Ode to a Geode


by Terry Hogan


I often  have problems coming up with new subjects for an article.  But then, once in a while, a subject seems to come up.  It often comes up three or four times before I see the thread of continuity.  And so it is with the geode.  


My geode story starts a half of century ago, or there about.  I lived at Lake Bracken and swam off the dock in the front (or perhaps it was the back) yard.  The lake bottom was intermittent mud and sand.  The occasional spring would  cool your feet even in the warmest lake water day.  However, on occasion, your feet would come across the sensation of a round warty rock.  With experience, you learned that this was a geode, prime for recovery from the mud of the lake bottom. 


A good whack with  Dad's hammer would reveal whether the geode would open up into a beautiful crystal lined cave, a solid sheet of white or brown crystals, or an unimpressive sheet of solid quartz.


This year has been the rebirth of the geode.  I have two grandsons about the same age.  Both are interested in rocks.  There is a place south of Indianapolis where geodes can be found.  Now it is a whack with one of my hammers, held by  a grandson.  The geode is wrapped in an old piece of cloth to minimize flying particles.  It also adds suspense with the unwrapping of the broken rock.


Even more recently, I found myself back at Lake Bracken at my mother's house.  I was standing in Lake Bracken, feeling around for rocks that had fallen away from the yard's shoreline over the years.  The rip-rap  needed to be re-laid to reduce the shoreline erosion.  In the process, I'd occasionally find  a geode, presumably washed up from the sediments over the last half century.  Some were quite large.  They were tossed ashore to be shattered by grandsons at some future date.


At the end of my rip-rap reconstruction, I told my mother that I'd found some large geodes and that I was taking them home for the grandsons to break open.  She didn't remember her sons finding them many years ago.  But she did remember that her mother had brought her a geode from out west on a trip many, many years ago.  The geode is still at the house.  Such is the magic of a hollow rock with sparkling quartz, looking to all the world as a small, magical cave.   


This would be a small tight tale, and probably unwritten, except the geode theme appeared once again, while looking for a subject for an article.  I had turned once again to Earnest Elmo Calkins', They Broke the Prairie (1937). On page 425 of the hardback edition, in a chapter titled "The Human Content", Calkins recalls being first shown the wonders of a geode.   With a tap of his hammer he broke a seemingly commonplace boulder, and lo, the inside was one gleaming mass of sparkling jewels. 

Geodes seem to have a way of being remembered across the years.  At least I hope so.  Perhaps 50 years from now a grandson will remember the magic of a geode and recall the one who showed him.