Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Yeah it only takes about 5 hours to get there". That’s what everyone I talked to said.

We arrived at the ‘Harbor Something?’ 8 hours after leaving Nashville. Granted, we hit traffic. And someone had to stop and pee a lot (I swear it was NOT me). But much to our delight our cabin (aka condo made of wood) was well-equipped to handle all three colorful personalities in our camp. We had everything we needed to eat and drink which is what we are always mainly focused on doing.

But this trip was also about digging for crystals. Arkansas has the largest reserve of quartz next to Brazil (Brazil being number 1). Lake Ouachita (WAH-SHEE-TAW), the lake our place was near (I would say ON but we had a view of the tennis court) features one of the biggest crystal veins in the world. There is also a very rare jellyfish frolicking in those waters but we’ll save that research for a warmer trip. The Corp of Engineers made this lake for it’s hydro-electric power, water source, and wildlife conservation…..but another reason is the preserve the crystal underneath it. There are many uses for quartz and as we are rapidly depleting our natural resources, it’s no wonder the government wants to protect this “gem”. We use quartz in everything from watches, microphones, radios, and computers. And some people just think it’s pretty….which is why we were there.

After a lengthy search online for the best mines to dig, we found Gee and Dee’s. An old ma and pa shop where you can pay to dig your own crystals. We got up Saturday morning and had Brannon call to let them know we were heading their way soon. After about a 15 minute phone conversation Brannon hung up and said Dee told him that the mine was shut down but we could dig in their front yard. We were a bit confused but knew somehow we would get back in that mine and dig!

Again, we under estimated our travel time… but only by 12 miles this instance so we were ok. We arrived at Gee and Dee’s greeted by two sweet dogs and Dee herself. She called me Antarctica although I was certain she was talking to Renae, my friend who was sporting a faux polar bear vest ensemble (perfect for mine digging—;)) I digress…The yard was beautiful. It was like Superman’s crystal cave threw up on a yard in Story, Arkansas. But we also wanted answers. Why can’t we dig? Dee explained that back in late June of 2010 there was a flash flood that came through around 5:30am and killed at least 20 people (6 of them children) while they were camping in the Ouachiata State Park. Noted as the Albert Pike Flood, it caught national headlines and President Obama even offered federal help. The national attention shed light on the mines there as well. They came in and implemented new codes and laws for the miners making it impossible for the “working man’s miner” to adapt and conform. They don’t have the monetary resources to make huge scale changes to abide by the new regulations and stay open. Dee was even caught digging on her own land and fined. We weren’t getting back there and neither were the owners of the mine. With heavy hearts we combed through their yard collections grabbing anything that even slightly interested us. We learned from Gee about the nature of the rocks and how they form, about the history of their mine and what the future holds for them. “I will have to sell my mine to the government. That’s all I can do”. I felt a true sense of what this man was going through. Having mined for 54 years that’s all he knows to do. He said that crystals were more addictive than cigarettes (they both smoked a pack each while we were there). He has a true passion for mining you can tell by his hands. I knew when I saw the huge heart-shaped crystal he pulled and carved for Dee, that this was a gentle man in love with his life and his rocks. I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy watching his livelihood robbed of him in his twilight years and for a good while that day that is all I could think about. I digress, again.

The visit ended with Gee showing us his private collection in the back shed. We bought some sacred pieces there and learned that Gee was a bluegrass musician. He gave us two cd’s of The Ouachita Mountain Boys. And let me tell you… it was good! They were having a jam session at 5 at the Blue Bell (a small cafe in the middle of nowhere). We sorta/kinda promised to be there and we did show up but just too early. Our brains and hearts and bones were worn out. We returned to our cabin/condo on Lake Ouachita, sat in the floor staring at our crystals speechless for about an hour, and then it was time to eat and drink again.