On Cats and Collecting


A single cat always accompanies professional geologist RC on his travels and collecting. It ranges free while he works. I’ve bought dozens of well labeled teaching specimens from him in building my reference collection. On my own initiative, I’ve removed locality names.

RC with Geological Specimen Supply

T Cat goes out in the field. The Sparkletts box under him is a composite. I get egg boxes from the market, cut them horizontally in two, jam the top half down over the bottom half and glue them together, so double-walled but half as high. Eight inches high, one foot square. Then, to keep the flaps down, I get Sparkletts water boxes and cut them in two horizontally as well, but glue the top flaps to a piece of cardboard inside, making a solid top. These are a hair bigger than the egg boxes but not as tall. Half of one works as a lid, pushed down over the egg box. There’s one of these under T Cat. Each one is filled with strips of The Wall Street Journal, though any fish wrap will work. The Journal comes every day in the mail, Monday’s paper on Monday.

Every piece of rock gets wrapped up. The paper gets reused. These boxes are strong, will hold about 50 student specimens, and two will fit on my pack frame. Depending on what’s in them, I may or may not be able to get up!

The Idaho Spuds Box is full of giant oyster fossils, about a foot long. Still not unpacked! I didn’t take enough field boxes on that trip.

T Cat comes to a bell, so when I’m ready to leave, he’s in the van. He was waiting for me to finish packing. T stands for Tyrannosaurus. He was the biggest of the bunch, twice as big as the smallest. Born in a basket beside me Memorial Day last year.

I have a 7 pound and a 10 pound sledge in the van, a pick, shovel (more for roads than for rocks) a couple of Estwing geologists’ hand sledges and a couple of Estwing 12 ounce rock hammers. These have chisel heads and are easy to trim with. Estwing stopped making them, but now make a brick layers hammer that’s the same.

I don’t want to have to lug rocks very far for those I sell. I can tie a couple of field boxes onto a pack frame, but I want whatever I’m collecting to be close to the van.

Different story when I’m looking for something for my collection, since weight isn’t going to be much. The best exposure of Ordovician brachiopods in the Great Basin is _____________. A couple of hours hiking gets you to the fossils. One year I was up there with a geologist friend and a student. After a long day with our noses in a shale talus slope, picking out pencil eraser sized brachs, we had hiked about half way back when my student said he had forgotten the rock hammer back at the rock pile. I had five, and I sure wasn’t going to hike back for one, all uphill!

One hammer wasn’t a big loss.

The next year I went back. Going up the talus on hands and knees, I put my hand on the missing hammer. Rusty, but it wore off. I’ve lost hammers, but that’s the first time I found one. Only time.

I don’t like the west side of the Sierra Nevada. Too much vegetation, so it’s hard to see the rocks. And then, poison oak, ugh. When I can collect in roadcuts, I do. Phyllite and serpentine, both from roadcuts in
___________ near Foresthill. In the coast ranges, I get graywacke from a roadcut. The rocks are more likely to be fresh where a road was cut through. Hopefully a road without much traffic!

Some rocks have to be collected from a dry stream channel to be unweathered. Tumbling down the stream removes the weathered stuff. I find the white anorthosite in the river bed of ______________ River. Took me forever to find a way to drive down into it, but eventually did. In all of the roadcuts I looked at, it was weathered all the way to China, and besides, in the San Gabriel Mountains, you have to buy a pass to even park at the side of the road, so I stay away.

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T-cat is indeed an orange tabby. He rode down with me to Ridgecrest tonight, and took up the same position on the boxes, though leaning on my shoulder. Helped me with a Jumbo Jack at Ridgecrest.

His mom was a tabby, became a meal for a coyote, unfortunately. She had already used up eight lives, out collecting with me near Lompoc, ran across the road to the van at just the wrong moment. Going full tilt, she hit the outside of the front tire of a speeding car, was slammed to the road and then bounced into the air, screaming. Landed, writhing, on the pavement. I thought that was the end of her, but I could see nothing broken and not a drop of blood, only a pink ear. Tail was still attached. I gently picked her up and put her in the van. She tried to climb onto the back seat but needed a hand up. Spent the rest of the day on a pillow, was better the next day, and came back to life the day after. Lucky. One second faster and she would have been under that tire, and flat. After that, she had a low reserve of extra lives, I would say. Went out one evening and disappeared. Coyotes ate two of neighbor’s daughter’s cats also, so he shot two coyotes and they have stayed away, recently.

Brother, Ralph, dark tabby, eats anything and everything. Brought in a rabbit this morning and thought it was ok to eat it on a Navajo rug. Caught that in time, so he had his snack on a towel and didn’t complain about the move. Ate all but the back legs, started with the head and ate all of it, amazingly, leaving nothing. Rabbit was half his size. Second time he’s done this, and he has made some plants in the yard grateful, as the rabbits have lost interest in them. Sister, Cucumber, snacked on the back legs. A calico tabby – tabby markings but with some orange in her fur. Cool as a cucumber riding in the van, sits on the back of my seat with her front legs over my shoulder and looks out the front window, purring in my ear. Here she is at the Gold Nugget Mine, east of Quartzsite, where I was collecting milky quartz. Not as easy to keep track of when she’s out running around, but she also comes to the bell. All hree do, actually. When T Cat is out exploring, he really stands out.

Cats are smarter than dogs. All Pavlov could do was to get his dogs to drool when they heard a bell. These cats come to the bell and jump in the van when they hear it, if I’m outside. Their reward is a tube of Churu.

RC

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T-Cat in the field



Cucumber at a mine

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