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ROCK STARS

Oregon City’s Clackamette Mineral and Gem Club, is celebrating 50 years, however, the secret to the club’s longevity is up for debate.

Is it the knowledgeable and friendly members, eager to share their expertise? Is it the lure of collecting beautiful rocks from faraway places and polishing them until they shine? Or is it the fun of getting muddy and scrabbling away in the dirt?

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Art Hess, left, points out the markings on a polished Brazilian agate, while David Hanna displays the innards of a huge thunder egg.The answers, according to a group of seven club members, are yes, yes and heck, yes — it is loads of fun digging in the dirt.

Although the club has nearly 200 members, the group would like to encourage more people, especially families and youngsters, to come to the meetings and join in the fun.

Education also is a huge part of the club’s mission, said Richard Mauer, adding, “When young people are fooling around with rocks, they are connected to the Earth, they get a little bit of respect for the Earth we are on.”

“The club has lasted this long because of Bea and Forrest Settle. They keep the club’s paperwork up to date, and Bea has a tremendous knowledge of rocks,” said Carolyn Hess, who calls herself a greeter at the club’s monthly meetings.

Tomoko Kira, another member, described the Settles as mentors for her and her husband, Hidemi. In fact, the Kiras have acquired so many rocks, that they have had to expand their garage.

Bea and Forrest Settle have been members of the club since 1977, and Bea has been treasurer since 1982.

“Before we were in the rock club, we didn’t know many people. Now I consider this group sort of my main family. Everyone in our club gets along with each other,” she said.

Collecting rocks is a “fabulous hobby, and it draws you to a good core of people who enjoy the same thing you do. It creates great friendships. These are hard-working and dedicated people,” said David Hanna, president of the club.

Art Hess, Carolyn’s husband, said he has been collecting rocks all his life, but joined the club to learn more about them from knowledgeable people.

He was the chairman for the club’s 50th anniversary celebration in May, and said he was grateful that so many “generous, helping” members jumped in to assist him in putting the event on.

Mauer has a story about the incident that caused him to join the group.

He purchased some rocks and minerals and was able to indentify everything except for one piece.

“I had this chunk of green rock, and I walked into the Clackamette Mineral and Gem Club fall show and saw a guy in an orange vest. I showed him the rock, and he told me to go talk to Bea. She took one look at it and said it was nephrite jade, maybe from Wyoming or Siberia or British Columbia.

“I walked out and said, ‘Wow, somebody knows something. There is a pool of knowledge here, a collective intelligence,’ ” he said.

Mauer is now the chairman of the fall show, held this year on the weekend of Oct. 26 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, in Canby.  

Beauty is in the rocks

Rock hounds find it difficult to describe their favorite stones, because, as Hidemi Kira said, “there are so many pretty rocks.”

This from a man who wears around his neck a pendant made from a large slice of drusy quartz that is part amethyst.

“It is supposed to be a mineral specimen, but I wear it to the grocery store to recruit people to the club,” he said, adding, “People always ask about it.”

He and his wife came to rock hounding by accident; they were driving around “in the middle of nowhere,” and ended up in Lakeview.

“Someone told us to go see the sunstones, and when we saw them, the whole ground was sparkling. We got so excited, we thought we had found treasure,” he said, adding that he and his wife joined the club initially to learn to polish the stones they found that day.

His wife added that she considers rock hounding a “sustainable hobby,” and she loves it because she gets to see “natural wonders.”

Art Hess remembers the first rock that he collected as a child, when he was living near a gravel pit on Johnson Creek Boulevard.

“It’s a square-ish piece, almost orange with wavy white lines. It wasn’t carnelian, but is in that family. I still have it,” he said.

Mauer also still has the first rock he ever collected, a piece of green jasper from the beach at Tillamook. But the stone that really speaks to him is a piece of India green moss agate he found at an estate sale.

“It was sitting on a window sill, and the sun was shining on it. It was a grass green color with a blue area, and there is kind of a cavity filled with fine quartz crystals.”

Digging it

Hanna considers himself an “urban rock hound,” he said, noting that he now usually acquires his rocks from collectors at shows.

But he did note that in 1967, when he and his wife were first married, they dug out about 60 pounds of thunder eggs from the Lucky Strike Mine east of Prineville.

“We hung onto them until about six or seven years ago, when we found someone to cut them open for us. We were amazed what was inside,” he said.

“Our first real rock field trip was in 2003, when we drove to Utah. We went up this steep hill and saw whole mountains of agate — we were like kids, so excited,” said Tomoko Kira.

Bea Settle’s favorite stone is a 300-pound piece of rainbow obsidian that she and her husband dug out of an area in Northern California.

“You hit a pocket and hundreds of pounds are coming out of that area. You learn where to dig,” she said, adding that some areas require permits for digging.

“You go on field trips to learn where to dig, and you share holes, if people around you are not finding anything,” Carolyn Hess said.

Her husband added, “When you are out in the woods or in the desert, on your knees digging in the dirt, you are all on a common level.”

Rock hounds

What: The Clackamette Mineral and Gem Club of Oregon City

When: Meetings held from 7 to 9 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month. This month’s meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Where: Kraxberger Hall at the Zion Lutheran Church, 720 Jefferson St., Oregon City

Contact: For more information about the club, call the message line at 503-650-4000, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit clackamettegem.org.

Fall show: The Clackamette Mineral and Gem Club of Oregon City’s 49th Annual Rock and Gem Show takes place Oct. 26 and 27, at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, Canby. The event is free.

For more information, visit the website listed above, or call Richard Mauer at 503-691-6395.




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  • 22 Dec 2014

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