Monday, October 15, 2018

It's Sedimentary My Dear

Sometimes people gift me with rocks. 

Growing up, we always looked forward to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown never got any goodies in his Halloween treat bag. Poor guy. As Halloween evening wore on, he grew resigned to his ill luck. While the other kids in the Peanuts gang, minus Linus and Sally who are in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, excitedly exclaim over their cookies and candied apples, Charlie Brown quietly says, "I got a rock." 

So, I wasn't surprised when, a few years ago, my dad gave me a rock with my name on it for Christmas. My brother received the same gift with his name on it. We fulfilled our dad's expectations by looking sad and telling each other:  "I got a rock."  We really were unhappy when it was time to lug them home from his house.
 Here are a few of my favorite rocks.

 Large deposits of limestone prove Kansas was once a sea. Central Kansas is famous for stone posts. Turn one on its side and, voila, people know your name, or the name of your business, or your favorite sports team.

 The grinding wheel is cut from sandstone rock.

The two large, shapeless rocks at both ends below are also Kansas limestone.


I've been dragging rocks home with me for years. Mostly from Colorado. Sometimes I pack less so there is more room for an extra specimen or two. 

Rule 16: If I can get it to the vehicle and load it up by myself, I can take it home.

My rock collection/display isn't finished. I think I need to fill in the gaps with some sand or black lava rock. So far the gophers haven't chewed through the weed barrier.

Rainbow rock. Kind of reminds me of a Tequila Sunrise. 🍹

I think the pattern in the little guy at top left looks like a whale. 


Actually, the design formed is a nice example of Liesegang rings.

Texas holey rock, or honeycomb limestone. Apparently, this is popular in home aquariums.

Sandstone ribbon rock.

Iron oxides, manganese oxides, and other impurities can cause bright and contrasting colors in sandstone.

Banding is due to layers of deposits with differing characteristics. Sandstone is formed in many deposits, and the resulting layers can be very different from previous layers.

See the patina, or desert varnish, on the dark rock on the left?

Sometimes the sand is courser or finer than the previous layer, and this difference causes the banding.


 Whenever I go for a hike, my eyes are usually on the ground instead of the scenery. Besides my rock collection, I've come home with a handful of arrowheads and points and functional tools. 

Technically, these are a continuation of the rock collection since they are knapped from chert and flint. 

Rocks aren't necessarily objects to craft into tools and structures. They can be weapons. 

I don't think the shape of this one is coincidental. The smaller end of this five-pound rock fits comfortably in the hand for up close, personal combat. It could also be used as a pestle. Attach a stout piece of wood to the waist, and it's a hammer or the infamous blunt object.  Attach a length of leather, and it is as effective but weightier than a bar of soap in a tube sock, for all the guys who remember carrying those in their trunk.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Steadily By Jerks

When I was in high school, my dad was employed by National Trailer Convoy. It was a little different sort of job than picking up freight in one place and delivering it to another. Specifically, he moved mobile homes. A house trailer is a pre-fab structure built on a flatbed trailer. It has a hitch and wheels making it portable. 

The home's owner had responsibilities to fulfill before it could be moved. He should have removed the skirting, unhooked the utilities and made sure the tires were sound. According to the checklist Dad went through with every owner, they also should have secured the cabinet doors and furniture inside the home.

This didn't always happen. Dad came home from one location telling about a trailer anchored in a sea of children, dirty diapers and dogs. The only adult he saw was a young woman. She did not have the trailer ready to move. Some of the tires were flat, but she had spares. He had wrestled the second tire onto the lug bolts when he heard a voice right behind him say, "That's poop."  He looked around and saw a three-year-old boy poking at dog droppings with the handle end of his tire wrench.

Once or twice, Dad was accused of damaging a home in transit when it wasn't his fault. In an instance I particularly remember, the owner showed up during the process of situating the trailer on its new foundation. The guy exclaimed that the outer wall had pulled away from the frame at the back corner. What the heck did the so-and-so driver do to his house? Dad invited the guy to take him inside so they could try to see a reason for the separation. The culprit turned out to be a Chevy engine block in a bedroom closet. The wall didn't pull away from the floor. The floor pulled away from the wall.

Moving a mobile home can be a logistical nightmare. The trailers are over-length and over-width. To be legal, the driver must purchase a permit from the state highway department. Much like an aircraft flight plan, the route and time frame must be observed. It is illegal to pull an over-width, over-length object in the dark for obvious reasons. A front escort car was required to alert oncoming traffic of the road hazard. If the trailer was over a certain length, a rear escort was needed as well.

If one didn't provide their own escort, the driver had to hire one. After seeing his bottom line suffer from paying for an independent escort, my dad decided my mother should do it for him. She drove a bright yellow Mustang. Add a roof-mounted orange, revolving light and a fold-up sign that said WIDE LOAD and what do you have? An escort car. This endeavor provided my dad with years of fodder for wife-bashing stories.

In one incident, National Trailer Convoy had been hired to move three homes for the same company when their employees were reassigned. The distance was far enough the drivers worried they wouldn't get the job done in one day. The evening before the move they readied the homes and got hooked up. The next morning they fudged a little on the daylight hours by going down dirt roads for the first few miles. When they reached the highway, it was still fifteen minutes until sunrise. Dad and the other two drivers had a brief confab and decided to chance it. Mom was driving the lead escort car.

"Okay, we're going now," Dad told her. He turned to get in his truck when the entire area was lit up with strobing orange light.

"Turn that @#$%@#% thing off," he shouted at her. "Why don't you just use a siren to announce our presence? Every highway patrol in thirty miles can see that light."

It must have been nerve-wracking for Mom to drive that escort car. Rules vary from state to state, but she needed to maintain a minimum and maximum distance between Dad's truck and her car. Dad always said she didn't have good depth perception. I expect he was right because she would speed up to get ahead of him and decide she was too far away and step on the brake to slow down. When he saw brake lights, he said he never knew if he should be shifting down or not, so it was equally frustrating for him to follow her.

When someone asked him how his wife did at escorting wide loads, he said she drove 'steadily by jerks.'

Monday, October 1, 2018

I Spy

In May 1981, the entire family gathered for my grandfather's funeral. My uncle and his family drove in from Colorado. My brother flew in from Texas. My Colorado cousins are much younger than my brother and me. Although they had already sat in the car for eight hours the day before, two of them thought it would be fun to ride to Wichita to get my brother at the airport. Mom drove. They were getting restless on the return trip and we decided to play I Spy.

There are a couple of variations on the game. We always started each round saying: "I spy something..."  Another is: "I looked around and guess what I found? I found something..."  My grandkids say: "I spied with my little eye, something..."

It doesn't matter how you say it. The idea is to give a helpful clue, but not too obvious, while also making it simple enough for small children to play. It didn't take too much time for us to go around the players twice spying something green (summer flip-flops) or black (the car dash), or pink (a blouse).

It was Mom's turn again and she spied something silver. Everyone guessed. She had stumped us and had to give another clue. It was something silver and round. We guessed the radio knobs on the dash, the knob on the window winder, the push button on the glove box. We couldn't see anything else silver and round. According to the rules she had let us ask for a hint. My brother asked if it was something outside the car that we had passed five miles back. Nope. I asked if it was inside the car. Yes.

The little girls had tired of the game, but my brother and I were determined to spy the round silver object. We looked harder inside the car. My brother asked how big it was. About an inch. We couldn't find anything that hadn't already been guessed that fit the description. I asked if someone was wearing it. No.

I was sitting in the middle of the back seat. That's my spot. Rule Seventeen: the person with the shortest legs straddles the hump. My cousins were technically a little shorter, but they had elected to rest their arms on the armrest. That's what it was there for.

My brother, in the front seat, looked back with his face all screwed up, trying to think of another question. Finally, he asked what supported it. That was a pretty sneaky question.

Mom thought a minute and said she guessed it was the government. Huh?

I asked if she was talking about money?  A Quarter?

Finally, someone guessed the correct answer.

My brother is looking around on the floor boards, in the cup holder, on the dash, trying to see a stray quarter. He asked where it was. It was in her purse. Naturally.

Hey, Mom. The whole point of I Spy is that the players can see the object.

Rule Twenty-four: Never assume Mom won't change the rules in the middle of the game just to drive you crazy.