If it had been a snake, it would have bit me.
Digging for gems with my two kids on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we longed to find a sparkling amethyst or rose quartz – one of those big-as-a-fist beauties that we’d been told were there, hiding somewhere among the less intriguing specimens.
We sat, knee-deep in dirt, periodically brushing off dozens of tiny red ladybugs that lit upon our arms, legs and noses. It was hard work, shoveling and sifting, gazing at the rocks we’d find, held high in the sun, trying to see, underneath the coating of dirt, a hint of a gleam.
We’d traveled through the town of Leicester, North Carolina, just outside of our Asheville home, bouncing uphill on dirt roads, past rolling hills and shaded streams. My 6-year-old son’s long-time fascination with rocks and recent school study of the subject, prompted the trip.
We weren’t disappointed. We got to the gem mine – piles of rocky dirt beneath a tin roof behind a gurgling stream and roaming geese, goats and sheep – and were handed shovels and large buckets to fill.
And although we didn’t find those mammoth-sized gems we were hoping for, we did discover a few small rubies, rose quartz, sapphire, and amethyst, among others.
But most important was the thrill of the hunt. That’s what kept me and my 11-year-old daughter going, long into the hot, dusty afternoon. Long after my son, the rock hound, abandoned the task to play in the stream.
And actually, there was a snake. And it would have bit me. It slithered out from behind a large rock and crawled up my back as I was digging. A fellow digger working nearby let me know - in the form of a scream - that it was there.
And maybe one of those huge, magnificent gems lay right under our noses, waiting to be found. Probably that snake knows where it is.