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Oroville Rock Stars
by Alexandra Heath
Many years ago a young boy living in El Cajon in Southern California kicked a rock down the dusty road on his way home from school. Picking it up, closer examination revealed that it was a piece of petrified wood. Excited with his discovery, he raced home and showed his mother. In the days that followed he found more pieces of petrified wood and other beautifully colored stones. One day he noticed an old man sitting by a building some distance from the road. The old man, who was himself a bit of a rock hound, asked the young boy if he was interested in rocks. As it happened, the road crossed the old man’s land. From that time on he took the boy under his wing teaching him everything he knew about rocks and how to work with them to make jewelry and other beautiful objects.
This all happened when John Scott, the young boy of the story, was only eight years old. But he learned enough from the old man that by the time he was sixteen years old he had collected a box full of tourmaline, a semi-precious gemstone, from his rock explorations, which he sold and then purchased a brand new Jeep. Today Scott serves as Event Chair for the Feather River Lapidary and Mineral Society, Inc., affectionately know as the “Rock Club” by its more than fifty members.
Organized in 2008, the Rock Club is a federally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to provide education about lapidary arts, minerals, and the geology that creates the rocks and stones used by their members to create jewelry and other functional and ornamental objects. Scott enjoys particularly working with 6th to 8th graders at local area schools. In addition to school outreach, members enjoy the benefits of learning as well. At the most recent Club meeting, Dawn Cozine, the Field Trip Chair, provided a fascinating slide show and lecture about the geology of the lava tubes in Lava Beds National Monument, where she and member-at-large Cheryl Kuentz made an exploratory trip prior to arranging for a Club field expedition.
Field trips provide opportunities for members to develop their discovery skills and their “eye” for particular minerals, although sometimes the most spectacular discoveries happen by accident. Scott recently went exploring for a special kind of agate. After a full day of searching, he had only collected a partial bucketful of small pieces. Small stones can be tumbled and shaped, but collectors look for large solid pieces that can be cut into slabs. As he was packing up for the day, one of his rock hammers slipped off the tailgate of the truck and struck the tip of a rock that barely stuck out of the ground. Eureka! The chipped rock revealed the streak of green he had been searching for.
In contrast to laws prohibiting the removal of plant species from public lands, minerals may be collected. Each person is allowed to collect and remove up to 200 pounds plus one piece of rock per field trip. There have been many times when the “one piece” proved to be too heavy to remove and it was regretfully left behind, although the stories about “the one that got away” linger on to be recounted at every opportunity.
In addition to their educational work and the workdays and field trips, the Rock Club organizes and presents an annual Rock and Gem Show. This year they were able to secure the commercial building at the Silver Dollar Fairground. With plenty of free parking and a huge exhibition space, this year’s show features over 26 vendors, a food court, Club information and auction and raffles for door prizes donated by Club members. The vendors cover a spectrum from luxurious fine gold settings to inexpensive beads to “Magic Floating Rocks” for the kids. On September 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and September 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can visit the show, learn about the rocks and minerals, many from our local area, and perhaps purchase a special piece of jewelry or artwork. In keeping with the Club’s educational mission, admission is free for those under the age of sixteen. The first 100 kids through the door starting at 10 a.m. both days of the show will receive a shark tooth fossil that is approximately 12 million years old.