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Rockhound Stories That Rival Fish Tales – Episode 2

Red Jasper flourishes in Southern Arizona near the Mexican Border and west of Fort Huachuca, a very old Calvary Post, famous for the Buffalo Soldiers and housing Geronimo after his surrender. It was in the attached town, Sierra Vista, where I went to high school.

Rough Red Japer

 

A friend and I were incurable rockhounds, spending just about every weekend looking for the perfect gems to cut and polish. Red Jasper was always boring to me since it was everywhere. Now, nearly 70 later, I realize its inherent beauty and popularity in the world.

But my buddy convinced me we needed to go hike around Washington Camp, a played-out gold mine, where the stone was plentiful. The first thing that I remember was putting blasting caps in cow patties and watching them explode over the pasture. Do not try this at home! If you would like to know more about blasting cap dangers, follow this link to a 1957 video of the dangers of blasting caps.

Cow patty
An honest-to-goodness Arizona desert cow patty, ripe for exploding.

We often thought of doing that at school, but somehow we never got around to it. Some of the area was very flat but there were lots of hills off to the side. On this day when we were plaguing the countryside with our pranks, we came across a herd of wild pigs (javelina). We started throwing rocks and generally annoying them. For some reason, they didn’t appear to take too kindly to our gestures of “good humor” and started to chase us. If you are really interested, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum even has a recording of what they snort like!

Javelina

​Fortunately for us, there was a nearby tree that could hold our weight. Did you know how ugly and fierce a javelina can look when he is mad at you. OK, now that I have built up your suspense (can’t you just feel it?), the good news is that we preserved our lives that day…and the pigs just lost interest in us and moved on to another snack.

We collected that day nearly 100 lbs of red jasper. It was almost as plentiful as the cow patties. We did make it up to Washington Camp and discovered lots of other fun minerals. All in all, a perfect day for a teenager.

Rough Red Jasper
photo from azrockhound85902

 

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Rockhound Stories That Rival Fish Tales – Episode 1

Before leaving my boy-hood stories, I want to share more stupid things my friend and I did that could have prematurely ended our lives.

Southern Arizona is well-known for a wealth of gypsum (Selenite) that grow in a rose formation (Desert Rose).

desert rose 1 (roger Weller)
Desert Rose

We used to drive from Fort Huachuca to Saint David, turn west, and drive the dusty road to a place just below the Apache Gun Powder Plant.

Sandy cliffs with tunnels running through them to provide a home for Desert Rose…and rattlesnakes.

rattler1
None of our rattler friends had this many rattles

 

We never carried guns, but we always had a knife that would skin the Rattlesnakes.

We took great pride in poking sticks into the tunnels, listen for that rattling sound, and fish the snakes out into the open where a heavy rock awaited to crush its head.

Then we would save the skin and rattles. We didn’t even cook the meat nor make rattlesnake steaks.

Oh yes, and then we would turn our attention to the massive and beautiful roses that were among the sandy cliffs. We loved our desert roses but had more fun bragging at school about our rattlesnake exploits.

St david Road2
One of the exact sites we went to.

Technical Stuff:

The Roses seem to occur in paleosols (ancient soil horizons) that formed along these lakes and are related to a high water table that occurred at a time during the development of the soils (USDA, 2003). It appears that groundwater (the water table) concentrated the calcium sulfate, which was common in the lake sediments, and these concentrates crystallized into the mineral gypsum. These crystals continued to grow in the pore space between the clay and sand particles and in the process incorporated some of the particles into the crystals. Desert Roses seem to take on the color of the clay/sand particles—in this case a pink to light reddish orange.

Source: http://csmsgeologypost.blogspot.com/2013/02/arizona-desert-roses.html

Apache 1
Apache powder plant

Little did we know that the Apache Power Company was later discovered to have polluted the ground and the surrounding ground water. The EPA is now evaluating the area.

Apache Powder plant logo
Apache Powder plant logo

Rock Hound Stories that Rival Fish Tales!

Next: Hiking with the Javelina among the Jasper beds.
​…and then: Striking up a friendship with the white-nosed Coatimundi

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Southwestern Gem & Mineral Society Business of the Month!

During the next several months we will be loading more and more of our stock to the website and I hope to share my passion with you. And maybe, just maybe, convince you to take your general interest in Geology to the next level. I have veered into the gemologist side to go with my passion of identifying the stones that I cut and polish. More on that later.

I hope that you will find our jewelry unique, high quality, and well-priced.

This story was captured by the Southwest Gem and Mineral Society when I was chosen to be in their spotlighted business of the month:

BUSINESS OF THE MONTH

Lone Star Gemstones by Sturdevant.

As a boy in Sierra Vista, Arizona – not too far from Tombstone, the Bisbee Open Lavendar Pit mine and tons of jaspers, agates, geodes and turquoise – Wayne took a shop class in lapidary.

From then on he and a buddy spent the rest of their weekends combing the Huachuca Mountains for anything they could cut and work. Between their Jr and Sr year they spent a season working at the old Lionel Herget Turquoise Mine just east of Tombstone.

He recalls the “stupid” days of playing catch with blasting caps and dynamite as well as blowing up unsuspecting tarantulas.

Miraculously, he still had all his fingers and toes and went on to win a Blue ribbon at the Arizona State Fair for polished cabachons (he was the only entrant in his age class).

After high school he studied geology at the University of Arizona. He joined the Air Force after his first year of college and always carried his stones and buckets of rocks with him wherever he lived.

Through his next set of careers he still kept his passion toward geology and gemology and in 2009 he started Lone Star Gemstones by Sturdevant.

He and his wife have enjoyed his new venture ever since. Wayne’s traveling sales show specializes in natural (real) stones shaped into jewelry.

“A virtual museum of eye-candy”, rings, pendants, brooches, earrings, bracelets and on and on and on. There are even works of art such as Lladro and Royal Doulton.

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Old Rockhound

I am an old rockhound from Arizona.
As a junior at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a bunch of us signed up for shop class. Thinking we would be learning how to work on cars, Our football coach, who was our teacher, offered us a different kind of class that we all jumped on: Lapidary!
That’s where my real love affair with rocks and minerals began.
We started with grinders, sanders, buffers, and polishers.  We got pretty good at it, and bragged how we made our own gifts.  I have only one remnant of that past:  A gift I made for my mother at Christmas time.  We had access to some pretty cool stones, mostly related to copper (being near the Open Pit Mine in Bisbee.)  I made a necklace for Mom with the center stone being malachite, my favorite stone.

During that time frame, a friend and I would hang out at the Lapidary shop and get to know more about the art and the trade.  Because of our energy and our youth, an old prospector hired us for part of the summer to work at his turquoise mine, just east of Tombstone, Arizona.

Turquoise

 

The Lord knows how lucky we were to leave with our arms and hands still attached.  Even today, I saved a few pieces of turquoise from the old Lionel Herget Mine.

Lionel Herget Turquoise

The last artifacts of my youth as a lapidist and rockhound!