A Rocky Beginning to Date Day… The Crater Rock Museum in Oregon

A thunder egg displaying Caspar the Friendly Ghost at Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Imagine cutting open a thunder egg rock and finding Caspar, the Friendly Ghost, staring out at you. Caspar is one of the best known rocks at the Crater Rock Museum.

Date Day is a long-standing tradition in the Mekemson household. It began as Date Night in 1990. Peggy and I had just met and, shall we say, taken an interest in each other. But there were innumerable roadblocks to our blooming romance. Two teenagers were at the top of the list. (Tasha was dedicated to protecting her mom from the strange man. Smart girl.She made Peggy a sweatshirt that said “Don’t mess with the mama.”) But the list went on– jobs, family, friends, etc. We decided to declare Wednesday night ours, which was easier said than done. It took a lot of training. The kids and friends were actually easy. It was other family members and jobs that were resistant.

“What do you mean you can’t come to the family dinner on Wednesday night?” Peg’s sister, Jane, demanded.

“But Wednesday night is the only night I can meet,” the PTA President objected. (Peggy was principal of the school.)

In the end we prevailed. “I know, I know,” Jane would sigh dramatically, “it’s Date Night.” And the PTA Board would unanimously declare, “It’s Date Night!” as did all of the other committees and boards and family and bosses and friends. Once in a while we would make an exception, but it was rare.

Having worked so hard to train everyone, we decided to continue the tradition, even after we were married. And we still do– 24 years later. The major difference is that after we retired, we turned Date Night into Date Day. Why skimp on a good thing? Altogether, we have had over a thousand date night/days. What we do isn’t nearly as important as simply being together, but we use the day to explore new areas, peruse bookstores, go to movies, eat out, etc. Play is the operative word here.

Last Wednesday, our Date Day had a rocky start; we went to the Crater Rock Museum. It’s about 30 miles from where we live just off of Interstate 5 in Central Point, Oregon. Peggy and I had driven by the road to the museum several times and each time we would comment that we needed to visit. A new acquisition, Pterry the Pterosaur, moved Crater Rock to the top of our places-to-explore list. Pterosaurs were large flying reptiles that existed from 228-66 million years ago. Pterry now graced the ceiling of the museum.

We quickly discovered that the museum had much more than Pterry. There was Caspar, the Friendly Ghost, who resided in a thunder egg, a collection of student works of the world-famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly, Native American artifacts, and one of the finest collections of rocks and minerals in the western United States, all beautifully displayed. There was even a poignant reminder of why I exist; check out the photo on COPCO.

Pterry, a 60 million year old plus, pterosaur, swoops down from the ceiling of the Crater Rock Museum.

Pterry, a 60 million year old plus, pterosaur, swoops down from the ceiling of the Crater Rock Museum like a B-52 Bomber.

Close up of Pterry the Pterosaur at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up of Pterry’s rather impressive mouth full of teeth. I prefer flying creatures to be much smaller and without teeth. Think sparrow.

Polished agates at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Who doesn’t love agates that have been tumbled and polished. Rock hounds have been gathering them off of Oregon beaches for decades.

Glass sculpture created by student of Dale Chihuly on display at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I had expected to find beautiful rocks at the Crater Rock Museum; it sort of goes with the name. What I hadn’t expected were student works of the world-famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly.

Student art work of Dale Chihuly at the Crater Rock Museum. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy and I are great fans of Chihuly, having first come across his works in Nashville, Tennessee.

Woven glass sculpture by student of Dale Chihuly at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final work by one of Chihuly’s students featuring woven glass.

Dragon at Crater Rock Museum  in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Nor was I expecting to find this dragon at the museum.

Suchomimus at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This Suchomimus (meaning crocodile mimic) was keeping Pterry company. He was apparently a teenager some 100 million years ago– approximately 36 feet long and weighing upwards to 4 tons.

Dinosaur poop on display at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point. Oregon.

This might be an appropriate place to throw in this rock. Can you guess what it is? My bet is little boys are fascinated with it and little girls say, “Ooh gross!” To enquiring minds that want to know: it’s petrified dinosaur poop.

Fossil fish at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I was impressed by this fossil fish. Check out its eye. It looks like he was having a bad day. Or maybe he was just bad.

Speaking of bad, check out the canines on this Saber toothed kitty.

Speaking of bad, note out the canines on this Saber Toothed Cat. The canines could reach up to 19 inches in length. It’s beyond me to imagine how they could drop their jaws far enough to sink their teeth into anything. Maybe they just scared their prey to death. BTW: these guys are closely related to your favorite kitty.

Large geode and Peggy Mekemson at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon.

Geodes can be large, as this photo with Peggy shows.

Geode at Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The difference between geodes and thunder eggs, I was to learn, is that geodes have an empty center while the core of thunder eggs is solid.

Geode rock at Crater Rock Museum. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So this would be another geode…

Thunder egg titled the Swam Thing at Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And here we have a thunder egg. The ‘scenes’ inside of thunder eggs can be absolutely amazing, as was shown by Caspar at the beginning of the blog and in this one titled “the Swamp Thing” by the folks at Crater Rock.

I promised a brief tale about my beginnings. My dad worked for COPCO in the 30s stringing power lines across Northern California and Southern Oregon. He was on top of a 50-foot pole one morning and his ground man was teasing him about a date he had the night before. He turned to make a retort and came in contact with the 11,000 volt line. Zap, he was an Oregon fried pop. Months later he was staying at a boarding house in Medford and still recovering when he met my mother, who was also staying there. Without the accident, he wouldn't have met her and I wouldn't be here typing this blog.

A high voltage tale:  My dad worked for COPCO in the 30s. He was on top of a 50-foot pole one morning and his ground man was teasing him about a date he had the night before. He turned to make a retort and came in contact with the live 11,000 volt line. Zap. Months later he was staying in Medford and still recovering when he met my mother. Without the accident, he wouldn’t have met her and I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Scrimshaw collection at Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon.

“Thar she blows.” The museum also has a significant scrimshaw collection, donated by David Holmes of Harry and David. The Harry and David plant is in Medford.

Petrified wood at Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Petrified wood can vary dramatically depending on the minerals that have replaced the wood fibers.

Petrified wood found at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Here is another example of petrified wood.

Crystals at the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

It seems appropriate to conclude this post with a photo of crystals, always a top draw at any rock show.

Next blog: I intend to start a three-part series on the tragedy of Liberia, West Africa, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1965-67.

35 comments on “A Rocky Beginning to Date Day… The Crater Rock Museum in Oregon

  1. It made me think for a second… One thousand date days… What an original way of viewing the longevity of your one in a million partnership.

    I am now an expert on the difference between a geode and a thunder egg…and talk about a truly electrifying event and the effect on lives… But I will say he was one lucky man.

  2. I really like the geodes and thunder eggs. When I opened the page, I recognized Caspar immediately. A friend sent me some crystals from Arkansas, where she’d gone digging for them. I still like the polished rocks more than the crystals, though. As I recall, some of the marbles we played with as kids were called agates – along with the cats’-eyes and steelies. (In our neighborhood, steelie shooters weren’t allowed.)

    Date night/date day is such a great custom. It seems more and more popular – for good reason.

    • They had agate marbles for sell at the museum. And you are right, Linda, steelies just aren’t fair. (Although I don’t know if I regarded them that way as a seven-year old.)

      As for declaring an official date night, it is so important to take time for each other in our insanely busy worlds.

      –Curt

  3. How FUN!!! I would go…insane here. My guy and I are a bit nuts for rocks and crystals and fossils (oh my!). They’re overflowing in our respective homes — so this museum is my / our heaven. 🙂

  4. Awesome images, Curt! Inion knew she wanted to be a writer at five, but said if she could have a backup career it would be as a paleontologist. She idolized Indiana Jones and would dig knee deep holes in our backyard in an attempt to find fossils (Her grandfather was convinced she was a genius, her grandmother was convinced we had moles, I knew she’d end up accidentally burying herself). She’d even rig booby traps for herself to set off like she was inside a mummy tomb. And she still loves dinosaurs, especially categorizing what dinosaurs were alive in what specific time period. She would’ve loved to have visited this museum and she’s flipping over your photos, especially Pterry.

    • Fun stories on Inion. I can see her out in the back yard digging away and rigging booby traps. Was there a dog around to set off the booby traps? 🙂 Pterry is quite the flying lizard. I was so entranced with the rock displays and the Chihuly art that I walked right under him and didn’t see him until I came back out. Had he been alive, I might have been a goner. Of course if there were guys like him around, I would have probably been paying more attention to what was above me.–Curt

      • No doubt, Curt. I definitely wouldn’t have made it in the times of Pterry the flying Lizard. LOL Inion didn’t get a dog until she was much older, but she would force her cousin to set off the traps, which her cousin wasn’t too happy about. They were only four months apart, but her cousin preferred to play with Barbies while Inion preferred to use them as target practice for her slingshot. LOL.

  5. I don’t know this museum Curt, but it looks like it has something for everyone. Any museum that can pull off dino bones and Chihuly has to be cool. I hadn’t heard the thunder egg vs geode names before. In KY, my Mom was a great collector of geodes, which she used to build small walls around her flower beds. She called them “bombshells”. I never asked the origin of the name, but it’s an interesting comparison to your thundereggs. ~ James

    • Ran into a couple of explanations for bombshells, James. One is that they are often made up of iron carbonate which is sometimes called bombshell ore. And a second, which I prefer, they can explode when heated. 🙂 –Curt

      • Interesting info Curt. My mom grew up in the days of wood heat, so I can imagine an exploding geode? I’ll have to ask my Aunt, who was my Mom’s rock hound buddy. ~ James

  6. What a neat museum! We’ll have to take the boys there one of these days – they would love it! Although I’m guessing that for the boys, of all the magnificent things there, they will focus on the petrified poop! 😉

  7. I know we had already commented on this post Curt, but Inion wanted to share most of the images you have here. Told you she was a huge fan!! lol. So don’t be surprised that your pics are floating all over facebook!! just take a visit to our face book page & you’ll see them!! 😉

  8. This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
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