I searched for photos on the Internet. I asked people walking the Lake Superior shore. “What’s an agate look like?”
I scooped up handfuls of small stones along the Lake Superior beaches, rinsing them in the surf, and wondered if any of the stones might be agates. I just did not know and nobody else seemed to know either. So I kept pocketing the stones – agates or not - just because they were pleasing to my eye. I stored them in a cardboard box in the coach. I hoped that eventually I’d find an expert rock hound who could show me an agate in its natural state.
Now, you might say it’s difficult to find an agate and hard to find a rock hound too. But Ed and I found both at an unlikely place – a stop sign.
We celebrated July 4th in Michigan by driving from Marquette to Big Bay with a brief stop at Little Presque Isle to walk along Superior’s Beach. On our return to Marquette, Ed turned off the main highway to a secondary road. At first, we doubted the merit of the decision. This country road #558 was not paved and parts were rutted. We could taste the dirt as we churned along the dry road. The glass of water in the console cup-holder splashed water over the sides.
We saw no signs of life until we passed the parking area for Saux Head Trail; and then, we began to drive by some houses. From the car window, we could see blue water but it was not Lake Superior. I looked at the map. The Michigan Department of Transportation forgot to draw a line representing this road. Clearly, locals had hoped to keep this road a secret from the typical Upper Peninsula tourists.
Ed was driving slowly, unintentionally agitating the driver behind us who lived along this road and wisely drove a truck. When the road came to a “T” and a stop sign, I saw Ed motion out his window for the truck to pull along side. He didn’t exactly ask for directions. Instead he said something rambling like this: “My wife really wants to get over to the Lake Superior shore. She wants to find some agates, but frankly, she really doesn’t even know what one looks like. Maybe you can point us in the direction of the lake and advise us where she can go to see some agates.”
To Ed, Duane Pape confessed that he and his wife Dawn were rock hounds. They collected agates and would go back to their house to grab a few to show us. He promised to be back in less than 10 minutes. What an amazing coincidence!
Ed pulled the Toyota on the side of the road under a small patch of shade cast by a tree. We snacked on a grapefruit and waited.
True to his word, Duane and Dawn returned with pockets full of agates. Duane set them on the trunk of our car. He had a story associated about each one he found. He stumbled on his most precious one while walking his dog. He just stared down and there it lay. He wouldn’t even let Ed touch it since Ed had the residue of the acid from a grapefruit on his fingers.
In their natural state, Duane told us agates look a lot like a potato with lots of bumps. Only once they are cut and tumbled are they smooth. Dawn had a few agates that had gone through the rock tumbler. She placed them in my hand. “These are for you,” she said with a smile.
I accepted the treasure. Now, I had some agates of my very own through the kindness of a stranger. They didn’t look anything like what I had gathered on the Superior shore.
July 4, 2009