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DANCES WITH SNAKES

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A Texas Odyssey Revisited

 

    Well, once again I found myself planning another trip to the Lone Star state, home to the current White House occupant, and some of the best collecting opportunities within a days drive of Tulsa. It didn't take much convincing to get me to start making contacts when the Scout Troop decided to go to Corpus Christi and participate in the Live-Aboard program offered by the "The Blue Ghost" alias the USS Lexington. Quite a program they offer, and this would be the third time we have taken Scouts to participate. Among the things they experience are a shipboard program which includes flag ceremonies, a service project washing airplanes, war stories, history, ghost stories on the fantail, guided tours of the ship that the general public isn't privy to, flight simulators, bunking in the crew quarters, meals taken military style in the ships mess, some very stringent (but well tempered) shipboard discipline, an opportunity to earn the Historic Trails award for participation in a special closing flag ceremony and program, all in all, an experience they don't soon forget, and for some odd reason, one they desire to keep repeating!

    Having been to the Lex twice, I decided I would take the opportunity to do some more south Texas collecting. I contacted Denise Bicknell for some suggestions, as well as Larry McAuley, and Richard Baker. Denise made a few contacts and put me in touch with Matt Dillon (I know what you're thinkin', but I'm sure he's heard them all!). Matt turned out to be fantastic resource, and a great guy to go rockin' with. Matt had access to a Caliche pit near George West, Texas, about an hour north of Corpus Christi, a perfect fit for the planned trip. After a few exchanges of e-mail and information, Matt gave me permission to invite the others along for the field trip on Saturday. Denise already had plans to attend the show in Jasper, TX, but I convinced Larry to worm his way out of his cocoon and join us, and Richard was chomping at the bit to go. We made our plans to meet at the Texas stop sign in George West at 8:00 Saturday morning.

    The boys and I, Travis, who was going to spend the night aboard the Lex, Brandon, who was going to go rockin' with me, and Brandon H, an Eagle Scout also going to the Lexington, left Broken Arrow around 7:00 am Friday morning and headed to Austin, where we would be spending the night and waiting for the rest of the Troop to join us. On the way to Austin, I decided to take them to visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. We all enjoyed the stop and seeing all of the memorabilia of the most famous, feared, and revered group of law enforcement officers the United States has ever known.

Travis & Brandon H.                        Travis, Brandon H., & Brandon         Many of the Ranger are immortalized in bronze.

    We continued on to Austin and to the Berkeley UMC where we had made arrangements for the Troop to use the facility as a rest stop for the night. After making contact there and offloading the personal gear, I took the boys to do a bit of rockhounding in the vicinity of Country Club Creek on the south side of Austin. Previously, I had recovered some nice Exogyra Ponderosa specimens from this site, and was hoping to locate the ammonites that are supposedly there as well. No luck on the ammonites again, but we did find some more EP's, and a couple of lithic pieces. By the time we were through there, what with the humidity, we were ready to head back to the church and call it a day. The rest of the Troop members who were spending the night there started arriving sometime after midnight, through about four in the morning. I had made arrangements for Travis and Brandon H. to ride there rest of the way to CC with one of the other parents, and Brandon and I hit the road again around five for George West. Arriving in GW we found Larry and Richard already waiting. Matt showed up right on time, and after intro's, we headed for the Caliche pit and hopefully a good day's collecting.

    We weren't disappointed. After arriving at the pit, Matt explained the rules, and told us he wouldn't tell us where to collect, because the petrified wood and agate was everywhere you looked... he wasn't joking! We started collecting before we ever got inside the gate, this because the same material from the pit is used to gravel the roads in the area. There was pet wood and agate just about everywhere you looked. At the pit, we found old as well as new workings, and there was no shortage of material to collect there. In between and during rain showers, we filled bucket after bucket with highly silicified, agatized wood and agates in all shapes, sizes, and colors. looking at the geology of the area, it seems to be vast alluvial field made up of cobbles of silica based rocks (silicified wood, agate, quartz, sodium nitrates, clays, and organic soils), the majority seeming water worn and deposited in stratified layers. The initial impression is of a vast ancient river bed, tens of miles wide that flowed for a great distance through the gulf coastal plains. Quite an extraordinary place, with nothing less than a seemingly endless supply of high quality lapidary material. But appearances can be deceiving. As with any collecting locality, even this one would fall prey to the unscrupulous were it not a closely guarded site on private property. My thanks go out to Matt for allowing us the opportunity, and Denise for making the contact for me. I hope someday I have another opportunity such as this to collect with a true rockhound friend named Matt Dillon.

       

Larry & Matt              Larry & Matt             Larry in the pit            A 25# specimen of agatized wood.

        

Richard & Larry                                The Caliche Pit                                    Yours truly

Yours truly & Larry, trying to decide who's going to dive for the specimen...

 

    Finally it was time to leave the pit, although we were tired, wet, and hungry, there probably wasn't a more satisfied group of rockhounds in Texas at that moment. We piled into vehicles and slithered our way back out to the gate, literally, the road was so slick we passed two rattlesnakes running in place...

    At the gate we bid Larry adieu, as he was headed back to Austin. We thanked Matt again (and again) for taking us to this special personal collecting spot. We also made arrangements to meet Richard the following day at Falls City to visit the Pfiel Mine, and do some more collecting along the county roads for fluorescent, agatized and opalized wood. Brandon and I passed Richard a ways down the farm road, back out of the truck and collecting along the road. We stopped a couple of miles away and half-filled another bucket with agatized wood along another stretch. Finally the rain got the better of us and we decided to head for Choke Canyon State Park outside of Three Rivers to find a shower before heading out to Corpus Christi. We were to be there the following morning to pick up Travis and Brandon H. After hot showers, we decided to check out the local geology of the park. Larry had warned us about the strict rules imposed for collecting on State property at Choke Canyon, so we decided to just "look" at the rocks in the area. Amid slow stares from passing campers, and SUV's, we explored the area a bit. At one point a park ranger passed by, slowing almost to a stop, but went on when I waved to him. One SUV in particular passed by several times at one spot, and then later pulled into a drive near another spot we were looking around at. Shortly after the SUV pulled into the residence there, the Ranger who had admitted us to the park pulled up and inquired if he could help us in some way. I replied "No, we're just looking at rocks". His reply was "You can't be picking up any arrowheads, or anything." I replied "We're not picking up any arrowheads or anything like that, we're just looking at rocks." gave me a strange but suspicious look, and then continued on. We decided it would be best to forego any further perusal of the area in light of the obvious scrutiny we were receiving from the locals. I drove on into the parking area where the Ranger was parked, watching other recreation"ists" activities, and decided I would go and ask him point blank about the regulations. My question was this "Is it against state law to pick up rocks on State owned land?" His reply: "It's against the law to pick up anything on State land, including firewood. You can't pick up anything." I asked him about picking up rocks on county roads and he just shrugged his shoulders to that one...

    We headed out of the park and hit the road to CC to spend the night. On the way, we decided to burn the rest of the daylight we had at Padre Island. We drove out to one of the public beaches and got our feet wet, Brandon collected some small clams, and gastropods, and we marveled at how the clams all surfaced in unison after a wave covered them with sand. We avoided stepping on any of the small jellyfish which we occasionally found washed up on the beach. 

     

Now is that the most beautiful Mermaid you've ever seen?

    Around 7:00pm we decided it was time to return to CC and find a place to park the 'Burb for the night, as we intended to sleep in the truck. We found a place beside a local business a couple of blocks from the Lex, and settled in. Except for the voracious appetite of the local mosquito population, (all females I presume), we managed to get a few hours of sleep. Around 8:00am we joined the Troop aboard ship for the closing flag ceremony, and of course breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuit and gravy, hash browns, milk, juice, fruit, and cold cereals. We all signed a plaque in the shape of an arrowhead to present to the Lexington crew to remember us by. I selected a few choice pieces of the previous days pet wood that we had collected and made sure a young rockhound buddy of mine (9 yo) had some great Texas pet wood to take home with him. His eyes always light up when I give him rocks... He even got his Mom to build him shelves in his room to keep them on, and he looks forward to coming to our Scout meetings hoping Mr. Richards is going to be there with some of his latest finds to share.

    We got a late start for Falls City to meet Richard, and I tore the truck apart trying to find the piece of paper with his cell# on it so I could call and tell him we would be late. I never did find it until last Saturday... By the time we got to Falls City, we had missed Richard, and truly I was glad he had not waited on us. We went on out towards the Pfiel mine hoping we would run into him along the way. Never did. We collected some good specimens at the Pfiel to take to Richard in Hallettsville in case he hadn't found the mine. We spent (or I should say, I spent) a couple of more hours collecting along the county road. Eventually the heat and humidity took it's toll even on me, and I decided to drive on to Hallettsville and look Richard up there. After all, he had promised me a truckload of agate and pet wood.

    Arriving in Hallettsville, it wasn't too difficult to find Richard's place. We got the grand tour of the rock shop, marveling at some of the wonderful specimens he's collected. 30 years of rockin' adds up after a while! I won't go into detail here about specimens. Richard had some wonderful pieces of pet wood from the area that he wanted me to have, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. He presented me with several large specimens that will forever grace my property with their presence and the knowledge that I have another true rock-hound friend in Texas.

    After visiting for a while, seeing all that Richard had collected over the years, looking at the large tumbler bed he had built and getting some pointers on building one of my own, we finally managed to find room for all of the rocks (about 400# worth!), including some choice material to send to a certain friend in CT, we hit the road headed for Waco to spend the night. We found a reasonable rate on a room for the night so we could shower and get a good nights rest before heading back to Broken Arrow the following morning. Nothing doing, I couldn't get past the state line without visiting Lake Texoma near Madill, OK, and a private property there, to look for ammonites, echinoids, and other fossils. After spending another two hours in that area, we finally decided it would be best to get moving, as the boys had school the following day, and I had to get up and go to work. A few good specimens were found, including a large, (nearly 12" dia.) fairly intact ammonite with some incidental fossils attached, making it a unique display specimen.

    We finally arrived home around 8:30pm Monday evening, exhausted from four days of windshield time interspersed with hours of collecting activity, a few moments of boredom for the boys as they waited for me to decide I had enough rocks, and a total of 1730 miles for the round trip. I'm already planning the next trip to Texas...

KOR

2004 Virgil G. Richards

                               

 

 

 

2009 - DANCES-WITH-SNAKES.COM        

VIRGIL G. RICHARDS

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