Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rocks'N Stuff

Most of the rocks in Kansas are not remarkable at first consideration. First and most obviously is the limestone. There were scarcely any trees when the Europeans first settled this area. In the absence of wood, the immigrant stonemasons found and quarried the limestone, fashioning fence posts, houses, barns, schools and churches. Most of those stone structures remain and many are still comfortably inhabited as beautiful homes.

I always thought I would enjoy living in one of those modernized limestone homes until I heard (on good authority) that scorpions also enjoy inhabiting limestone houses. I have never seen a scorpion in a single one of my Kansas homes and I hope to keep it that way. Kansas scorpions are not deadly, but they are high on my revulsion scale, right up there with maggots and stink bugs.

Flint is another widespread rock. The first humans here fashioned implements of flint - arrowheads, blades, axes, scrapers, adzes, Quivera knives, spear points, awls, and hoes. Flint is directly responsible for all of the remaining untouched prairie, making the ground too difficult and costly to plow. It was flint rock, and not human wisdom, that saved what is left of the natural tall grass prairie. Humans are not even as smart as rocks, sometimes.

I love rocks in general and certain ones in particular. An acquaintance from New Zealand sent me three small rocks from that far away land. She sent me a small piece of greenstone the Maori hold sacred. They call it Pounamu, but I do not know what that means. It is beautiful, green and somewhat iridescent. She also sent a small white stone from a beach where dolphin are known to frequent offshore. The ocean has worn it as smooth as glass and there is the faintest vein of cobalt blue in it. It is beautiful.

A friend much closer to home sent me a Kansas stone that travels. It is a yellow rock of very hard stone, about the size of the palm of my hand. There is a perfect, natural hole through it. You can see there was once a fossil in the hole. I hung that stone from the roof of my front porch, in a place of honor, but it disappeared. I looked everywhere on and under and around the porch, thinking quite sensibly that it had simply fallen, but I never found it. I was deeply disappointed to have lost such a cool rock, especially one that was a gift.

A couple of years passed and I was raking Autumn leaves from under the porch when that rock turned up laying atop the leaves. Of course you think I missed it the first twenty times I raked and dug and scratched beneath the porch looking for that rock. I was delighted to have found it, but since I was busy, I laid it carefully on the porch. I intended to pick it up when I went in the house later but it disappeared again before evening. After looking all around on the porch, under it, and beside the porch with no luck, I believed it was gone for good. One day I came home from work and it had mysteriously turned up again on the porch, almost exactly where I had laid it after finding it on the leaves. Go ahead and scoff. The only other explanation is that Duke carried it off in his mouth and then brought it back. That is as crazy as a rock that appears and disappears. Now the rock is inside my house where I can keep an eye on it. So far, so good.


Jenni said...

We live near the Walnut River on property that was part of an old rock quarry. The scorpions do love it here. We often find them in our walkout basement. The kids have to be careful if they leave clothes or towels on the floor in their bathrooms. When they pick them up, they may find a scorpion in with them. Everyone but me has been stung a few times, but usually we find them before they find us. I do love all the rock here. We have cliffs (from where the machinery cut in to the rock) and lots of boulders. I can't walk outside without finding a fossil, though they usually are not anything too impressive to most people. I even found a stone scraper in a pile of rock. It's not a very good example, probably made by a beginner and discarded soon after, but it was exciting for me to find.

Anonymous said...

(It's Jade)

Jackie said...

Jenni, I wonder what it is about the stone that the scorpion like? Believe it or not, I have only seen scorpions one time, and I have lived in Kansas my entire life. About five years ago a terrible thunderstorm dropped a huge amount of rain in a short time. I was driving on highway 4 and kept noticing some similar shaped items in the road. I slowed down to see what the heck they were, and they were scorpions! I don't know, but I guessed they had been flooded out of the pastures and had tried to take refuge on the highway.

Li'l Ned said...

I'm with you on scorpions. The ones we have around here look pretty similar, and I have only seen one, out 40 miles SE of town. Plenty close for me. I don't know what it is about stone -- but conventional wisdom around here is that black widow spiders like it -- and we do find them on foundation walls and rocks. I also keep an eye open (and a glove on one hand) when I reach into our brick hearth wood storage area.

Ewww on the highway scorpion parade. I've heard the same thing happens with -- urg -- tarantulas, in the Sonoran desert during -- ???? mating season? Only since they are so much bigger (than scorpions) they end up as big greasy smudges on the roadway.

Jackie said...

Ewwww is right on scorpions, black widows, tarantulas and all other arachnids. May they all live in peace far away from me.

Susan Heslin said...

Hi Jackie, love the rock story, it's playig a coyote trick on you! You have to love a rock with a sense of humor. Here in SE Kansas (Cherokee County) scorpions are pretty common. I've found them in my washing machine twice, not sure if they traveled in on clothes or thru the machine's hoses. I hear the bite isn't much worse than a bee sting, but that's just rumor!