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The Patience of Rockhounds

When we were camped in the wash near Moab recently, a half-dozen trucks drove by one morning. It took a few minutes before I could tell what they were up to. They were rockhounds.

How strange it seemed for somebody to be pursuing an inexpensive and, may I say, old-fashioned activity. The outdoor sports around Moab are usually more flamboyant. It's as if each tourist is locked in competition to out-glamor every other tourist, in a frenetic orgy of adrenaline and dollars. Since I feel drawn to just about anything that is out-of-step with modern times, these rockhounds started me thinking...

What fraction of the time does a rockhound come up with anything interesting? How can anyone be so patient?

Perhaps their patience isn't so unique. A dog sniffs for a rabbit, and chases across the field with all the hope in the world; and it usually comes away empty-jawed. How many times does a professional salesman hear, "Maybe. I'll think about it," before he actually closes a deal? What fraction of the time does a book or music hunter land something great?

Anybody doing anything difficult must fail most of the time. Only the trivial stuff can be routinely successful. What a great metaphor rockhounding is for so many things! And that includes the "piecemeal pilfering" theme that interests me these days.

When it seems difficult to be patiently hopeful, it would symptomatic of our times to get touchie-feelie and psychologize and emotionalize it. What interests me is how much of the problem is actually intellectual, that is, a mistaken idea, which as usual involves a misleading comparison.

I am prone to thinking in terms of "pie-charts." If some factor or component only shows up as a 2% sliver in the pie, I want to jump to the conclusion that it "isn't that important." That's just the opposite of the way that a rockhound thinks. Or take a walk through a pharmacy and note what percentage the active ingredient is!


My dad was a rockhound and most of the time he found something that he wanted. My memory says at least 75% of the time he was successful.
Bob said…
Like anything, there are rock hunters and there are rock finders. I've done a bit of rocking in my time. I like the challenge of trying to find the spot no one else has looked yet. Usually means going a bit further, past the easy to get places. My biggest challenge has been to not bring all those rocks back with me. :O)
Bob, you sound like a dispersed campsite hunter: "I like the challenge..."
Bob said…
Boonie, I hadn't thought of hunting for a camp site in the boonies as a hunt, like a rock hunt, but you are right, I am the dispersed type. My RV is a 1967 Chevy van with four wheel drive, so I can get real dispersed. You can see my van. I like to kayak too.