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Roadside Turquoise

A Desert Independent Flashback

By Don Moore
Special to The Desert Independent

Originally Published January 5, 2010

September 30, 2019

In April 1976 my brother Dean and I were visiting our uncle, J. Fae Moore, in his small cottage at Hart Camp, Texas. It had been several years since we had last seen him. We busied ourselves reminiscing about various subjects of mutual interest. As always, one of the subjects of discussion pertained to prospecting and mining, one of our favorite topics of conversation.

Uncle Fae told us about the time he and dad, Weldon T. Moore, took a prospecting trip to the area around Silver City, New Mexico. At that time dad and mother were residing in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Fae had driven over from Hart Camp, Texas for an extended visit. Fae told us that their primary reason for going on the trip was to search for some turquoise.

They spent the night at a motel in Silver City so as to get an early start on their prospecting trip. About sunup the next morning they had a big breakfast at a local cafe. They had the waitress pack them some sandwiches along with some fruit for their lunch on the road. After gassing up the car and making sure they had enough water, they headed out. Since they had already done some research, they decided to do their prospecting in the nearby Burro Mountains. According to their information the area looked promising.

Fae said they took the main highway southwest, toward Lordsburg, state highway 90 in New Mexico. Somewhere down the highway, within sight of Burro Peak (elevation 8,035 feet) they turned off the main road on to a well graded dirt road. At this late date we can't recall Fae telling us the direction they took. Unfortunately we can't say how many miles down the highway from Silver City this road is located either. I guess we should have recorded this conversation, but at the time we really gave no thought to this. After all, it was just a friendly visit with our uncle.

The Burro Mountains lay in a northerly/southerly direction. Burro Peak is situated in the middle of this range. Highway 90 passes several miles to the east of Burro Peak, on its way toward Lordsburg. Taking all this into consideration, the dirt road they might have taken was about half way to Lordsburg. But the road could have been at some other location for all we know at this late date.

Anyway, locating this dirt road is critical to the story, as you are about to learn. Fae said they drove for a while, then parked and looked around. As unbelievable as this sounds, and as dumb luck would have it, they immediately discovered what they had come to find. Right there at their feet laid a small vein of bright blue turquoise. They could hardly believe their eyes. As Fae said, they were just "flabbergasted.

The little vein of turquoise was about an inch wide. The vein ran about 90 degrees to the road, and then disappeared into the ground on each side of the narrow ditch. Fae said that a road grader had recently plowed through the vein, as it was cleaning out the ditch. He told us they did not do any digging here. He said he thought the vein would be a good producer of high quality turquoise. The reader would have had to know these two men in order to understand their reasons for not digging there. They were raised the old fashioned way by strict Baptist parents. They knew they didn't own the land; therefore, they didn't own the turquoise.

Fae did admit that they gathered up all the loose, visible turquoise they could find. He said it was of superb quality; he said it was very hard and durable. The color was the bluest of blue, he said. It was as good as any he'd ever seen. He went on to describe what superior cabochons this material made. You should know that our uncle was very adept at both cabbing and faceting of gemstones. He had entered gem shows around Lubbock, TX for many years, and won lots of first-place faceting awards. In other words, he was a qualified judge of turquoise.

We asked him why he didn't go back later and exploit this vein. He said it looked like more trouble than it was worth. He said they believed this vein was located on a valid mining claim, or it was on county property. Dean and I, knowing our uncle the way we did, didn't press this line of questioning any further. We just dropped the subject right there. We knew he wouldn't say anymore.

We didn't have a chance to question our dad on this subject either. For you see, Dean and I had just attended his funeral in Plainview, TX the day before. The funeral was our reason for being in Texas in the first place. The main reason for our visit might be one of the reasons we are not too sharp on some of the details of the story.

We seriously doubt whether the person who graded that barrow-ditch noticed what he had uncovered. Since Fae and Dad carefully picked up all visible turquoise, it's entirely possible the vein is still "lost". When they found the vein, it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. My mother, Rosella, couldn't help us either because she hadn't been with them on the trip.

We could never find it, but the reader might wish to make an effort and it just might be legal to exploit it.

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