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They had just laid down a fresh load of gravel outside Moss’ place.  Meant to cover the potholes and welcome the thirsty souls looking for their dreams, or hopes, in a bottle, the gravel glistened in the sun of the old Arkansas honktyonk. It wasn’t much more than a collection of shacky buildings rumored to include a brothel in the back. I rarely visited this place and why I happened to be there the handful of times that fresh gravel made it’s appearance in the road bed, is a mystery to me. Dad had a rule about his oldest and honkytonks. But for whatever reasons Dad bent that rule in those few visits when I happened to accompany him, it was my pleasure to be there. One might count it destiny. For from the very first, I noticed that hidden within the more common members of that gravel were tiny, clear crystals, six sided and shiny and reflecting the sun almost like they had their own light inside them. Uncommon jewels among the rabble. I collected them. I thought just maybe, a few of them might be diamonds. There was a certainty in my own mind, that the possibility of finding the next most beautiful, perfect, large crystal was just about looking. That and getting Dad to take me with him to Moss’. By the time that gravel driveway had been covered in wind blown dirt and weeds, I had a cigar box full of them.

My collection quickly outpaced cigar box containment.

“Janet,” Becky said one day when visiting for tea, “Not many people have as many rocks laying around in their house as you do. You have some very pretty ones.”

It pays to surround yourself with those who love you enough to accept you despite your noticeable irregularities.

I tried to explain. “It’s partly about how rocks, well, become rocks. However they start out, be they sandy loam draining from around a creek, layer upon layer or a tree buried in an oxygen-less soil, or something else, for a rock to be a rock it has to spend time in the heat and pressure of the bowels of this rocky planet. And once there, hardened into, well rock, it has to find it’s way back to the surface, so people like me, can, well, discover it.” Becky smiled agreeably.

I continued. “That means there are endless possibilities to look for amazing and beautiful rocks, each telling their own history of where they have been and how they started.” Becky nodded. “Maybe I can find a pretty one for you one day”, she said genuinely.

At about the same time Becky noted that my rock collection was expanding considerably inside my house, I had started having, well kind of a thing for petrified wood. Not quite ready to admit how far my ideas for rock collecting had gone, I was moving way beyond mantel size pieces to the possibility of much larger specimens. On my jaunts all around the area of our farm, I had been noticing the use of petrified wood in various houses. One spectacular example had whole tree trunks, feet in length, jutting from special places of the front wall. People sell petrified wood on Craig’s list. I, uh… I mean people buy it from them.

The word spread among my friends. It s a mystery to me how.

“I’ve got about a half trailer full of rocks I got from Oklahoma. The guy told me they were petrified wood” Dan said one day, calling out of the blue. Dan is a man of extraordinary talent. He can build things. ”It’s pretty stuff,” he tells me. “You could make something nice at your farm. But I don’t think it’s real petrified wood. You want it anyway?” Rock hunting desire flooded my veins. The vision of a whole half a trailer of petrified wood swum in my brain. “What makes you think it’s not petrified wood,” I asked Dan, not wanting to hear any good reasons to believe it was otherwise. “I’ll bring you some samples,” he said.  This to the woman who imagined there were diamonds hidden in gravel.

Petrified wood, I thought to myself, Homer like. Please, dear God, let it be.

I met Dan in the parking lot of Academy north of Houston, he being of caliche country out west, he and pretty Lorie were in visiting family and we took advantage of the occasion. Four pieces lay in the bed of his truck. He handed me one. I held this heavy piece in my hand. It was a rock, and a pretty one, no doubt. I turned it over. Looked at it end to end, I ran my hand over its surface. Had it started out as some ancient tree, way up there on the plains of Oklahoma, buried in some event some hundreds, possibly millions of years ago, mineralized water spreading through its zylem and phloem before it had the chance to rot?

What do you think? I am betting your instinct will be worth something.

and another one…

Next week: The answer.