Rock By The Road

The other day, Jim and I decided to take advantage of a pleasant afternoon –

The Rock Itself

 New Mexico weather is nothing if not changeable – to go for a walk.

As we wandered along a path that had been my regular walking route before I got my bicycle, Jim said, “Isn’t this about the place you picked up that core?”

I nodded and pointed back to the approximate place, thinking about how sometimes a willingness to be wrong can show you how much you’ve actually learned.

It went like this… I used to walk pretty much the same route every day. One day, after a particularly heavy rain shower, I noticed a piece of stone that looked to me as if it had been worked. Now, you must understand, over the years Jim and I have been together, I’ve seen a lot of people bring him what they’re certain are arrowheads or stone tools of some sort. Jim is always unfailingly gracious, but with a very few exceptions, usually what he tells them is that what they have is actually just a bit of gravel or broken stone.

Still, after many days of looking at this piece, I went over and picked it up. It sure looked worked to me. I almost tossed it back. Then I decided to take it home. I figured Jim would tell me it was a naturally broken chunk of rock, but that in the process I’d learn a little more about stone tools.

After dinner that night, I showed Jim my “find,” reassuring him as I handed it over that I wouldn’t be in the least hurt if he told me it was broken gravel, that all I wanted to know was how he could tell the difference.

Jim turned the rock over in his hands a few times, grinned and said, “Yes. This is a core. I can’t be absolutely sure, but it looks like Pedernal chert.”

I blinked, completely astonished. “You mean I was right? It is an artifact?”

“Yes. A core. See here and here? This is where someone knocked pieces off.”

He went on to explain that this artifact probably wasn’t local, that such things are sometimes found where gravel has been mined and moved. Since the area where I’d found this core was near to both a road and a school, that was likely how it had come to be there.

Even so, I was pretty delighted. I realized I’d learned a lot in my casual studies of Jim’s lithics. I also realized I’d learned another lesson – one that was a whole lot more important. Don’t leave the rock by the road because you know you’re wrong. You might surprise yourself.

I bet just about everyone has their own rocks in the road. I’d love to hear about yours.


13 Responses to “Rock By The Road”

  1. Ann M Nalley Says:

    Once, when I was about nine, I found a gold hoop on the ground. It was almost certainly a lost earring, but since it was fairly large and my hand were small, I gentle closed it around my finger and it made a lovely gold ring for a nine year old! I showed it to my father later that evening when he got home from work, and he scornfully said, “That can’t be real gold. The chances are slim. Just wear it for a while, and in a week or two your finger will turn green from the tarnish.” And so I did, and much to my delight, my finger did NOT turn green. The only person more delighted than I was my father ~ my rock by the road was indeed gold! I’m sure I’ll think of another story later on, and I’ll be happy to share again.

  2. Alan Robson Says:

    I was, I think, about 7 years old. I was playing at pirates and therefore, of course, I was digging for buried treasure in a patch of waste ground close to our house. Rather to my surprise, just a few inches under the surface, I found real, actual, proper treasure!

    Well, I thought it was treasure, anyway. It was a horse brass, in the shape of the head of what. in those days was called an alsation dog. These days we seem to call them german shepherds, I’ve never been sure why.

    Anyway, as you can imagine, I was absolutely thrilled with the find. I took it home, and my parents washed all the congealed dirt out of it and it stayed in our house as a prized ornament for many, many years.

    I lost track of it after my parents died, as I lost track of so many things. It’s hard to keep control when you live half a world away from the house you grew up in.

    But I like to think that my pirate treasure got buried again for another pirate to dig up in the future…

    • Ann M Nalley Says:

      I love your ending, Alan! I hope another “pirate” did find your treasure! I lost my gold ring while swimming one summer day, and I was sad! However, I did also think, “Well, maybe another little girl will find a gold ring like I did!”

      • Tom M. Says:

        A nicer alternative to another wandering ring in a famous story. I wonder what ‘rock by the road’ inspired Prof. to use that device?

  3. Paul Says:

    I was probably still in grade school when I saw the movie, “The Thing,” which really knocked me out (and still does). Even back then, I read the credits enough to see it was based on a story, “Who Goes There?”, by John W. Campbell Jr. I had no idea who Campbell was then, or even after I’d paid 35 cents for the book, which also had other stories by him. But finding the literary source of that movie was my earliest “discovery” of this kind.

  4. Patrick Doris Says:

    When I was living in Columbus Ga. after I was discharged from active duty my wife and I went on drive and a picnic along the Chattahoochee River north of the city to the edge of the Piedmont. While we were eating my wife saw a jumble of rock and said that they were petrified wood> i had my doubts since the only petrified wood I knew about was in Arizona but i went over and looked and it was indeed petrified wood . She picked out the piece that had the best bark and said we needed to have it . The fact that it weigh 75 pounds and we were at the base of a 200 foot steep incline was immaterial to her I carried it up the slope and we carried it with us every where we moved. Today it decorates the front porch. Carrying that rock up the hill was one of the things I got right in my marriage.

  5. heteromeles Says:

    I just found a rock today. It was my wife’s day off, and we were walking on the beach, looking at the cobbles, trying to find something new and different (fossils, quartz, seaglass, whatever).

    One of my quests, these last few months, has been to find a heart-shaped cobble, and today I found one. First one I’ve found in years.

    Gave it to her too, of course. She liked it.

  6. janelindskold Says:

    Funny how many of us collect rocks… Jim and I have a small container containing, among others, an ovoid rock with an almost perfect yin-yang swirl and another shaped liked a “grey alien” head, complete with holes where the eyes should be.

    When Jim and I were courting, he was on a field project. Instead of flowers, he brought me back cobbles for my yard. His crew thought he was getting off really easy.

    But to me picking up that rock was also about taking the risk of being wrong — and being joyfully suprised to find that instead my horizons had expanded. I think many of the tales told here reflect that!

  7. Eric Says:

    Was I was a child, I went outside one day and a perfectly white stone was sitting on top of the freshly laid pine straw around the landscaping. I have no idea how it got there or even what kind of rock it is, but I still have it somewhere. Someday I’ll understand its significance, but for now, I just think it’s pretty.

  8. janelindskold Says:

    There’s something about white rocks… I’d almost bet a raven or other corvid found the rock and picked it up because it was shiny. Or was this one too large for that?

    Jim and I have some huge chunks of white quartz in our yard, courtesy of the mountains of Colorado near my (late) father’s house.

    And I have built a small cairn of white pebbles near a gargoyle in the back yard.

    I wonder if part of the fascination is that they glow in moonlight?

  9. Eric Says:

    It’s entirely possible that a crow put it there. The rock isn’t too large to be picked up by one. That possibility certainly contributes to its mystique.

    To see them all glowing so in the moonlight must be quite an experience.

  10. janelindskold Says:

    One great thing about living in dry areas a mile high is moonlight is quite impressive…

  11. Susan O'Fearna Says:

    When I was little we were VERY poor and lived in Southeastern Arizona (Duncan if you can find it on a map), right next to the Gila River. Because any toys we could afford were kinda precious my favorite pasttime was making what I referred to as “soft dirt” and making my “pretty rock garden”. My grandfather and his brother, my Uncle Jim, used to steal my “soft dirt” for their REAL gardens, much to my consternation and I made a bit of pocket money by selling the pretty rocks to the local junk store after I cleaned them up and he’d sell them to the tourists who wandered through town, usually lost ^_^ .

    Today my yard here in Flagstaff is totally filled with “pretty rocks” I’ve picked up while out walking and those glass “rocks” people put in the bottom of vases, but the pride of my collection is a rather ugly chunk of raw GREEN! turquoise that I found on my mother’s grave. Other than the vein of sparkly green it’s totally bland, but I love it.


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