I Am a Rockhound

by Charles (Chuck) Weber

Lithosphere (May 1996); Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.; Fallbrook, CA

[Ed. Note: This article won first place in the adult article competition in the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies in 1996.]

I guess I am a rockhound. The article "You Might Be a Rockhound" [Lithosphere; April 1996] helped me cast aside my hesitation, inhibitions, and waffling, and boldly, confidently declare that I am a genuine rockhound.

It is not that I haven't claimed to be one for tens of years. It started when, as a boy, I collected flint arrowheads in the Ozarks of Missouri. I remember being fascinated with the fossil shells embedded in the limestone along the roadside.

My activity took a more serious turn when I first collected nodules in the Wiley Well area during the middle thirties. I even, with the help of a high school student, made a mud slabbing saw. I made an arbor with Chevrolet wheel bearings and connected it to a used washing machine motor. Commercial equipment was not available to amateurs in those days. If it had been, I wouldn't have had the money to purchase it.

All this time I imagined I was a rockhound. I confess I claimed I was a rockhound. I even boasted that I was. But I also confess I was haunted by the fear that I didn't fully qualify. My boasting was largely a compensation to cover up an inferiority complex.

I couldn't explain the ages or the strata like a geologist. I couldn't identify minerals, pronounce their names -- I couldn't even spell the names -- as mineralogists did. I was not knowledgeable about such characteristics as luster, brilliance, or the chemical content of gems as gemologists were. H2O was about all I knew about chemistry. I cut a few hundred cabochons and faceted a few gems, but have never had the nerve to try any cuts other than simple brilliants and emeralds.

To cover up all these deficiencies, I have repeatedly boasted that I am a rockhound. Despite the fact that there's a "ton" of who-knows-what rocks in bins around my garage, and the garage has three diamond saws (ranging from 18" to a trim saw), two tumblers, a grinding arbor, and a Crystalite Demon, and the hobby room has two faceting machines and sundry other jewelry-making tools, I still felt uncertain.

The article convinced me I wasn't playing the hypocrite. I am a rockhound. I have been liberated. I don't need to cover up or pretend. I am a rockhound.

I have collected in every state west of the Mississippi except the Dakotas and in a number of states east of the old river, too. I have dug until my hands were blistered, hiked until I was weary, climbed mountains, walked the beaches, and even collected when snow was on the ground.

When I spent eight weeks going around the world in connection with my work, I used every opportunity between meetings and conferences looking for stones. If I saw a gravel pile, I checked it out.

One morning in Beersheba (Israel) I looked out the window of my hotel room and saw a gravel pile. In five minutes I was downstairs checking it out. A colleague of mine saw me and snapped a picture of me going through the pile. In the plane I would save the plastic bags that held the silverware to store my stones. I would use one of my business cards to identify and keep my stones separate. As a result, when I got home I had specimens from France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, India, and other countries. Some of it is just rock, but there are specimens of wood, jasper, agate, and artifacts from the Taj Mahal in India, Athens, Greece, and Byblos.

Shucks! I was just having fun. But I see now, all these activities were a dead giveaway. I am a confirmed rockhound.

Copyright © 1996 by Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.

The preceding article was originally published in the May 1996 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).

Permission to reproduce and distribute this material, in whole or in part, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted provided the sense or meaning of the material is not changed and the author's notice of copyright is retained.

Last updated: 18 September 2002