Learning to love rocks
Before Jean Miller married her husband Wayne, she didn't know much about rocks. But she quickly grew to love them as much as her rock hound husband. The two worked together to make rocks, crystals and gems into something that would encourage people see and fall in love with nature's beauty too.
The Molalla couple wanted to develop an operation that would allow people and children to see the beauty of rocks and crystals without spending a lot of money to do so. Then 36 years ago they came up with the idea of rock, crystal, gem and mineral shows and chose to hold them inside the Clackamas County Fairgrounds buildings.
"It's fun to watch people's faces when they see the beauty in the rock, and those faces show such delight and awe. It's especially wonderful with children seeing their beauty for the first time," Miller said.
"I know we inspired a lot of people. A year after Wayne died, a guy came through the gate for the show and bought a ticket. After viewing the show, he put the stub in for the raffle and he won. He'd already left, but came to my home to pick up his winnings, I can't remember whether it was an amethyst or a piece of labrodorite. Now he's a full blown rock hound," she added.
Jean and Wayne's shows started out with and kept the number of vendors at 100 because it fit best into their plans, she said. The first show contained minerals, crystals, opals, beads and fossils of all kinds. People came from all over the United States as well as China and Australia, Miller said, and after a big show in Canada, many vendors ventured to the fairgrounds from there too. "Now the vendors come from all over the world," she told the Pioneer.
She worked out a deal with the fairgrounds operators and it worked well. Once the show was over, the Millers cleaned up the grounds, even though some vendors just packed up and left a mess. "Rules are rules," Miller said, "we had no disputes and everything worked out."
Her husband took care of the all the physical work, helping the vendors set up and so forth. Jean managed the book work, marketing, advertising and overseeing the banking and contracts.
But they didn't stop there. She and Wayne used to go to schools and care centers, where he would set up three or four 8-foot tables to display different specimens. Some of these were dinosaur bones and some copperlite (dinosaur manure). "You can always tell whether it came from a carnivore or a herbivore by the color," she said. Carnivores left red in the copperlite while herbivores gave off green," she said.
"We brought all kinds of rocks and fossils including a number of baby dinosaurs appearing from their eggs that came from a dealer in Utah. One rock she likes to show was a giant fossilized Ammonite, a sea creature similar to a chambered nautilus that was 3-feet by 3-feet by 3 feet and wasn't recognized as an Ammonite until 1981.
Within a short period of time, the groups became family and they helped after Wayne died of Alzheimer's disease. "Wayne and I planted the seeds of rock hounding and people still come and visit me to talk about rocks. I must have given away or sold at least 90 percent of Wayne's rocks, but I have saved some. Mostly, I gave them away. It gave me lots of pleasure to give them to people who liked and wanted the," she said
"I gave each of my four children an amethyst castle and have one left." Amethyst castles are large rocks with a hole showing amethyst crystals many of which are fully terminated ( i.e. coming to points) covering the inside. These are quite beautiful, and can be very expensive.
Today, however, since she has sold the shows, the fairgrounds have increased prices so that now the people running the shows don't feature them indoors, but do it outdoors.
With the passing of her husband five years ago, Jean managed to keep the show running for about three years, but had to sell it off a couple of years ago. "It was the vendors who helped me, I couldn't have done it without them."
"It still gives me great pleasure to show the beauty that comes from nature and that is God's creation."