After years of rock hunting, Garry Babcock has three rooms of his basement filled with rocks, saws and more.
Many of them are from places you can no longer rock hunt, says Babcock, while showing off rocks from all over the world, such as Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and more. He says many of the locations he used to rock hunt are now parks or private property. Among his collection are petrified woods, geodes agates, opals, fossils from Drumheller, fluorescent minerals, a petrified oyster and much more.
Babcock has been part of several rock clubs and listed as the contact for the Interlakes Rockhounders. At 84, he says he still goes rock hunting but is getting more limited in what he can do. His sons give him transportation but it’s too dangerous for him to go up the slides but he managed to find some nice stones at the bottom of the slides, he says.
That doesn’t mean he’s not spending time working on rocks though. He cuts them into jewelry, belt buckles and more. He’s also working on assembling flatly cut rocks into a sort of painting but says he’s not quite happy with it yet.
Sitting behind a desk he holds a pink coloured rock with a black outside, noting that it’s the first type of rock he ever went hunting for.
He was a plastering apprentice down in Vancouver in 1955. Some bricklayers were working on the same project and he was talking to one of them, he says.
“He said, we’re going rock hunting. I said ‘oh yeah?’” Babcock says with a laugh “‘You’re going rock hunting? You pack bricks all week and you’re going rock hunting?’ Strange. The guy said no we’re serious. We’re going over to Vancouver Island he said and we’re gonna go hunting for rock … then I was curious.”
He went up the slide and all the rocks were black, he says, adding that it rained the entire time.
They showed him how to find them, he says. If you chip a little corner off one side and a little corner off the other (not too big because you don’t want to split it) and it’s pink like that on both sides it’s probably that colour all the way through he explains.
On the way back down, he slid and tore his back pocket off which had had his wallet.
“It had my two weeks pay in it, never did find that, had to replace my drivers license all of that stuff. Then we get back home, fortunately, nothing else happened, and they cut the rock for me, cut a piece for me, and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I was hooked.”
After that, he joined the club, the only one in B.C. at the time, started taking classes on how to recognize rocks and stones and took the government prospecting course, he says.
“It’s been great.”
He’s not found all of the stones himself, he says.
“I’ve had some given to me. I’ve had some traded.”
In his display room, he shows off a large chunk of calcite crystals, perhaps a foot or more across.
“That’s 80 pounds. I packed it down here when I found it but I could never even move it now.”
Babcock is keeping any new areas he finds to himself, he says, adding that there are too many people who do it without being part of a club, which provides rules, an insurance policy etc.
“We run into landowners consistent when you go in and rock hunt and [they] say ‘oh you’re the dumb buggers that dig holes my cows fall in. You’re the guys that left the gates open and our horses got out.’ It’s not us it’s the other bunch which is unfortunate.”
Babcock sells some of the things he makes out of the stones at the 108 Heritage Site.
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