Barbie, the mystery rock, and the best Christmas present ever

I have been a rock collector most of my life. Somewhere there are photographs of me in diapers putting rocks in a cup. My addiction goes back that far.

The mineral collection at New York’s Museum of Natural History inspired me as a child.

I wonder sometimes how my predilection with minerals began. It might have been those trips to the Museum of Natural History in New York when my siblings and I were young. I recall being astounded by the dinosaur bones and the massive model of a blue whale that hung from the ceiling in the Hall of Ocean Life. But it was the Hall of Gems and Minerals that always left me with my mouth hanging open, as I gaped at the sparkling stones, their colors astounding in their depth and variety.

A Barbie or a geology kit? Barbie didn’t stand a chance.

My parents noticed my love of rocks. I know this because when I was twelve, Santa brought me the best gift ever. It was a metal box that opened into three sections, a geology kit that held the most wondrous things. There was a rock hammer, a small black rockhounding book with color pages of minerals, a scratch plate to help identify specimens, and various neat-looking glass tubes filled with things I can’t recall. The idea was to help me determine just what types of rocks I’d collected. I’m sure you can imagine that I no longer found my Barbie the least bit interesting.

Since that time, I have gone rocking whenever and where ever I could, so I have amassed hundreds of specimens, and the fact that I used to move around a lot—following reporting jobs that took me to different markets over the years—sometimes proved problematic. Once, when I was headed to Bristol, Connecticut to work for ESPN, there was some concern as to what the network was paying to move. The question was posed to my mother, who was at my new home when the movers arrived, as I was still driving across the country.

I have a lot of rocks. About 400 in my living room alone.

“What is all of this?” someone from ESPN asked.

“Rocks,” she said coolly.

“Rocks?” Apparently, they didn’t believe her.

My mother wasn’t always so understanding where my rocks were concerned. There is the often-told, family tale about me returning home from summer camp one year. My mother lifted my suitcase from a line of others by the bus and the handle broke. The many rocks I’d brought home tumbled into the street. While I rushed around collecting my treasures, my mother stood red faced with embarrassment.

When she determined I had too many rocks, she would—often while I was away at camp—toss my rocks into the garden. It would rain and my specimens would sink into the mud. But when I got home I would dig them up, clean them with my mother’s Waterpik—she didn’t know that until decades later—and return them to their proper places in my room.

Where did the mystery rock come from? I’m still looking for an answer.

Generally, one travels to old mine sites or wild places to collect specimens, so the day my sweetie-pie and I were walking the dogs on a city street in Phoenix stands out as the strangest place I’ve ever found a beautiful rock. We live in East Phoenix, an eclectic, mid-century kind of neighborhood. I spied what I thought was an ice cube in the road, which considering it was nearing 100 degrees seems silly when I think about it now. I kicked it and felt the weight. I reached down and picked up a big, brilliant quartz crystal.

“Where the hell did this come from?” I looked around. The stone was as out of place as a polar bear in the desert.

 I went home and placed the specimen in my case, but felt uncomfortable. It must belong to someone. If I had found such a lovely piece and lost it, I’d want it back.

So, I returned to the street where I’d found the crystal. I noticed several nice pieces of petrified wood in the yard nearby, and considered that the specimen might belong to the people who lived there. No one answered when I knocked. I tried again a few weeks later and the homeowners informed me that no they weren’t rock collectors, thanked me for asking, and closed the door.

I put the mystery rock back in my case and I will cherish the memory of finding it.

The crystal returned to its perch in my rock box, the mystery of its origin unsolved. But that’s the thing about being a rocker. It’s not just about collecting specimens, it’s about the stories that go along with them. Those who know me well understand that if I’ve had a glass of wine or two and they ask about my rocks, I will tell them endless stories of my rocking adventures, whether they want to know or not.

So, while you too are welcome to ask, be forewarned. It could be a long night.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2



Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here:

6 thoughts on “Barbie, the mystery rock, and the best Christmas present ever

  1. Emma Lane says:

    Fascinating. I used to be a rock hound. My hubby protested loud and long about the heavy boxes he had to load when we moved from Alaska to NY. Lots of fossil rocks around here. The boulders that surround the fence circling Niagara Falls are loaded with them. Turtle rocks, Herculean diamonds up the road, etc.


    • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

      One never stops being a rock hound, Emma, so I guess you still are one. 😉 I did go rocking at the Herkimer Diamond Mine in New York many years ago. They are lovely. 😉


    • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

      Pink and Turquoise? I’d love to see them, Catherine. That’s a rare combination in the rock world. Do you live near any copper mines?


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