The Bucket Sale
I confess, I'm a Craigslist scrounge. Much of my yard is composed of structures made out of free building material acquired from ads on the CL. I also regularly monitor the free classified ad site with the keyword, 'lapidary.' In fact, most of my lapidary equipment has been purchased from Craigslist.
Recently I saw an ad titled, 'Bucket Sale.' No, they weren't selling buckets, rather it was BYOB and stuff it with as many rocks as you can, and haul it away for a mere $30. You don't have to ask me twice. Even though the location was out in Queen Creek, which is exactly the furthest point from my location across the metro area, I was willing to invest an hours' worth of gasoline for the chance at some lapidary rough that I didn't already have.
Estate sales are of special interest to rockhounds. With quality material in the wild disappearing to private/govt. property, along with the never ending spread of the civilization virus, fewer and fewer gathering sites are available. This forces us rockhounds to alternate sources. Commonly referred to as 'old stock' this is lapidary rough that has been squirreled away by old timers who were able to rockhound during the hayday of open lands and endless frontiers. Most rock hoarders don't relinquish their grip until they are dead, leaving their surviving family to 'dispose' of their piles.
This particular sale was potentially one of those old stock situations.
Note that estate sales usually have many barriers, mostly they are snapped up by a few well-connected buyers who use their networking skills to pounce after the old-timer finally kicks the bucket. In other words, you usually don't see 'lapidary estate sale' listed in the newspaper, excluding most of us. They buy for pennies per pound and re-sell the material on eBay or Tucson or Quartzite at a handsome profit.
The ad reported 70 to 80 tons of prime lapidary material which was a pile that I simply had to see. I tossed 3 empty buckets in the back of the grocery getter and set out across the great Phoenix metro.
I hadn't been to Queen Creek in years, and last I had seen it, it was a lot of open desert. Flat with the territorial creosote for as far as you could see, leading up to the San Tan mountains (hills) to the east. That expanse of land was now a checkerboard of McMansion neighborhoods, homes made out of ticky tacky. The bucket sale was at an older home in a quadrant of horse properties. Likely built and occupied by folks who appreciated open vistas and probably wouldn't like being surrounded by new housing developments.
The driveway was lined with chunks of petrified wood and chrysocolla. The back yard was indeed littered with piles of imported stone. A few other people were already there chipping away at various micro digs in search of... something. There was indeed a lot of stone, but I found the variety to be disappointing. Lots of petrified wood and AZ jasper, and a few chunks of low grade chrysocolla. All the piles had been high graded (sifted for the good stuff).
I spoke with the man in charge who gave me the story. The man who had owned the house was a minerologist who had worked at several mines in Arizona, carting home some of his finds to fuel his lapidary hobby. The petrified wood was certainly old stock as it had come from land he had owned within the bounds of the petrified forest in northeast Arizona, prior to it becoming a protected national monument. With the owners gone to the opal mine in the sky, the house had recently been sold and the new owner was preparing to bulldoze the entire property. This bucket sale was the last of many such sales before everything got plowed.
As with every dig site, there's always something to be found. I managed to fill one of my buckets with interesting lapidary rough, but didn't feel the need to add to my already substantial pile of petrified wood. I think it would have been a bonanza to a rock hound not from Arizona, but for us locals, it was familiar material.
Satisfied with our find, the wife and I shared the bucket handle back to the car. We stopped at Cotton Jims for a burger before motoring back to our side of the valley.