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Tennis Fiend taking a break from rock hunting.

One of my favorite pursuits is rock hunting. Whenever I can recruit a companion, I journey to Rockhound State Park where anyone can cart away rocks for a nominal fee.

I also love to visit a stretch of desert owned by family friends that boasts colorful rocks and boulders. Saturday I enlisted Tennis Fiend for a boulder hunt. As I gathered supplies for our expedition, our dog Misty became extraordinarily excited. As soon as she hears the jingling of my army surplus backpack, she knows an outing is forthcoming. Usually included in our hikes and outings, she howled dismally when we left her behind.

Driving took over an hour—twenty minutes of freeway followed by forty minutes of increasingly rugged road plus the eternity it took me to locate the landmarks of our destination. Our hunting ground was adjacent to a stretch of power lines connecting our city to the El Paso, TX power grid. The whistling of wind through the power lines made the sizzling pops and hisses of the transformers even more ominous. Reaching to open the back door of our SUV, I recoiled from a sharp static shock. Suddenly, the palpable sensation of electricity in the air amplified.

Weighing the consequences of imminent electrocution against potential rock hauling exhaustion, I moved our vehicle forty feet away from the power lines. The next two hours we enjoyed rock hunting bliss. The first hour was punctuated by cheerfully shouted Russian phrases: “Vot On!” (Here’s one), “Dai mne Molotok!” (Bring me the hammer) and “Oy! Slishcom Agromnye!” (Oh, it’s too big). The second hour was punctuated by cries of “Euuugh,” “Oof,” “Ow, ow, ow” and “Pochimoo tak dalyeko?” (why did you park so far away?).

Afraid to burden my truck with too much weight, we collected six mini-boulders and twelve smaller stones. Returning home happily, we banged our way across the rough dirt road, grateful that we left Misty at home as the rocks shifted and rearranged themselves behind us. Cranking up our velocity to traverse a treacherous expanse of arroyo, I almost struck a man in green camouflage. The wide-eyed fellow gave us a jerky wave as we covered him in dust. At a slower speed we passed an ancient truck where a camouflaged woman guarded several buckets of gravel with a shovel held menacingly in her left hand. I smiled and waved hoping that she did not sport a Lugar in her hidden right hand.

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