Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

November 10, 2013

“FOOL’S GOLD” BY: NEAL MURPHY

Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 6:11 am

 

 

I have always enjoyed exploring the forests of East Texas, particularly the creeks that meander throughout the country.  At the age of twelve or thirteen I purchased my first firearm, a Winchester .22 long rifle from the Western Auto store on the layaway plan.  That rifle, still in my possession and totally functional, was a constant companion as I explored fishing holes, ponds, and creeks, searching for something to shoot, such as turtles, frogs, crawfish, and snakes.  Occasionally a squirrel would chatter and then have to dodge lead from my rifle – don’t worry, I did not hit many of them.

There was a small creek behind my father’s homestead on Highway 147 north of town.  It was responsible for many hours of my exploring.  The creek, Rocky Creek, meandered southwest toward the town of San Augustine.  A wooden bridge spanned its waters when it reached North Milam Street not far south of Johnnie Wells’ home.  At that time a natural spring emitted cool, pure water a few feet west of the bridge.  I would delight in using my hand as a broom, clearing a space to scoop up water to satisfy my thirst.  When I cross this bridge today I am reminded of this spring and wonder if it still exists.

There was one spot on the creek which was wider, and a pool of water about three feet deep congregated approximately eight feet wide – perfect for fishing.  I usually had string and a couple of safety pins in my overall pockets and spent time attempting to catch a few perch.  Yes, you can catch an occasional fish using a safety-pin as a fish-hook.

One day while wading down this creek, I caught sight of something very shiny just below the surface of the water.  I dug it out of the creek bed with my fingers and examined my find closely.  It appeared to be gold, a craggy rock with gold streaks inside it.  I was very excited.  I examined the creek bed closely and discovered several more of these shiny rocks. I could hardly wait to show my find to my Dad.  I was not prepared for his response.

“Son”, he said, “that is not real gold, its fool’s gold.”  Fool’s gold – I had never heard the term before.   “You mean that it is not worth anything?  It’s so shiny”, I pleaded once more.   “I am afraid not, but it would be fun for you to have a collection that you could show your friends.  And that is exactly what I did. I amassed many pieces of fool’s gold for the remainder of the summer.

rough_pyrite_nugget

Many years have passed since my discovery of the mineral “Pyrite”, and I have not seen a piece since those early days.  I can only assume that young boys today do not explore Rocky Creek, nor do they collect the fool’s gold that I assume still exists there.

A check of the mineral Pyrite shows that is a very common mineral. Pyrite comes from a Greek word that means “fire”, and Pyrite definitely fits into this category.  It is a beautiful mineral and extremely interesting.  Its main quality is that it resembles gold.  The only problem is that Pyrite is very brittle and will break away in chunks when fitted for jewelry. While it does not make a good component for jewelry on its own, it does sometimes find itself in lots of jewelry usually under the term “Marcasite” when mixed with silver.

pyrite_flower

Besides ornamental jewelry, Pyrite has certain other uses including industrial uses such as in the manufacturing of paper and the creation of sulfur gas.

So, I was partially correct in thinking that my discovery of fool’s gold was a huge find so many years ago.  It actually is an extremely popular mineral and can be found almost everywhere in the world.  Why don’t some of you guys around Rocky Creek get out there and see if you can locate some fool’s gold for yourselves?  It makes an attractive collection, and I would love to see some of it again.

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