"Fortune walks right through the door, and here I am, just like before"--Rickie Lee Jones
As is customary, my business matters managed to get me on the road late on Friday, for the four and a half hour drive up to my folks' home in Arkansas. The traffic on Interstate 30 out of Dallas was bumper to bumper--perhaps some folks had the whole week off for Thanksgiving. I diverted around through Rockwall on Highway 66, but the traffic did not becomne light until the other side of Royse City.
The drive was, as always, pleasant. I listened to cassettes--Springsteen's "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and Rickie Lee Jones' "Pirates". A third cassette was hastily ejected when it proved to be a legal education seminar.
I arrived well after eleven, but my mother had made vegetable soup which "waited on" me. In addition, some gingerbread men danced in a tupperware container.
Early on Saturday, my father and I drove to the Crater of Diamonds State Park, in Murfreesboro, some sixty five miles away from my folks' home in Camden. I had been some fortysomething times as a child and a teenager, but I had not returned in the past twenty five years or so. The drive took us by Bills Town, birthplace of rhinestone cowboy Glen Campbell, through Little Missouri River bottom country, to a mildly hilly, rock-filled terrain that marked the area near the diamond crater. My father, who is geologically inclined, peppered me with a detailed narrative of the various layers of creataceous rocks in the vicinity, as well as a vigorous discussion of the puzzle of alluvial diamonds. Many more diamonds are found in rivers than are found in the earth. Glittering things lay undiscovered all over America.
The Crater of Diamonds has a nice new large visitors' center, and a restaurant, as well as abundant camping. This varies a bit from the "small hut with a shop" that it had when it opened as a state park in 1972. But the core of the crater is still the same. It's a huge plowed field, roughly 33 acres, where people walk along the surface or dig holes in the ground, hunting for diamonds. A rough diamond looks like a fleck of metallic rock. The folks who find them say they "wink" at you when you pass by. All my winks come from mica, though, a valueless little metallic looking thing.
A ranger gave a brief presentation on how to hunt. It's not a sure thing by any means. Roughly a diamond and a half are found every day, on average.
We hunted the surface, and we panned for diamonds, using expert panning devices from that known diamond cartel retail outlet, the Wal-Mart (pronounced Val-Mare by the aficionado) kitchenware section (they are carefully hidden under the label "pasta strainer").
Let me tell you that there's something restful about looking at tons of small crystals, to see if any could be a diamond. One does not mind the mud, or the mica, or the fact that dirt sticks to quartz, so it can't be a diamond. One does not mind that there are so many rocks, and so few gems.
We found no diamonds, although, as is permitted, my father took home a bucket of strained material for more detailed searching. He found a diamond that way a few weeks ago. His lifetime total is three. Mine is zero.
Sometimes we'd hear a far-off shotgun handled by a deer hunter. One of my nephews was busy shooting a deer that morning, dozens of miles away. His family sent me home with venison from past successes.
They still have the feature where the local ranger tells one which stones one has found. I took my mix of fingernail-sized crystal for identification. I had a number of jasper and two beryls. Next time I go I will have to take some rocks home, and then rock-tumbler them. Assuming, of course, that I still have a rock-tumbler.
We drove home, passing the place that makes fried pies for sale by the box. When we reached home, I scooped up two nephews and a niece and went fishing at the Ouachita River. All the local bait shops were closed or out of bait, though, and the nibbles which the "bait shrimp" from the grocery store drew are barely worth repeating.
I drove back home yesterday morning, pausing at the tourist information bureau on the Texas border to get information about tons of little northeast Texas towns I wish to visit.
It's cold here now, and I have two days of work to get done before Thanksgiving.