Loss of another classic collecting site.
By Fred Gossien, #1162
Early in 2004 the owner of the Little 38 mine, site of the original Terlingua calcite source in the Terlingua Cinnabar District, reached an agreement with the contractor of a local highway project. They were to set up a rock crusher about 100 yards east of the Terlingua calcite source dump and use the limestone hill to the north as their crusher material. As soon as I heard about the pending deal I contacted the property owner and urged her to preserve the mine dump not only as a historic site, but as the source of a rare and highly desirable fluorescent mineral. If that had occurred, obviously I would have no need to write this.
When the construction equipment arrived in early March the first order of business was removal of about 1/3 of the dump, despite my eleventh hour plea to the owner, for fill at a temporary office site some 400 yards to the south. A few days later that dump fill was covered with dirt and then with up to a foot of gravel. For the next several days nothing much happened, then in one day most of the remaining dump was relocated to the crusher site. This material plus more of the dump was subsequently run through the crusher and reduced to chunks ranging from about tennis ball size to football size. It is to be used in some phase of the road construction. The remainder was pulverized.
I was told on April 5 that no more of the dump was to be used. At this point about 5% of the original dump was still in tact. Two days later it was leveled and covered with dirt and limestone.
As a full time Terlingua resident since 1995, I searched large portions of the district for about two years before concluding the Little 38 was the primary source of Terlingua calcite. A few locals plus, undoubtedly, a number of old timer fluorescent collectors already knew this, but it was essentially a closely guarded secret. I am making this known now because the dump of the Little 38 no longer exists.
From 1997 to 1999 I casually collected Terlingua calcite with permission of a man who had an option to buy the property. His option did not materialize, so I then obtained permission from the owner and, as far as I know, have been the only person specifically authorized to collect on the property for the last several years.
During this two year period I dug into various parts of the dump looking for the Mother Lode, sometimes finding absolutely nothing. In late 1999 or early 2000 in what was then the southwest portion of the dump I found it pieces 30 pounds plus, chunk on top of chunk, going deeper and deeper into the tailings. My casual collecting was finished. I became a miner (of sorts) working that specific area regularly until the construction company hauled it off.
The good news is that the site superintendent tolerated my daily collecting efforts while the dump removal was in progress, although Im confident he didnt jump with joy when he saw me coming. A couple of the construction people were curious about what I was looking for and why but most, I think, were amused that a grown man would be out there sweating, covered with dust, for hours at a time, day after day, picking up rocks and (sometimes) struggling to get them to his car. (My truck was, unfortunately, out of commission at the time.) However, during this three week period the quantity of Terlingua calcite I collected (salvaged might be a better word) almost equaled my previous two years totals. It also included the largest piece Ive found, two others which are possibly the best Ive found, and many pieces with various shades of the original green to bluish-gray daylight colors.
Invariably some readers are wondering how much Terlingua calcite literally bit the dust me too. And my best guess, based on my knowledge of the dump and observations as it was being removed, is in the neighborhood of ten thousand pounds, but two or even three times that estimate is possible. Some Terlingua calcite undoubtedly remains in the area where it was used as fill, but the post-construction reclamation of the site may leave it unexposed for decades to come, possibly forever if the property owner restricts collecting activities.
Last year I established the Terlingua Calcite and Cinnabar Company along with a web site (www.terlinguacalcite.com not yet functional since Im operating on Terlingua time) for the purpose of supplementing both my rather meager Terlingua area earnings (and upcoming retirement) and to ensure that at least some Terlingua calcite would be available for the next several years for new or existing fluorescent enthusiasts. Anyone interested in acquiring some Terlingua calcite please check my web site it will be functional soon. Serious collectors and museum curators interested in very large pieces may inquire at: email@example.com or PO Box 97, Terlingua,TX 79852. I should note that the number of large (over 10 pounds) pieces I have is far less than the number of active FMS members and some of them will be retained in my personal collection.
I will update this obituary for the Little 38 mine when construction and site reclamation are complete.