Every year when I get the chance at work to select my dates for vacation time through out the year ahead, I always look at the first weekend in June…and take it as vacation if I am slated to work it…because that is the weekend of the Clement Mineral Museum`s Annual Mineral Show and Dig, and I always travel down to host the Eureka Mine and free up the Museum Staff for other details. There are a group of people down there that I truly care about and they have a cause for rockhounds that I truly care about as well…the provide a place for rockhounds to go and dig for pretty crystals for one thing. They also have an outstanding Museum there that is truly worth visiting and admiring the gorgeous minerals and crystals inside, and for anyone that is into blacklight minerals and crystals, they have a room completely designed with you in mind as well. In years past, I have also taken them buckets of grab bag material, and although I had some still on hand, after giving ten buckets of material to MAGS back in April, they received some donations from some good friends of mine and were not in need of any this time around, leaving me room in the bed of my truck to take some Missouri minerals, Arkansas crystals, and purple fluorite to give away to anyone that struck out digging up some pretties that weekend. I also took some crystals down for their silent auction and took a few pieces of wavellite to give to some good friends of mine who I knew would be there.
Onyx and I drove down on Friday morning, with the intention of meeting a good friend in southern Illinois and doing some hiking at one of the pretty spots along the way. We met up with Mark about 2:30 pm and had a great hike at one of the scenic areas in that area, called RimRock Trail…..century old knarly cedar trees growing out of huge rocks, a very long staircase that descends to the bottom of rocks that are larger than houses, and in the valley below is a beautiful creek with bluffs lined with huge ferns….and a beautiful tunnel created by the huge rocks at the bottom of the stairs as well….
…..even tho it was humid as could be and we were drenched by the time we returned to the parking lot 90 min later. Mark had the rest of the day off and decided to travel on down to the steakhouse and have supper with me, so we drove down to Cave-In-Rock and crossed the muddy Ohio River on the ferry and then drove ten miles to the Museum in Marion, Kentucky. We found several of the staff there making final preparations for the weekend working inside…Tina who is in charge of the show and manages the Museum daily, her husband Brad, Sherry who assists Tina with the Museum through the week, as well as David and Janyce Sorrell who serve on the board there and live nearby in Paducah. After visiting with them for a few minutes, Mark and I headed on down to the Days Inn at Kuttawa, where I always stay when down there, so I could get checked in before supper…I had also been in contact with Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon of MAGS, who were going to be there that weekend and let them know what time I would get there so we could go to supper together at the nearby Oasis Southwest Grill…one of the best steakhouses in the country as far as I`m concerned. We arrived at the hotel about 30 min later and freshened up and then as we walked out to walk over to the Oasis, it was threatening to rain, so Matthew loaded us up in his car and drove us over instead. Matthew is the newsletter editor of MAGS, the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society Club that I have been a member of for several years, and Carolyn is the Hospitality Director for the club as well, both are very nice and good friends as well, we often keep in contact by email and they have gone rockhunting with me in Missouri as well. We had a great visit and supper at the Oasis that evening, and afterwards, Mark and I walked back to the hotel as by then it had stopped raining. Mark headed back to the Carbondale area while I checked my email and walked Onyx before retiring to bed.
Onyx and I were awake by 7 am Saturday morning and after a walk around the hotel, then a good breakfast in the breakfast bar there, we headed toward the Eureka Mine. We arrived 30 min later…I unlocked and opened the gate and then drove on down to the mine to look things over…for many years past, I have always been joined by a good group of rockhound friends there each spring where we rent a trackhoe and operator, and dig out the pit in search of good material and to open up the pit to enable rockhounds that come there thru out the year afterwards, have a much easier time of finding some good crystals to take home with them. In the past few years, the new pit we have been digging had been headed toward the logging road that runs along the mine, this year we actually tied into the road with the pit and had to block it off with large rocks that were pulled from the ground and a berm on the other side of the open pit. Here is what the old pit looks like now, we filled it in at the request of the Museum staff last year, it is tied to the new pit only by a drainage way now…
Tina and David told me the day before that a private collector from New York state had been there a few weeks prior for a private dig, digging into the spot where my group had stopped with the trackhoe back in April. He dug by hand shovel and apparently found a nice vein there, which resulted in some nice cubes and plates, but also left some great stuff behind for others. Here is how the pit looked when we arrived….
…and you can see a small pile in the foreground of the photo above next to my logo, and then there is a huge pile of material dug out and left behind at the other end of the pit….that`s more of the material that he left behind…..
I put my boots on cause it was a little soft in places and wet in the pit below, and took my camera with me for a walk around to look for material, so I would have an idea of where to direct diggers to, depending on if they wanted the hard rock mining or easy surface collecting or combing thru the tailings with a handrake…we get all types of diggers showing up shortly after 9 am each day there during the annual show. After walking up on the huge tailing pile first, I was encouraged by what I found on the surface and cubes sticking out just a bit to tease and tantalize, so I knew that folks should be able to find some nice stuff there if they were using just a hand rake or surface collecting on that pile and the piles to the right side of the roadway above the pit. I then climbed down to see how soft the floor of the pit was…there was a small water hole down there but it was mainly just a bit soft mud due to all the rain they had received the day before. Then I walked up toward the end of the pit to check out the material the private collector left behind, and saw some beautiful cubes up there starting about the middle of the pit….
…and the farther up the pit I walked, the better it got…I know some folks were going to be real excited when they arrived and seen all of it sitting there waiting to go home with someone…
…including this beauty just laying there waiting to be selected, wrapped up, and taken home by some lucky collector….
This photo below shows the end of the pit where we stopped digging in April with the trackhoe and the private collector dug into and tapped into a vein….
…I walked back toward the truck to get my crystals and minerals set up on the tail gate of my truck and almost stepped on this guy who was on his way down the small hill toward the watering hole in the pit….
…and soon after, the first two diggers showed up, a wrecking crew of young men from Evansville, Indiana, who immediately headed to the end of the pit with the intent of finding some more nice cubes evidently…..
…and let me tell you, these two guys didn`t even stop for lunch…..brought their own water with them and all their tools too. Mary from Ohio was the next digger, she is a regular like me there…and just like that morning, always arrives early on no matter what….here she is on the right trying to help another digger new to the scene on what to look for in the pit…
Many people see others in the pit and automatically think that is the place to be to find some good stuff…they do not realize that in most cases, whether it be a fluorite mine or quartz mine, that that is where the hard rock mining takes place to get to the good stuff and then one has to work even harder and longer to get that good stuff out. In this case, this particular weekend, they were lucky and found some nice stuff laying around on the floor of the pit, having been left behind by that private collector, but it is normally not that way at all. Some folks found that out that weekend, when the good stuff ran out and they wanted to get down to the vein to find some pockets and possibly some plates or single cubes…I was able to explain to most of them that while it is possible to dig down to that vein, you have to be prepared to put some major effort into it, as that vein can be anywhere from six inches to two or three feet under their feet, and they have to remove alot of heavy mud if it is located deeper, then once they find the vein in the bedrock below, they then have to carefully look for the pockets with their hands and fingers…not their rockhammers. Another thing I have to watch for are young kids running around with rockhammers, cause they are naturally kids and always want to find a rock to pound that hammer on…the problem being that if they use those hammers on crystals on the rocks, they will destroy and decimate them very fast and some kids really need to be supervised there because in the past we have seen alot of unsupervised kids that ran around and started hammering on everything in sight, including crystals on rocks that collectors had set up on the bank above where they were working. Kids and some adults have no idea how soft fluorite can be, compared to other crystals like quartz which is much tougher, however one still does not want to hammer them because you can easily cause damage that can not be undone later on. At any rate, more people showed up and I was able to direct them to the right areas for what type of digging or collecting they wanted to do there….you will notice some came prepared for rain which we dealt with til mid morning and then it cleared off and became hot and humid….
Then about mid morning a young man walked up with a couple of blonde headed boys with him…and introduced himself as James from Hopkinsville….I had talked with him earlier in the week regarding where he could take his boys rockhunting and I had suggested that he bring them to the dig this weekend since it was closeby for them…and here they were arriving…I showed them some easy pickins spots and they quickly started filling their big blue buckets….they were full of energy and fun to watch too…
A few minutes later, a couple more young boys showed up with their parents in tow, and turns out I had talked to their Mom by email also and made the same suggestion to her as well….here you see Coen about to step off in the mudhole and sink down before I could warn him…luckily his Dad was right behind him and able to rescue him before he sank too deep….and his brother Finn in the red shirt in the second photo with his Mom in the pink shirt on the left side in the pit…..
…both of these two lads had alot of energy as well and were very knowledgeable about rocks and minerals…I was astounded when they started talking and I could tell how much they knew about minerals and crystals, they were a total joy to be around that day and it was nice to see the parents there that fully supported them in their quest to find some nice minerals. I had that same type of support from both my Mom and Dad 49 years ago when I started collecting rocks and minerals…it sure makes a difference let me tell ya and creates a lifetime of lasting memories as well !! I met a couple of other lads that day that were a little younger than Finn and Coen but just as sharp and keen eyed on crystals and minerals, which really makes my day when out there all day long. Another highlight of my day was when Bill Frazer and Brad Walker showed up to check on us and see how everyone was doing…it`s always a pleasure to visit with these guys…they made sure everyone was okay before heading back to the Museum.
As the day wore on, more diggers showed up, many of them checking out the huge tailing pile since the pit was often full when new folks showed up…..
…and then as we approached 4 pm, we saw some more rain clouds approaching, but the rains held off til closing time before moving in…here you see Mary taking another water break and Onyx nosing around….
..and you can see the two young men still working the end of the pit while others have obviously sifted thru the tailings left in the pit by the private collector…the guy kneeling down in jeans actually dug down into the remains of that pile after Matthew and Carolyn worked it pretty heavily earlier in the day, and this guy found some nice larger matrix pieces with some nice cubes on them….
…by 5 pm, most everyone had cleared the pit and piles and remaining diggers were cleaning off in the creek below the bridge…soon after Onyx and I were locking the gate and headed back to the Museum to report the very few problems that we had, and found folks there that were just as tired as we were. I also got to visit with a few of the directors and staff that had not been there on Friday when I arrived.
Onyx and I soon headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and ready for supper at the Oasis again. On the way there, the storm clouds that we had spotted rolling in around 4 pm, were apparently part of some stray showers that were then followed by another group of clouds that came into view as I was leaving Marion headed south toward the hotel. I stopped a couple of times to photograph them, first catching this rainbow in the first set of clouds, that was a double base instead of an arch…never seen one like that before…
As I was driving and watching the clouds, I also talked to my buddy Chuck Reed from St Louis County who was camping at Paducah and decided he and his daughter Mackenzie would drive down and meet me at the Oasis for supper that evening. Matthew and Carolyn decided to try another restaurant in the area over on Lake Barkley instead….I stopped at one of my favorite spots to shoot some more clouds…..and then the center mass changed to a light blue mass in just a few minutes, I had never seen anything like that either….
We had a great time, food as usual was very good there again and nice atmosphere as well. Chuck was going to attend the night dig that evening but his plans changed and they were going to head over to Mammoth Cave the next day and then up to the fun park at Santa Clause, Indiana for a few days afterward. We made plans to get together at the Park Hills show which was the following weekend.
Sunday went well too, however I only stayed a few hours in the morning before stopping off at the show to shop a bit before heading home. As always, I had a great time helping everyone out and helping the new and young rockhounds find some nice stuff to take home and enjoy. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.