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Rocky times

By Staff | Jun 7, 2023

When I was at BYU in the ’70s, I took Geology 101. I remember Professor Jess Bushman quite well. He was in the twilight of his teaching career. He used to lecture with his eyes closed, which in turn tempted me to listen to him with my eyes closed as well.

Some days the lectures were like verbal Sominex. You can imagine how interesting it was to learn the scientific definitions of geologic features such as: hill, valley and mountain. Of course, sleeping in class wasn’t as easy when we got past the basics and discussed the scintillating subjects of alluvial fans, plate tectonics, and volcanoes.

Actually – geology is interesting to me and has been for many years. I even got my geology merit badge as a boy scout. Back then, I put together small samples of rocks in a collection in several egg cartons. I learned the difference between igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks in those boy scout days long ago.

There’s something solid about a rock (duh). Something you can feel and hold. Something lasting. I often bring a rock home with me from trips and vacations as a keepsake. I often like to bring a stone of some sort home from the beach when we’re at the ocean.

I came home with two or three little rocks from a Florida beach recently. As an odd twist to my rock collecting, I brought home an old “Houston Red” brick that I found on the beach at Galveston, Texas years ago.

I tell my wife that these rocks are paperweights. She wonders just how many papers I have that need weighing down. I think she thinks that I’m nuts. If I predecease her, (okay, not if – but, when), the contents of the household garbage can will be especially heavy the few weeks after my funeral.

By the way, please don’t tell anyone that I’ve done this rock collecting. It might be possible that I’ve bent a law or two by removing some of these rocks from their “natural habitat.”

I prefer to think of them as “on loan.” One of these days, I’ll start taking trips back to the same places and return them to their homes. (It’s possible)

I’m aware that there are rock hounding laws in this country. Some areas are restricted. Some federal ground is pretty much open to the collecting of rocks in small amounts for personal use. You do need a free or inexpensive permit on some government ground.

Of course, you have to remember that you can’t take rocks away from parks, Native American lands, military reservations, dam sites or wildlife refuges. It should go without saying that collecting on private land isn’t to be done without permission.

What the rules are on the beach in Nice, France and Francavilla, Italy; I don’t know. (But in my case, seeking forgiveness seemed like an easier way to go than getting permission.)

Years ago, I brought about a five-pound rock down off the mountain as a remembrance of a Saturday morning hike. As I traveled home, I noticed a new neighbor out planting flowers.

I took the rock to her and made a “welcome to the neighborhood” presentation. I told her, “I picked this rock out especially for you as an enhancement to your flower bed.”

She was just as thrilled as if I had given her… umm – umm – something other than a rock. You may want to try gifting rocks in your neighborhood. No more worries about what to give for a housewarming present. Forget the “loaf of bread’ and plate of cookies” welcome. Give them something solid and lasting.

I’m reminded of the “Pet Rock” craze of the 1970s. I remember thinking at the time, “Who’s dumb enough to buy a rock as a pet?”

A guy in California, Gary Dahl, sold more than a million pet rocks during the Christmas season of 1975. The “pets” came with an owner’s manual with instructions on how to care for your “perfect pet.”

Pet Rocks were marketed as terrific “faithful companions” because of their “long life spans.” The most popular trick that your newly acquired “pet” could perform was “playing dead.” By 1976, Gary Dahl was a millionaire.

I’m not a “real” rock hound – yet. I don’t spend lots of time at it. And, I don’t have what most people would consider interesting and rare specimens. I just have a few rocks. A real rock hounding hobby may be in my future though.

I can close my eyes and imagine myself spending my winters in Quartzite, Arizona. That’s where the big rock and gem shows are held. I don’t know, it’s either that, or maybe when I close my eyes, I’m just imagining myself teaching geology 101 at BYU. — Merrill


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