Monday, April 27, 2009

Rubble and Diamonds

A couple of weeks ago, Mena, Arkansas had a tornado blow through town and since I'd visited the place several times (it's the Arkansas entry to the Talimena Parkway) I had at least a tenuous connection to the place. With the convention overwith and no great desire to rush back home through the uncertain weather, I headed east to get an eyeball on the damage. I checked the maps at first, hoping to get a hint on where the damage occurred.
You see, after my experience with news reporting on Hurricane Ike in Galveston, I knew that a news crew's first order of business was to find the most sensational damage and park the camera right in front of it to get the best impact for their on-the-scene report. It might be live and on the scene, but the camera is not going to be pointing towards the intact building. So as I approached the town, I was prepared to go hunt for where the damaged section of town was actually located. I had no problem. I barely got into town before I pulled over and snapped these two shots with my iPhone camera. (Compare this spot with Google Earth's Street View at 282 Mena Street. Click my photos to expand.) Driving around town, there were blue tarps on the roofs, yellow police tape, and piles of rubble everywhere. The place wasn't leveled, but it's going to take a lot of work to get life back to normal in Mena. I talked to a postman who worked in Umpire, and the stories he told about many people relating their close calls was dramatic. The death count, by rights, ought to have been much greater than it was.

Then I moved on. I was close to another spot in Arkansas that I had never seen, but that was on my to-do list. I wanted to visit Crater of Diamonds State Park. There is an old volcanic pipe in these mountains that contain diamonds. If I read the history correct, there were attempts to make a commercial mining operation there, but they were abandoned and instead, it's now a tourist enterprise.

For a $7 ticket, you can wander over the plowed soil and hunt for newly exposed diamonds and any you find, you can keep. About 600 per year are reported and the visitor center there will grade them for you. Some are low grade, but there have been some very nice gems come out of that place over time.

I didn't actually dig. I don't buy lottery tickets either. It was muddy and I didn't bring any tools or appropriate clothes. But maybe some day, I will.

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