Sunday, March 21, 2010

Off to the Mines

I love my water proof, Gore Tex lined hiking boots. They were an anniversary gift from my husband several years ago, and I don't get to wear them enough. If I am walking some place muddy, or walking after a snow or rain. Living in North Central Texas, there are long periods without precipitation, so the boots show little wear, even after about six years in service. I've wrote here in February about the regret I felt for not wearing them on a paved trail after a big snow, and when I wear them in the mud, they do get caked and amusingly heavy. But I am so glad to have them-and last Saturday was no exception.

My mom is originally from Arkansas-in the area around Hot Springs. All five of her children have good memories of trips there to visit her family. Nature is in control there, and in all her glory. We've taken surprise road trips there in the fall, where the colors of the trees and the hills were breathtaking. My youngest sister has wanted to visit the diamond crater there for a very long time. So last Saturday we took a little road trip. Along were Mom, Teresa, my middle sister, Tanya, and I. We left early-around 7, and took bags of healthy snack-nuts, water, granola bars, fruit. We got our omega 3 from almond M&M's-our only chocolate cheat. Mom and I slept in the back on the way out, but did wake up to chat from time to time. This little group of girls has a tendency to get very silly, and their were times that we were laughing so hard that Teresa had a hard time seeing to drive.

We stopped briefly at a road side rock shop that was owned by one of those colorful characters from a travelogue-a toothless old man, who loved talking so much that we felt he might not get many customers-particularly on a day that was gray, cold and windy, like this one.We each picked a pretty rock, with me having the hardest time choosing. I told the group that I wished I could have an affair with a geologist who would teach me how to identify the rocks. To me they are amazing things; the history of the world is told in the rocks. We then stopped for a short time to visit one of Mom's three surviving brothers. He is another one of those characters from another time, full of stories about horse trading and what it costs to sell and keep his cows. The we took off for Murfreesboro, which is not far from my uncle's farm.

We got the the diamond crater, which was formed by a volcanic eruption, and saw a surprising number of people out considering the weather. It was the first weekend of spring break for most schools, but still-it was not a pleasant day to be out in the weather on the outside-----WAY outside chance of finding a diamond worth selling. We went through the short course on how to find a diamond, and learned about some of the other types of rock that are common in the soil there. The crater itself is a circular area surrounded by the beautiful pines that are everywhere in Arkansas. There are trenches dug throughout, which I assume are dug out every morning to give people some loose dirt to dig in. There had apparently been some recent rain, because everything was very muddy. We found a spot and put down all of our stuff, and begun to dig.

There were lots of pretty rocks, many different colors and strata. We kept many of those to place in Teresa's rock garden at home. We had brought screens and colanders for "panning," and garden tools for digging. The park itself rented those things, but many people had fancy, two layered screens of their own. Those people must have been trying for a long time to find that one diamond they could retire on. There were postings of photos with stories of people who had found big diamonds, with the year in which they were found. There was some distance from one big diamond to the next, so I don't think we realistically thought we would find anything of great value. But we dug in. Tanya and I were struck by the strange, pinkish color of the chunks of mud we dug out to get to rock beneath. After digging for about an hour, Mom and Teresa took a bucket of dirt to the washing station to see what was in it, and came back telling us how dreadfully cold the water was. We just chuckled and kept digging. Mom and Teresa moved to a different spot to dig.

I was struck by the fact that I had been digging for some time, and had found no life. I'm sure if I'd had a microscope there would have been plenty of microbes, but I had not seen a single worm, or snail shell, or any higher life form. In fact, the digging area looked sort of like a moonscape. I commented to Tanya about this, and shortly afterward we each saw a spider. I looked around the trees that surrounded the digging area, and there were a few people up a bit higher. I told Tanya that perhaps we would have better luck if we trekked a bit higher up the hill, just below the trees. It is possible that rains would wash rocks down, and maybe up that little bit higher there would be something different. She agreed, so we moved. There were a couple of college students that I chatted with for a bit, and then sat down under a tree to see if my theory panned out (pardon the pun.) Nearer the trees, the lack of higher life was not a problem. Being left handed, I anchored myself with my right hand and dug with my left. In seconds after I planted myself, I felt an odd tingling on my right hand, which I looked down to see covered with ants. Only one managed to bite me before I got them brushed off, but I jumped up to be sure that I didn't have any more ants on me. Not long after that, Teresa came to my spot and said Mom was ready to leave. She had found something that might be a small diamond, and she wanted to have the people inside the park pavilion look at it. But with the cold, she wanted to leave after that. I looked down at my boots, and they were caked with mud. I laughed because when they get that way, they are very heavy. We went to the washing station and washed them off, but that fabulous Gore-Tex lining stayed dry, and my feet were warm and cozy. Mom's diamond was only a quartz, but we still had plenty of laughing to do on the way back to Texas. It was another good day in 'dem boots.

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