Five days after visiting with Ian at MFQ on his way home from New York state, I was picking him up at Lambert International Airport in St Louis. I worked the night before and caught a few hours sleep Friday morning, then drove down to pick him up…his plane got in earlier than it was scheduled to, so he had to wait on me an extra 20 minutes…then we headed east and south to Marion, Kentucky, for my second machine dig this year. My buddy Pete Stoeckel, from near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, drove down to join and dig with us in search of a fluorite vein at the Eureka Mine. Our intent, as always, was to help the Clement Mineral Museum staff and board of directors, locate additional digging locations that provide opportunities for rockhounds who come to dig there each month. We had performed some preliminary digging there in May and wanted to expand upon that and see what more we could locate along a vein we uncovered back then…that had been machine dig part one and this was machine dig, part two. In May, five of us split up the cost of the trackhoe, and this time there would be four of us, one absent member who was injured a few days before but donated to our cause to make it easier on us. We stopped in Paducah for fuel at the Pilot Truck Stop and I noticed to the south of the city, in the direction we were proceeding, it looked like rain…so far we had not encountered any on our trip……
I called Tina as soon as we got back on I-24 and headed that way, and it`s a good thing I did, cause she told us we would need to find an alternate route in there due to a broken natural gas line in the area of Crane that had Hwy 641 completely shut down. I told her that I recalled a highway at the turn off to Patti`s Inn and Suites, where Phil and Shirley always stay at, and that highway would take us north to Hwy 60 at Salem, and we could then turn east to Marion. She confirmed that, and I told her we would see her soon. Ian wanted to study the Eureka Mine maps a bit before the dig the next morning, which is why we were headed to the museum, thinking the maps would be there. Pete called to say that he was at the hotel and was going to take a little nap, asked that we call when we arrived at the hotel and he would be ready soon after for supper at the Oasis Steakhouse next door.
Bill Frazer called us next and told us to just come to his house instead, because he had the maps at his home office. About thirty minutes later, we arrived at his beautiful house and walked out to his office. We sat down and Bill pulled out some various maps for Ian to look over and then made some copies for him to take with us and study later at the hotel. Bill then gave us a tour of his house, the living room is at the back of the house and is a huge great room, like in log homes, with a stone staircase to the kitchen on one side and a beautiful wooden staircase to bedrooms on the other side, plus there is a huge stone fireplace on one wall as well and he has large windows on the back wall of the great room too….the outside siding appeared to be cedar…very beautiful craftsmanship throughout the residence. Tina and her daughter came over and joined us shortly after and we stayed just a bit longer to visit, then headed for the hotel to join Pete for supper. Sherry called her daughter, Sarah, who is a paramedic and dispatcher as well, and she was able to give me directions around the gas line snafu that led us around it and back to Hwy 641…she also said that by morning, the highway would be re-opened to normal traffic. We only had one problem navigating the backroads she provided directions for…there were no roadsigns where there needed to be, so I called Bill, told him where we were, and he told us how to get out of there, and about twenty minutes later we arrived at the Days Inn at Kuttawa. I stay at this hotel all the time, it`s next door to a couple of gas stations and a truck stop, but also next door is the Oasis Southwest Grill and Steakhouse, home of great food and atmosphere. It`s also in a wet county, where most counties north, east, and south of there are dry counties, and they have a variety of beers and wines inside if you are into that type of thing. Pete and Ian are beer connisseurs and so it was a perfect fit for them. We have all ate there before and really enjoy it.
I tried to call Pete as soon as we got there, but he didn`t answer and I found out why a few minutes later as I walked up to my room….he was outside his room without his phone. He and I caught up on things while waiting for Ian to freshen up and then we all headed to the Oasis for some good food and fellowship…they had a live band singing outside, but it was a bit warm for us, so we sat inside to cool off a bit. An hour later, after some good pork chops for me, seafood for Ian, and bbq brisket for Pete, and catching up on everything plus plans for the next day, we retired to our rooms for a good nights rest. Pete had the longest drive down, about fifteen hours, so I`m sure he was very tired and wanted to hit the hay fast…we planned to get up and go to breakfast in Fredonia the next morning at 6 am. After checking my email, I too hit the hay soon after the news and slept solid as a rock. We stopped off at Brenda`s for breakfast, a place Jeff Deere had recommended to us for great biscuits and gravy…and he was true to his word…it was a great place to eat…however, that was their last day open there, it was for sale and the owners were retiring for health reasons.
We headed on over to the mine, catching up to the trackhoe on its way over there as well, in Marion on bypass route…the truck escorting it and the truck carrying it pulled off into a big open field at the top of the hill and we continued on down to the mine, parking, getting our boots on, tools ready and I took some photos as well….here is Ian and Pete down in the new pit area looking things over…
…and while down there looking around, we heard the trackhoe fire up and start down the hill, so I told them I would go open the gate for him, as he had to cross the creek below the bridge we drive across, due to the weight of the machine. It took him awhile to get down there to the bottom of the hill cause he had to stop and open three wire gaps and close them behind him…finally I saw him coming thru the trees….
…and then he pulled up behind our vehicles and stopped to talk and visit with us…I told Danny this time he would be directed by Ian as well as myself when Ian was busy, and soon enough Ian had him digging in the new pit, expanding it a little wider for us to get a better idea of the depth of fluorite….
…and within moments he was hitting bedrock and pulling some pretty good sized boulders out of the muck, as Ian keeps an eye out for signs of fluorite…..
…and soon Ian sees something and stops the work so he can jump in and check things out as Pete stands by….
…Ian saw some signs of fluorite there and had the operator continue to dig out the muck….and pretty soon he was down to bedrock and even more big boulders…
…and after raking the top layer a bit with the teeth, we found some nice plates of fluorite underneath and in the mix….
…and after pulling out some nice cubes from this mix, Ian checked the hole to the side and found a few nice vugs of even more cubes, so we spent a few more minutes cleaning them out while the operator moved some tailings around to fill in the old pit and create some room to maneuver the big machine….
…and here are a few of those plates of cubes covered in mud that we recovered from the pockets and vugs in the photos above…we put them on the tailgate of my truck and put the better stuff we found later on, on some sheets of plywood that were there laying around….I apologize for not using flash in the deep shade for better photos….
It took all three of us digging thru the muck about thirty minutes to pull out some more plates and cubes before we could get the operator to start digging once again…this time it appeared that he had tied into some better looking material, maybe more of the vein as well from what we were seeing this time….it def looked more promising….
…the next thing you know, he dug up a pretty good sized boulder and set it up on top near the road…indicating that we should take a look at it, so look we did, and we liked what we saw….a nice vug of big deep purple cubes….Ian and I soon left it with Pete to cob down….something Pete is good at doing….
Ian had the trackhoe operator continue to dig out the new pit on the old pit side, just to see how far that bench went back toward the old saddle and see if there were anymore veins of fluorite running through it as well….
…..that saddle running across the old pit from where the pump sat above it to the road side, had produced soooooo many pockets and vugs that again produced soooo many plates of beautiful plates of deep purple cubes and several folks had worked it and know exactly what I am talking about here…Pete himself had worked that saddle and brought out many plates, some after injuring his hand to the point of fracturing a bone in his hand and continuing to pound those plates out the next day…its no wonder we refer to him as Superman these days.
On another note, the cubes that we pulled from the last pockets, were now placed on the sheets of plywood, they appeared to have some nice cubes in them, and we later found out, some of them were sleepers too…we separated the really super nice pieces we occasionally pulled from the muck and placed them on another sheet of plywood all to themselves….
A few minutes later, while Pete was still working on the boulder up above us, the trackhoe operator pulled out a huge and long boulder from the depths of the new digging area…Ian clambered over it and asked him to turn it over cause it appeared to have some cubes on the back side…and sure enough it did…not only cubes but very large cubes and a few long vugs and pockets of more cubes too….we called out to Pete and he came down to take a look too….
..and then a few minutes later, Ian dug down at the base of the huge boulder and pulled out a few small plates of big cubes….they were partially covered in some mucky looking stuff, but you could still see some nice cubes there too….we were excited cause the cubes we were seeing were definitely getting bigger…..
….so he continued to dig down near the base of the boulder and pull out even more, plus the cubes in the vugs were looking pretty nice too….
…and with all the finds from this one huge boulder, Ian took a few last looks around the base of the boulder just for peace of mind…..
Due to the number of vugs on and around the huge boulder, Pete and Ian both worked on liberating more cubes from them together….while the trackhoe operator moved the tailings around to create more room to maneuver once again….
…they said, James you gotta come see this, it`s loaded with fluorite….I walk over and sure enough it is, but now I have two guys facing the rock and covering it up partially…still working it over….I`m thinking how do I try to shoot this thing with them blocking me out…oh well I`ll just shoot it and if anyone says anything, well I will just cross that bridge when I get to it….lol….
..then they said to me, holie cow, you have to come over here and take alook inside this one vug, the cubes in there are humongous…..
…and believe me, even though I didn`t get a photo of them, there were indeed some very large cubes up inside that vug…guessing four to five inches square, maybe six….two or three of them anyway….deep enough purple that one would think they were black even….Ian and Pete continued to work the bench and vein while the trackhoe operator continued to move things around up above….
…and it was about then, that I noticed Bill Frazer coming up the road, he was brush hogging on his tractor and doing a mighty good job of it I might add….I asked Bill if it was okay to have the trackhoe operator push the tailing piles into the old pit to fill it back up and he was very fine with that…
….so while Ian and Pete were working on the bench some more, I had him do just that up by the road, he also took out the small tree that was half dead and laid it down into the old pit then covered it up with the tailing piles ….
…then I walked him up the road a bit to do some more digging on the other side of the road in an attempt to try and locate the fault line…however after three deep digs down, we were unable to find anything other than spotty sandstone and gave up. After a short break, Ian decided to have him dig the pit a little longer instead….
…and during the course of this particular section of the dig, he located several glass bottles which appeared to be quite old…
…the last thing we had the trackhoe operator do while there, was fill in the old pit with the tailing piles left over….he did a pretty good job of it….keep in mind, you can still dig over there, it will be tailings you will be digging down into and they may have some good material in them still…..
and during the time he was filling in the last water holes in the pit, this big shiny green frog took off for wetter pastures as did this huge turtle…they both successfully moved over to the creek very fast….
..and soon he had the old pit looking pretty level….
…before he left tho, the roadside end of the new pit suffered a partial collapse, so we had him fill that end in to strengthen and stablize the walls. while digging it out earlier, he had severely undercut the base of the roadside wall, which led to the weakening of that wall about 30 minutes later, when it fell inward. Be very careful if you are digging down on that end of the new pit.
Here are a few vugs that we found along the way in some of the boulders there….
…and there is a lot of material to be found in the HUGE tailing pile on the south side of the new pit now…I say HUGE because it is quite tall and long both…email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can tell you where to look in that pile for some nice material. We left quite a bit in the piles for everyone to find. If you are a hard rock miner, concentrate on the bench at the bottom of the new pit, and that is where you will find the nicer plates and pockets. Happy Hunting !!