Tour de farce - by Dr. Marty Leipzig, Sun 16 Aug 98 21:41

Howdy, campers. Some new "faces" in the crowd, I see. Well, happy day.

As you may have noticed, I am back again after considerable globe-hopping and adding to the already burgeoning larders of the United States Postal Service (Richard? Katherine? Did you get your packages?). I'd have been back sooner, but the server here is flakier than Novosibirsk in February and my echo feed's about as reliable as breadlines in Etreia. It finally seems to be defarkled and I'm now using Doc's Place for my Fideaux Fix (with a Canadian back-up). Now, if my ISP would just cooperate, things will be just mallardiferous and tealful (i.e., ducky).

But I must relate a, well, strange tale that transpired on my repatriative holiday here in the States. I won't go into details of the preceeding surgical events, but suffice to say we'll both be more than happy to never have to go through the actual procedure, the followups and the general folderol and brouhaha with international insurance companies again. The upshot is that my wife was in recuperative mode and totally uninterested in travelling, the kids were at the grandparents being absolutely horribly spoiled; and as such, loathe to leave, and I was at loose ends. So, after a trip of some 14K Km, what better than to take a small side trip?

I had received a call from a collegue of mine who works at the Idaho Geological Survey and he was telling me of the great new area that's been added to the already monstrous Idaho Primitive Area. The thing is, the last time it was mapped was some 50 years ago by mining and economic mineral types for the exploitation of the cuperiferous minerals in the region. It's a most geologically remarkable locale: you've got everything from the Cenozoic Challis Volcanics, to Pleistocene glaciation geomorphology, Paleozoic clastics and carbonates, and the oomstopper of a huge, exotic geochemistry pluton the emplaced itself under (and cooked everything through the Early Tertiary above) a region of mountainous terrane called the White Knobs.

He needed a hand in mapping the area for his proposal for inclusion into the IPA (not India Pale Ale, but that does come into play later in the story) and he asked me if I could spare a week.

"Sure, why not?", I replied, after squaring it with the powers-that-be and something close to but not nearly as exotic as "Fred's Airlines".

I deplaned in Boise and was greeted by Mark (of the "one, True expert" fame) and was rapidly trundled off in an aging International Harvester Scout II to the wilds of the IPA; with a brief stop at Sam's Liquor Emporium in the twee little burg of Mackay, Idaho. After procuring our provisions (some 15 cases of beer, a case each of bourbon and vodka, frozen orange juice and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos (what we were going to do with all that food remains a mystery)), I was seated in Mark's aging rustbucket along with his odd assortment of field dogs. Mark, being a metamorphic petrologist by vocation and old-time prospector by avocation, had with him the usual assortment of geodogs: a dikeshund, labradorite retreiver and a shaggy little cairn terrier ("all ore hounds", he quipped). He told me with great humor that they excelled in sniffing out concentrations of minerals such as poochblende, wooframite, roverchrosite and (my favorite) fidocrase. These minerals all collectively make up a pugmatite, you see. A vertiable mutter load.


Well, we travelled up a well unworn jeep trail and disembarked into some of the most pristine scenery this side of Fra Mauro. Being a temperate zone and well up altitudinally, Mark cautioned me to watch for snakes up here. It was just beginning to get seasonally warm up here and the dangerous diopsidewinder could be lurking behind the flaggy shales that made up this particular prominence. Advice well heeded.


Mark lamented that he was having trouble mapping the well eroded and faulted carbonate terrane that stretched out before up. I immediately told him to dictch that cheap Tate's compass for a more de rigeur Brunton; noting that the former are notoriously inaccurate: "For he who has a Tates is lost." I then looked at the map he was building and immediately noticed that he had placed the weathering, erosion and sinkhole development of the Redwall limestone before the tectonic event that chopped the area up into neat, subparallel, quasilinear blocks. "Mark", I said, "You've got the karst before the horst". That settled, we spent the day in glorious exulation in mapping, hiking and general sight-seeing.

"Thanks, Marty.", Mark intoned. "Tell you what. Tonight, instead of camping (and here I was all prepared to dress up like Oscar Wilde and sing Noel Coward songs), why don't we drive down to Mackay?" Seems the Mackay Cobalt-Blues (the hometown favorites, a farm team for some Western-based baseball collective) were playing the Ruby-Ridge Reds (their arch enemies) and he just knew that there would be good seats, cold beer and probably a fight or two.

Actually having spent some time, epochs ago, in Mackay, and having a warm spot in my heart (and a cheeseburger in my pocket, but that's another story altogether) for the Colbalt-Blues, how could I resist? I was enthusiastic, until I remembered that Mark was an absolute fanatic for the Reds. In Mackay, admitting to that was like ordering fricassied spotted owl in whooping crane sauce at an Earth First! soiree.

Remembering that it was "just a game", I quickly agreed and we went off trundling and jostling in a flurry of dust and empty beer cans. We arrived at the ballpark, which, coincidentially enough, was built in a natural ampitheatre carved out of the Upper Cretaceous Sundance formation by the Snake River (now, thanks to stream piracy and avulsion, some 2.5 km distant). What was unusual about the site is not only were there the fine- grained continental clastics of Cretaceous age there, but the river had also carved into the pallisade (out back of the left field bleachers) of the relatively high-grade metamorphic rocks of the Stillwell complex (leave it to me to sneak in another Geology 101 lecture...).


We took our seats, set down our beers and watched the epic struggle of grown men wearing ridiculously garish costumes chase a equine epidermis sphere around a field floored with rocks that contain the result of the last epicontinental seaway encroachement over the North American craton.

(Sorry about that. I'll try and be good.)

The game was going badly for the hometown favorites, as they were down 5 to 3 at the top of the seventh. The local crowd suddenly, to a man, woman and child, produced bright blue placards and began waving them around in a sequential manner throughout the seats in the arena. Mark leapt down and began scrabbling about furiously on the ground.

"What the hell are you looking for?", I asked.

"Everyone knows there's red shales in the Sundance!", Mark exclaimed, and he victoriously found two slabs of very crimson ferruginous highly dolomitized marly mudstone.

He sat back down and attempted to raise these slabs of rhodofied rock in defiance of the sea of blue in which he currently bobbed.

"What are you doing? Are you crazy?" I demanded.

"Awww, hell. I'm just trying to wave the shales."

It was then that it happened. An irate backer of the Mackay team, seated out in the previously-mentioned left field seats let fly and thwacked Mark upside the head with a rock.

Yep. It was then that the schist hit the fan.

*Gad* As a geologist, I lava good pun.
... Puns are their own reword.


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