The lure of rocks is real. From June 20-23, rockhounds from all over the West made their annual trek to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for the 70th annual Rock, Gem and Mineral Show, put on by the All Rockhounds Powwow Club of America.
Buddy Bowers, of Phoenix, Arizona, a rockhound since 1960, has been visiting Madras for the past eight years. "It's a great hobby," he said. "It gathers people from all over the country. You meet a lot of people who come by every year."
Bowers likened rock collecting to a disease. "If you ever get it, you have to be careful," he joked. "You never get over it."
This year, Bowers, who retired about 20 years ago from his job as an inspector for Honeywell, had a 39-pound mass of rhodochrosite on display, which he bought from a miner. The beautiful, manganese-rich, pink and white-banded rock was found in a mine in Argentina, where mineral deposits have grown over the centuries as stalactites and stalagmites in ancient mine tunnels. The stone was priced at $4,895.
Checking out the vendors was Deborah Schlienz, who took a break from her job at Boeing, in Portland, to drive to Madras. "I come here every year," she said, as she looked at some specimens of tiger tail jasper at Bowers' booth.
Schlienz, who has attended jewelry school, and is a member of the Mt. Hood Rock Club, looked for, and found, numerous pieces to add to her collection of stones. She feels that attending the show gives her ideas and inspiration.
Not far away from Bowers' booth, Rafael Suendermann had a new location, closer to the show's entrance, for displaying his amethysts, which were mined in his native Uruguay.
Dark amethysts, such as the ones found in Uruguay, are harder to find, said Suendermann, noting the "99 percent of everything (in his booth) is amethyst."
Suendermann has participated in the Jefferson County shows at least six times, he said. "We do like 40 shows a year."
At a rock, gem and mineral show, Suendermann believes that "You can travel the world in one hour."
"People who love rocks, always find rocks," he said. "I sell the most simple rock there is."
Seattle resident Eric Edgerton drove down to Oregon to spend several days collecting rocks, and was perusing the amethyst at Suendermann's booth.
Edgerton had already been to the Friend Ranch, Richardson's Rock Ranch and the Polka Dot agate mine, in the Ashwood area, and planned to continue south, to the Nevada border.
"We camp out for two nights, and then go south of McDermitt (Nevada) to collect thunder eggs," he said. "I'm just an enthusiast; I've been here a bunch of times and love it."
A new vendor, Sophia Freeman, of St. Maries, Idaho, held her 11-month-old daughter, Eris, at her booth featuring handmade, wire-wrapped jewelry. She and her husband and two young sons, who live in their motorhome, had only participated in one show prior to the Madras show.
"It's been good," she said, on the opening night of the four-day show. "I've had a lot of conversation, but not many sales yet."
Freeman, who intricately wraps stones in copper and silver wire for pendants and bracelets, has set up a Facebook page for her jewelry-making, called Eris Smiles.
After remarking on the artistry of Freeman's work, Cara Carlson, of Rufus, said that she and her husband and a friend have a jasper mine in Sherman County, and drove over for the day.
"We just come to look at the show," said Carlson, a partner in China Hollow Picture Rock, who enjoys the long-running Jefferson County Rock, Gem and Mineral Show.
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