with a baked potato and broccoli, and Jake as our waiter again. After another pretty sunset, this one showing the Belle of Hot Springs crossing the lake on its sunset tour, Onyx and I headed to bed after the news…..\
The next morning was forecast for storms beginning about 7 am, so I figured Onyx and I would get on the road home by 5:30 to 6 am and get out ahead of it on the short route home…however, Mother Nature had other plans in mind and began storming about 4 am, so we slept in a bit and got on the road about 7 am headed home via the long route…we ran out of the rain about Y City and then hit spotty short showers the rest of the way home, arriving home about 4 pm, no rain east of Rolla. I made a phone call to check on some smokey quartz clusters for sale in the Fayetteville area that I had been told were Arkansas smokeys, but when the guy finally called me back, I was near the state line and he told me that no, in fact they were Brazilian smokey quartz clusters, quite pretty, and prob less pricey if they had been Arkansas quartz.
I visited my pharmacist the next day and discovered that the eppy kit I had in my truck and had used on Sunday afternoon, had expired two years ago…I had purchased it in 2014 and it was only good for one year, she said. I was like holie cow, I thought those were good for a few years…but she said the kits these days are only good for a year, but it was nice to know that it had worked and she said I made a good decision to back it up with an Allegra and could have taken a second Allegra the next day and it would have sealed the deal even better. I ordered a new kit and decided from now on, will make that an annual order on my birthday as a present to myself, can prob remember it better that way. All in all tho, it was a great trip once again and much needed rest and relaxation too.
I received some good news from Tony and Robert about the November trip and will share that with my core group members soon.
You can contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions or thoughts.