Why I turned Into a Rock Hound at 52.

Samantha Waters
4 min readNov 28, 2020

Wandering the hills of rural America as a child with my Dad, brought me a sense of quiet lonliness that would carry through to adulthood.

Although the fresh air and wide open fields were a mecca of imagination to a young child, there was something about my dysfunctional poorly educated parents that kept the atmosphere one of “lack".

I used to dream of having a house that wasn’t an old brick adobe with a cracked stone foundation. I dreamt of having a walk-in closet with all the Brady Bunch polyester cotton pastel shades of clothing.

I couldn’t wait to get the Sunday paper for the one house plan that came on page 4. I cut them out carefully each week and stacked them in my old white washed built-in wooden dresser.

I even drew pages and pages of house plans, trying to find the perfectly designed house for my vision of the perfectly designed reality.

My Dad was my only sense of life outside that old ciggerette smoke filled house, other than school and a few friends.

My Mom never had a driver’s license and was a bit of a recluse. So my nights were spent with my Dad at work at the smelly water sewage treatment plant in town. Weekends were spent riding in the mountains and walking the hills and fields looking for arrowheads.

Yup arrowheads.

I don’t think it was illegal to pick them up back then.

If it was, no one cared. Certainly not my dad.

We didn’t talk much on those trips. The smell of the cedar trees with the black and white magpie birds swarming around them, sift through my memories occasionally.

It was only after he passed away many years later, that I realized how much alike we were.

Both stubborn as hell, a bit standoffish, untrusting, poor communicators. I learned from him how to make do with what I had.

Now 40 years later I wish for those rolling hills of summer. I wish I could ask him about the names of the rocks and plants. The only one I do remember is the red Indian paintbrush flower.

I turned back to walking the hills after all my kids were raised. I turned back to staring down at the ground searching for treasure when all my expectations shattered.

My oldest son had fallen into the swirling hole of addiction and I felt powerless. By that point I had tried many times to get him to just quit. I had orchestrated an intervention and sent him into rehab, but
I didn’t understand the incredible hold drugs have on the brain, and didn’t realize one rehab usually isn’t enough.

He had abandoned his 2 little kids which left me fighting to see them for years.

I was losing my sanity.

So after seeing a Facebook post of a local rockhounding group, I headed for the hills.

I drug my new husband around the state every weekend searching for quartz, opal, and wonderstone.

He took me to Wyoming to dig 60 million year old petrified wood. I tagged along with him to work in Texas and he dug out 50 million year old ammonites.

We waded through mud searching for “dirty diamonds" and even drove 8 hours to look for fire red Opal only to find half a small egg with crumbly orange Opal.


Because the rocks didn’t make me cry. The rocks were not ruining their life with drugs. The rocks hadn’t lost 100 lbs in 6 months. The rocks hadn’t lost a million dollar business that they built up. The rocks were not likely heading to prison for feeding the cravings of their horrible illness.

While out scavenging in the desolate areas of my state, lacking wifi or phone service, there lied a peace from reality. Not having to worry if my son wasn’t online, or worry about getting “the phone call" for a few hours.

I’m not saying sadness doesn’t still overwhelm me when I’m out rockhounding; especially when I think of my son not enjoying the outdoors that used to be his haven.

What it does do, is give me something to focus on besides my son’s drastic downslide in to the pits of a disease that only leads to death, jail, or recovery.

It has saved my sanity.

I still cry.

I still fear the phone call.

I worry about my son’s rights with the law.

At this point, I can’t do anything about it.

Who would have ever thought that going back to my roots (& hills) would be my saving grace in my old age.

Thanks Poppa.



Samantha Waters

Soon to be author, present day nurse, Mom & Grandma, discovering the beauty and complexities of life through the written word.