The rock quarry and surrounding area always had an “old West” feel to it. The quarry itself was hardly 100 yards from the road but it was hidden by the trees so being there caused you to be isolated from the reality of roads and cars. When you were in the pasture above the quarry and you got in the creases between the hills you could look off toward the skyline and see nothing but grass, just as it was during the days of the buffalo. The hills themselves looked like loaves of French bread scattered around the landscape. If you took a sharp knife and sliced down through one of the loaves (hills) and removed the cut-off portion, what remained would look like the sheer limestone wall of the quarry.
Another curiosity that added to the feeling of the old west was the old dynamite shack. It was only 30 or 40 yards from the quarry wall. Built of stone, it was maybe 10 foot by 10 foot, with a barred window that never had glass and a door jamb that was still intact though the door was long gone. The roof had long since disappeared, too. The barred window made you think “jail” and added to the mystique though you knew it was a dynamite shack.
Every square inch of limestone was full of fossils. Most of them were little round things shaped like wheels and were approximately the diameter of a large pea. Some were larger and were actually well-formed and intact sea shells. I spent hours digging through the fossils and looked up the shells and memorized their names and the names of the formations or clusters they were in. The only thing I can remember is “brachiopod”. I know that information and five pennies is worth about a nickel.
We camped out overnight at the quarry on several occasions but only one stands out in my memory. It was almost the first of April and though we knew spring was coming we were still anxious for a break in the weather so we could go camping. This particular weekend looked like a good chance for us. There was still a little snow on the ground but it hadn’t been too cold.
We loaded up our stuff, drove out to the quarry, and set up camp near the old dynamite shack. We scrounged up enough tinder and dry branches to keep our fire going all night. We thought we had prepared a pretty good camp site so when the time came we piled into our bed rolls and looked forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the temperature had started dropping at sundown and it didn’t quit dropping. A cold snap caused it to be one of the coldest nights of the year. We took turns tending the fire all night and didn’t really get any sleep. What’s more, the next morning when we went to make coffee, the water in our canteens was frozen. Okay, so we can’t have coffee, we’ll get going on the bacon and eggs. Well, the eggs were frozen, too! About this time we were deciding that we were too dumb to be “cold weather campers” and started loading our stuff into the car. We each had a buck or so in our pocket so we headed for our favorite café and ordered coffee and bacon and eggs. Remember, this was back when a cup of coffee cost a nickel and I think breakfast was 65 cents. The warm café and a hot breakfast greatly improved our dispositions.
October 25, 2013