Rock Hound

A beautiful pile of rocks like this one has character and would interest any little boy, no matter how old he is.

What started out as a quick walk for a bit of exercise turned into an hour of poking and prodding among the rocks along a fence separating the Barry M. Goldwater (Bombing) Range from Yuma, Arizona Foothills County 14 road.

My exercise pace slowed significantly as I studied the ground. It was strewn with rocks, mostly fist sized and smaller, but in a surprisingly wide variety. Like a kid, my pockets soon bulged with several pounds of large pebbles.

There were purple rocks, blood red rocks, yellow, green, pink, white and orange rocks. There was a granite-like black and white, rocks rough as sandpaper and some already polished by eons of rolling in desert sand and polished enough to resemble black jellybeans. Others were jagged; freshly broken and revealing their innards to the world. There was even a color my father called brindle brown. He actually used a colorful adjective along with that but this is a family oriented column so I will leave the descriptor to your imagination. Suffice it to say it wasn’t complimentary.

Among all the rocks mingled with the sand, I chose to fill my pockets with rocks of character. Character meant unique and surprising like sediment striping, polish, unusual shape or striking color combinations, rocks that made me stammer, “Wow, look at that one!” to no one in particular. That eliminated most rocks and turned my exercise into a hunt of sorts.

At first I tried to divine their origins: Sedimentary? Quartz? Granite? I thought it proper to assign them suitable names. I quickly gave up though. Geology is near the top of my educational bucket list but it still is in the bucket. I can only hope to learn someday, but for now it is somehow liberating to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of each rock without attaching a moniker.

I was still puzzled by the wide variety of rocks. How could so many different looking rocks reside side by side? I tried to read the landscape for clues as to where the rocks came from. Given that I was in a human disturbed area I couldn’t readily dismiss the possibility that human meddling was the reason why the rocks were there. However, I wasn’t far from the rugged hills to the east and south and I could see dry stream courses converging on this area. I assumed that the thumb sized rocks that interested me were flood-washed chips and chunks of larger specimens high up the jagged and raw-looking canyons.

The best of these rocks and others collected randomly over the years will eventually end up in my rock tumbler. Rock polishing is an art often taken to extremes. I am not trying for the ultra-polishing so often seen where the rocks turn out looking like shiny plastic or sugar candy. For me, highly polished rocks lose their true identity and charm, becoming instead garish and tawdry. I hope to enhance and highlight their natural character, not suffocate it.

I expect that if I could fit, I would benefit from a turn in the tumbler. My own character needs more than a little refinement and polish. But until then, I am just a rough-edged and middle-aged guy who still can’t resist filling his pockets with pretty rocks.

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

TAX DAY is coming! Here is a chance to do something good with a bit of your tax return and make the day less painful.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf. You can donate any amount you wish, it all helps to support the wildlife you love.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho