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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