First Field Trip For Two Young Rockhounds

Earlier this summer I was contacted by good rockhound friends Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon of the Memphis Club MAGS, they emailed to tell me that they would be up in the St Louis area the weekend of August 22nd and 23rd and wondered if I could take them rockhunting on Sunday the 23rd. After checking the calendar to make sure I was off that weekend, I answered them and said I would love to take them rockhunting that day. They were interested in finding some dogtooth calcite crystals so I knew exactly where I would take them, the secret spot and MFQ. In the weeks leading up to their visit, I drove down to both locations and did some hunting and digging to see if I could spot some specific locations where we might open up a pocket.

During one of those visits I found out that Onyx likes to swim, one of the quarries has some water holes that are about three feet deep on one end…the only problem with that is that I have to give him a bath a day or two later as that water has been there a while and is a bit on the dirty stale side of things, but that`s no big deal either, he smells better and I get a good workout in doing so.

 A few weeks ago, Tina from the BE Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky, contacted me and told me that she had received a visit from a family located in Waterloo, Illinois, and there was a young man in that family that was starting out as a rockhound and looking for some assistance…she provided me with their contact information and I made contact with Mike Sabo last week, soon after they returned from their vacation. Mike told me his son Cianan was 12 years of age and just getting started collecting rocks and minerals and that they had not been out on any field trips as of yet. I asked them if they would like to go with us on the 23rd  and after checking with the rest of his family, Mike said they would love to join us. I let them know what tools and clothing to bring and we were set for their first field collecting trip.

Last week I was working with a new guy named Josh and while talking to him, found out that he likes to collect rocks and minerals, but he too, had never been out on an actual field collecting trip, so I invited him along as well and he was able to go with us also. Sunday morning rolled around finally and Josh was the first to show up about 7:30 am….he, Onyx, and I had just returned from McDonald`s where we picked up some breakfast, and we were met at my house by Mike and Cianan. Luckily they had already stopped for breakfast and had no problem coming inside to talk with us while we wolfed down our hot cakes & sausage patties, while we waited for the Lybanon family to arrive. Matthew, Carolyn, and daughter Julie were due to arrive about 8 am, which they did, and then Alan, Debbie, and the twins arrived about 20 minutes later, finding most of us out in the backyard touring the rock gardens, and then walking inside to look at the rest of the collection including the dogtooth room. Everyone also got to meet Onyx and discover what a cute attention ham he is. 

Soon after, we loaded up and headed to the secret spot, arriving soon with cloudy skies and cool temps still intact.  Mike and Alan were driving vans, so we had to take it a bit easy going down the road at the secret spot due to the road being washed out in a few places…I even had Josh jump out of my truck and move a basketball sized boulder in the middle of the road as we were descending down the steep part of the hill. I had assured them the road was solid earlier so we had no problems, acquiring just a little bit of red clay paint is all. Soon after arriving and gearing up, everyone spread out to look for crystals and pockets….and Onyx naturally headed for the water holes….

01 Everyone Looking For Crysals

02 Everyone Looking For Crysals

…I took Alan over to a pocket that I had located two weeks before and showed him how the pocket expanded back into the hillside, explaining that with a small sledge hammer and chisel, he could prob get back into the deeper pocket and pull out some nice crystals and clusters. I left him there as he started hammering away, and headed to the other side to see if I could help others locate some likely looking areas to find crystals loose on top and what to watch for in terms of potential pockets. Cianan and his Dad were already checking out some old pockets and finding some loose crystals laying around on top. Josh called out and I walked over to where he was standing over a rocky bank with a ledge of poker chips embedded in the gravel and what appeared to be some openings in the dolomite ledge…he indicated he would work it but would appreciate some help, so I looked around and spotted Alan at another location and asked if he would like to help Josh work it…Alan came right over and teamed up with Josh to see how deep the pocket would go….

03 Josh & Alan Check Out Pocket

04 Josh & Alan Check Out Pocket

…I heard Carolyn and Debbie talking behind me and looked over my shoulder to see them checking for some sign of a pocket on the ground about thirty feet away…they were looking in an area that I had found several floor pockets over the past few years….

05 Carolyn & Debbie Look for Crysals

…and now that everyone was looking around and digging in, I grabbed my gloves and mattox and began to see if I could find a good pocket for them as well….soon after, I was joined by Cianan and we started digging into a couple of likely spots….

06 Cienan Searches for Pockets

…I got a chance to talk to him for a bit and found out he was a pretty sharp young man and totally into searching for pretty crystals and minerals. Back at the house, right before we left, I gave him a couple of flats of crystals from the Viburnum Trend area mines that a friend had given me the week before…I had cleaned them up and got them sparkling again with some super iron out just last weekend. We were able to find some shallow pockets of druse and poker chips but no big pockets opened up for us…Josh and Alan pursued the pocket on the bank as far as they were able to and then wandered off to explore other options….I took a water break about an hour later and spotted Josh on the wall on the far side, looking for signs of crystals and pockets….

08 Josh Searches Wall

…and looked back and saw that Cianan was still hammering away looking for a pocket…a good sign of a dedicated rockhound in the making….

09 Cienan Searches for Pockets

…then I heard some more hammering in the other direction and spotted Alan hard at work with two sidewalk supervisors behind him directing his every move….

10 Alan Seeks Crystals

…he was working some old pockets that I had discovered about a year ago, another location with potential to find more if a guy is willing to work and look for the pockets, moving a lot of rock to do so….

11 Alan Works Pockets

…in the meantime, Josh was down along the wall in the area that I had located several good dogtooth pockets during 2014…

12 Josh Seeks Pockets

…and Cianan continued to look for pockets and crystals in the clay dirt….

13 Cienan Searches for Pockets


…by this time it was nearly 1:30 and we had been digging a few hours there, and we decided to drive on down to MFQ and see what we could find there…Alan and Debbie decided they were going to head on home to Memphis tho as they had a short night of rest in St Louis and were worn out now…and Mike and Cianan decided to head home as well, so the Lybanon`s followed Josh and I down to the quarry as soon as everyone else peeled off on to other highways. Josh took a nap while I drove south and soon we arrived …I had received word from my good friend Jim that much of the higher bench material had been dozed off to the bottom, so when we arrived, we found a huge pile of rock leading up to the bench above like a giant stairway…..

08 Julie At Foot of Huge Pile

…we all walked over to the base of the pile and were pleasantly surprised to start seeing alot of red boulders and small chunks of red druse with poker chips and many with dogtooth crystals in vugs on the boulders too…..

01 Huge Boulder to Cobb Down

02 Small Pieces of Huge Boulder

03 Big Boulder of Druse & Chips

04 Big Boulder of Druse & Chips

…Carolyn took some of these home with her, she was ecstatic to find some beautiful stuff here….she likes to surface collect and this place was a dream come true for a surface collector like her that day….

04A Big Boulder of Druse & Chips

05 Top of Huge Boulder

06 Huge Boulder I Cobbed Down


I grabbed my new three pound hammer and chisels…my old ones were buried under quite a bit of tailings dirt in the old pit at the Eureka Mine by the trackhoe operator that we had problems with at the last machine dig….and I began cobbing down some of these boulders, as Josh decided to climb up the pile and see what he could find on top….

07 Josh Climbs Huge Pile

…joined by Julie down at the far end who was walking around on the base of the pile looking for more crystals too….and it was about this time that the sun finally made an appearance with the cloud cover rolling away….

08 Julie At Foot of Huge Pile


09 Sun Begins to Pop Out

10 Josh Climbs Pile

..and about halfway up, Josh stopped a few times, finding some nice small clusters of poker chips intertwined into each other and successfully tossed them to the soft sand bottom near my truck to pick up later and wrap up to take home….yes Virgil, I was able to convince him to wrap them up before placing them into his backpack….

11 Josh Finds Some Nice Ones on Pile

…about an hour later, Matthew, Carolyn, and Julie decided to head home, a five hour drive ahead of them yet to Memphis, and Josh and I wrapped up shortly after as well, the heat taking its toll on me and sapping my remaining strength for cobbing any remaining boulders. By this time, we had the back end of the truck completely packed with wrapped specimens, Onyx was soaking up the ac in the cab for the past hour, and we were ready to cool down, so we loaded up and headed north to Rocky Falls to do just that….

14 Rocky Falls  13 Rocky Falls

…one of those beautiful treasures of the Missouri Ozarks that some folks don`t know about…there were several locals there when we arrived, sitting out in the shallow edge of the pool in front of the base of the falls while their kids were sliding down the falls into the deeper base pool…..

17 Looking Down The Falls

…we were there about 30 minutes and then headed on up the road for home…about ten miles down the road, coming down a hill, we spotted a beautiful doe and two spotted fawns in a field on the right side of the road…I slowed down and shot through the windshield to capture them… pretty…..

Doe & 2 Fawns On Way Home

…all in all a great day, albeit a long one, but full of so many enjoyable moments and time well spent with good friends….does it get any better than this ??? I doubt it.

James 🙂