Catching the Rockhound Virus

I can't pinpoint the moment in time when rocks attracted my interest, but I know it was around the time I became conscious of being a human being. In other words, I was a young lad.

There was something about finding something of significance out in the boondocks that captured my interest. Discovering a little part of the world that nobody had yet appreciated. I probably didn't understand the concept of beauty back then, but to find a unique stone in the wild stirred something within my developing mind that would embed a lifelong interest in my soul. I even remember telling people I wanted to be a geologist when I was very young, but somewhere along the way I got diverted on a 40 year detour.

I'm sure my father was instrumental in sparking my interest of the lithic. Living in southern California, we made frequent trips to Salt Lake City, Utah where much of my extended family resided. Consequently, I-89 (and later I-15) would become a familiar road, well traveled.

I have fond memories of riding in the back of dad's behemoth car (he was a Chrysler man) through the Mojave desert. I recall staring out the window into the desert landscape as the miles seemed endless, Percy Faith looping through the 8-track. It didn't matter what time of year, the air conditioning was always going full blast.

We would stop at various places in the desert and go wandering in search of interesting stones. Mule canyon, Calico, Gem Hill, Barstow nodules, Brianhead were just a few of the spots I later identified where we took a rockhounding break. In fact, it wasn't just our trips to Utah, but to the annoyance of my older siblings, many of our western travels were interrupted by stops along the way nearly everywhere we went. Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada were all subject to geologic inspection.

Looking back, I'm surprised that we never got stuck. We didn't have a 4WD, but that never stopped dad from veering off on some narrow logging road, or a desert single track. I suppose the megatonage of the New Yorker (brougham) was enough to provide traction. Although, I do remember the floorboard bubbling up under my feet in the backseat as we high centered over oil pan-ripping road rocks. Surprisingly, we never owned a 4WD growing up considering all the off roading dad liked to do. Then again, he was a man of priorities. It was all about the comfort of the ride, and there's no way that the terse suspension of an old Willys could compete with the flotation of a Chrysler unit.

One thing was always certain about completing a road trip. After all the luggage was removed from the trunk, there was still a layer of rocks to be relocated into the garage. Somewhere along the way my parents acquired army surplus, cylindrical steel cans filled with dried corn. I don't know if it was part of my parents' obsession with food storage, but the corn was eventually fed to ducks, and the cans re-packed with rocks.

I continued to make use of those cans as rock containers. They moved with us from California to Utah where they sat for a couple decades in a retired chicken coop, then eventually trailored to Arizona where they've been with me for yet another couple of decades. Only in the last couple years since having re-discovered my rock obsession have I sorted through those rocks and rusted cans.

During my 40 year detour of life, I continued to collect rocks. Mostly unconsiously, or perhaps out of habit instilled in my childhood. I still catch myself staring out the window of the car into the desert and wondering what rocks there are to discover. And when I get the chance to walk around, my eyes always go to ground in search of undiscovered treasure. However, instead of old army cans, I pile my discoveries in various tributes around the yard in little memory shrines.

For all the different rocks that adorn my yard, there is one common thread that binds them to my heart and soul, that is the memory of my dad. Regardless of origin, I'll always associate my love of rocks with the warm memories of childhood. Sunshine, outdoors, rocks, dad.