Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Mountain Sandbox

A lot of folks who didn't grow up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and the surrounding areas during my era, don't realize how creative we had to be to provide fun activities for the children.

One thing I looked forward to each summer was a trip into the mountains of Harlan County to find sandstone. The hills are rich with all kinds of rocks and minerals. Coal, shale, granite, limestone, and sandstone -- among others.

Some may find it strange that we have sandstone in our mountains, so far from an ocean. However, we have often been told our mountains were once underwater. I tend to believe them -- since I gathered pockets full of sea creature fossils from the tops of those mountains. One of my favorite places to collect fossils was at the airport. I remember one of my classes from school went up to the airport for the day and several of us spent most of our time climbing around the cleared mountaintop searching for rocks, minerals, and fossils.

#fossils in Appalachia
Unfortunately, I lost my fossil collection in the flood of 1977.

But back to the sandstone. Each late spring or early summer, Dad loaded the back of the car with empty boxes and we took a drive up Laden Trail onto Pine Mountain, near where he grew up. He knew exactly where to find the best deposits of sandstone.

Sandstone, after weathering, crumbles into a massive pit of sand. If the supply of sand had dwindled, the consistency of the stone allowed us to scrape new sand with the blade of a pick-ax. I enjoyed scraping new sand even if there was plenty to choose from. Remember how I told you about our search for creative outlets in the mountains?

Dad parked the car in a pull-off and we unloaded the boxes. The walk wasn't far. With boxes ready and Dad with a shovel, we began the task of gathering sand into the boxes. When they were as full as Daddy could carry, he put down the shovel and lugged the boxes of sand to the back of the car.

While he worked on shoveling and carrying the sand, I played in the piles left behind.

Quartz pebbles in the sand
I especially loved the sand at this particular sandstone location. It was mixed with thousands of tiny quartz pebbles. My love of sparkly rocks had already become well-established, so quartz pebbles made the sand even more special for me.

With the trunk loaded down with sand, Daddy maneuvered our rear-heavy car around the hairpin graveled curves of Laden Trail and back home. He immediately began the arduous task of unloading the boxes of sand and emptying them into the home-made sandbox he had built.

I spent many joyful hours playing in the sand. My dog, Caspy, a mountain feist, enjoyed playing with me. She rolled around in the sand and dug holes as I built sandcastles lined with quartz pebbles. Of course, I didn't have plastic shovels and buckets to form the sand. I used margarine cups, spoons, and jelly glasses.

I miss those days of simple pleasures.

Did you ever go into the mountains to gather sand? How did you wile away your summer days of leisure? I'd love to hear your stories.


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