Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rockin’ Seniors

by Kay Larson

Jim Mann identifies Andrew Peacock's (of Newry) specimen.  photo Kay Larson
A recent Senior College rock event involved neither music nor rocking chairs. Jim Mann, local artist, jeweler and owner of Mt. Mann Jewelers in Bethel, gave a Down Home Maine presentation on “Rock Hounding in Maine” to around 35 participants. He shared how he was drawn to study rocks as a pre-teen, fostered this interest in high school, and had a fairly “lucrative” business going before he graduated from Gould Academy.

Through show-and-tell sharing, he displayed the tools of rock hounds, spoke about the minerals of western Maine, passed around beautiful samples of gems and minerals, and welcomed the challenge of identifying a specimen brought in by an audience member. In western Maine, Jim said, a mineral collector with moderate skill can find 30-40 different species.

Western Maine has 60-100 mines, now mostly privatized. Generally, Jim shared, rock collectors work long and hard for their finds, and mining history doesn’t show a lot of reward for landowners. A lot can be learned from field collectors who are willing to share, and connecting with one of Maine’s seven mineral clubs can also be advantageous as one learns the skills.

Three days later, Jim took nine students on a field trip to Mt. Apatite near Auburn to demonstrate his techniques and encourage both newbies and experienced rock hounds at a “dig.” By his former experience at the site and knowing what minerals are found together, Jim was able to reveal “treasure” where an untrained hiker would only see boulders or piles of discarded rocks. 

Mt. Apatite field trip  photo Lee Smith
Intrepid rock hounds   photo Lee Smith

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at http://sad44.maineadulted.org/western_mountains_senior_college