Or, how Geologists get Down and Dirty:
On our second full day in Arkansas, the camp woke early in order to prepare for a full day of digging. The destination for the day was the Sweet Surrender Quartz Mine in Story, Arkansas. The title of the mine proved to me that geologists have a particular sense of humor, as I made several jokes about it to Delany on the way. We gathered buckets, rock hammers, gloves, sledgehammers and shovels and crammed into our convoy to make our way to the mine. The drive into Story was scenic and summery. The trees were already showing their leaves, and the air was sweet with the smell of a spring that had yet to arrive in Wisconsin. Our convoy only made a few wrong turns before we found the right dirt track, and we followed it as it twisted through the woods.
After just a few minutes of worming our way through some pines and firs, the ground suddenly dropped off on our right. As we drove on a bit more, we saw the people that run the mine and their lively dog companion, Bubba. As we parked our cars and clambered out, we were greeted by Bubba, Randy, Becky and Mike. Randy owns the mine and he’s helped out by Becky, his wife, and Mike, in order to run the mining tours and dig the quartz crystals.
Randy and Mike took us through the mine safety as we played a little fetch with Bubba, and then we were off! We scampered down a slope into the mine. It was an open pit mine with orange-pink clay and trees all around, and it stretched a good quarter mile along its length. There was one mostly empty end where the quartz vein had been almost tapped out, and then a deep pit on the opposite side of the mine where Mike and another miner were working on exposing the quartz vein with a digger and their hands.
After surveying the mine, the actual geologists (and Drew) got quickly to work, scanning the mine for the best places to dig and find quartz. I meandered along behind them, completely out of my element. I did find a choice piece of quartz that I got to keep, however. It’s a clear crystal with two distinct points and a bit of iron in the grooves so that it shows a bit red in the sun.
We stayed in the mine for most of the morning and afternoon. During lunch, the geologists had conversation with Randy, a veteran of quartz mining. Randy bought the mine from an old partner of his and is actually making quite a success out of it. People from different countries have visited the mine, and one couple actually comes back every anniversary of theirs to celebrate their marriage with a day of mining. Randy, aside from letting groups mine and keep all that they collect, also sells baskets of unwashed quartz and clusters of cleaned quartz crystals in delicate boxes. We stayed with Randy, Mike and Bubba in the mine for the entire morning and most of the afternoon. (Unfortunately I had gotten too much sun at the mine and had to retire to the shade as though I had a bad case of the ‘female vapors’) After most of the club was done digging, Kyle dug out the drone to take footage of the mine in its entirety. Bubba took particular interest in the drone, and barked at it whenever it got anywhere near to landing.
After our busy day of digging and talking rock shop, the geologists from the club had even better success than I, and they were able to gather buckets and buckets of quartz crystal that they were eager to clean back at camp. Indeed, as soon as we all traveled back to Denby Point (taking the right turns this time), all of the crystals were piled on our picnic table and were being vigorously washed in water from the camp pump. It took quite some convincing on behalf of everyones empty stomachs to get them to stop washing their rocks and actually eat dinner.