What is the first thing you do after a hard day’s dig at a new location? Do you change your clothes and wash up before going back into town? Maybe you just skip the town and go home or stay at the campsite?
It’s pretty understandable after a day of playing in the dirt that the last thing you want to do is go into town wearing samples of the local soils. When hunting with others I find that most people change clothes right after the hunt. They don’t even want to drive into town a little bit dirty, let alone walk into a public building that way.
Now I’ll admit that on a rare occasion or two I have also fixed up right at the rock site when I get back to the car. That only happens on special occasions, though. Through my travels to unfamiliar areas that I have hunted I have found that cleanliness isn’t always the best idea when I’ve had nothing to go by but sites listed in guides or on maps. In fact it’s a bit counter productive if anything.
One thing a traveling hunter learns early on is that if there is one good site in any given locality, there are usually others. One or two might make it into guides or onto maps. The rest are secrets to all but those who live in that local vicinity. Back where I lived in Colorado there was a whole gold mining ghost town that was only locally known. It was feared that if word got out that the local Historical Society (known to local residents as the Hysterical Society) would take it over and make a tourist attraction of the location. I lived there a year before an elderly local cracked the news of that site to me at a local cafe one day while I was sipping coffee and chatting with some of the other local patrons. It took me back a bit that I’d never heard of it before. It also made me wonder why I was finally getting a “scoop” when I never had before.
It was a few years and several coffee shops and pubs down the line from that day that I finally put two and two together and realized why people talked so freely on some occasions and why on others the locals acted as if I had just dropped from the sky in a UFO. The difference was that on some occasions I was just another tourist and on others I was just another local hunter.
When I was just another tourist I would descend on a town and ask a few locals at gas stations, convenience stores, or fast food joints if they knew of great places around the area to hunt. Standing there in my nice clean and pressed white shirt waiting for counter personnel to run my card, I had about as much chance of getting info on local digs as a school principal has of finding out whose pack of cigarettes he found on the boy’s restroom floor. I had even gone into local chambers of commerce just to come out with more information about all of the sites listed on my maps and guides.
When I was just another local hunter, things were a lot different. Being just another local hunter in a strange town isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. I found this out by having a serious addiction to coffee and a habit of checking out several locations my first day in any new location on multi-day trips. Being another local hunter is as enjoyable as it is easy.
At the beginning of the day I go to a rock site and rock hunt. Being that I always wear a white dress shirt out hunting there’s no need to explain that I can get seriously filthy very quickly while hunting. After awhile I will have either some great finds to take with me or I can judge that the spot either is a dud or it will take some advanced searching to find the goods. With only a few days in the area, I don’t want to risk all of my time in an area that doesn’t pan out. Either way, after awhile I leave and go into the nearest town for a bit. I don’t change clothes. I don’t even wash up until I get to a nice little local cafe with a counter with benches or a local pub. When I go in I take some of my cache with me and some of my maps. The first thing I do is go to the restroom and wash my face, hands, and a few of the rocks I have picked up earlier. Then I go sit at the counter, whether at a cafe or a pub.
It’s important to sit at the counter because people see booths and tables more or less as private grounds. Counters (or bars) are social areas and people feel free to talk to others there. Any rocks I have found and my maps or guides go on the counter when I sit down. I order a coffee and possibly some lunch and make a small talk comment to my server about hoping that I don’t scare people out of there and that I’m in the field rock hunting today. You’d be surprised how often the response is that “don’t worry about it, we’re used to that out here”. Sometimes this first exchange is good enough to start conversation going with the staff or other locals sitting at the counter. Looking like you just walked in from the field, you will not only be noticed, but taken seriously as a hunter. The dirt on your clothes gives you credibility as a real rockhound and people seem to take your quest much more seriously than if you look like you are ready to spend a night out on the town in style.
I show what I have found and tell where I’ve been. Then I drop the comment that I’m looking for somewhere else that I can explore that afternoon. People enjoy looking at your finds from their own locality. They are also prone to want to show a bit of knowledge if they have any. If they know somewhere that will reap better specimens than you have shown them, they often will tell you exactly how to get there. After all, you might be just another hunter, but that is THEIR territory and it just isn’t right for someone to just walk right in and know more about their own place than they do, is it?
As you might guess, you have the best luck talking with the locals when you have something from the local area to show. If you haven’t found anything you pretty much have to fish for your information. That would mean the conversation starts with “I was told that was good hunting down there, but I didn’t see anything worth taking home out at that site.” At this point people may just let you know what you already know – you wasted your time going to that spot. With luck they will redirect you to someplace that is worth going. A few times I’ve even gotten permission to hunt on private property. Sometimes you will find out you had been in the right area in the first place, but get some key information about where to head in that area that will save you a lot of time finding instead of searching.
You just will never find any map or guide book that can give you better information about local rock sites than the locals. In my book a stop that allows me to sit and talk with the local people is almost as important as the stops at the rock sites themselves. Stones and crystals aren’t the only gems I like to take home with me after a great hunt. I like it when I have found one more rockhound pal, too.
©2014 Sally Taylor