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Carey Plume Agate

Posted by Raul Walker on

I managed to acquire a large collection of Carey Plume Agate material which was assembled while it was still being mined.    The last time that it was dug was about 19 years ago and the dig netted less than 100 lbs. in 3 months.   It is from the same region as Eagle Rock Plume, southeast of Prineville Oregon.  I have a definite love hate relationship with all kinds of plume, but when I’m able to get one to be beautifully visible in a cabochon it’s thrilling. 

History from the previous owner:

"I started my collection back in 1985 when at the Nyssa, Oregon Rock Show I met a gentleman who was one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever come to know and knew the gentleman till he passed away in 1998. His name was Howard Ball and lived in Bend, Oregon till his passing.

Howard then introduced me to the man one year that started the Carey Plume craze as he lived within a few miles of the mine since he discovered it. Everybody knew this old man when I met him as Qwaunt ( Q-want ) but his friends called him “Shirts”! He was given this nickname because whenever he went out in the field to hunt for materials he never had a back pack and always wrapped his finds up in his shirt. Hence the nickname as he was always destroying his shirts this way. “Shirts” became a very good friend to me over the years and when I was in the area I’d always stop in and as usual he always would start discussing his tales of mining and I was always intrigued of his yarns.

Note:  I also got some input from “Shirts” daughter:

"I was reading your story about Shirts "my Dad", although a nice story....not all true! His real, given name was Shirley, hence the nickname Shirts. If you want the real story you can stop by the Shop any time passing through Prineville, or give us a call 541-447-5548.....Quant Rock Shop and talk to my older brother or I. We would be happy to fill you in on the story of the Carey and many more agate beds from the beautiful Central Oregon area.
Yours truly,
Marcy (Quant) Gascon"

I did learn that how he came to find the Carey Plume and how it was named which he told me that when he was deer hunting as a young man he found some pieces that had weathered out. Then he just followed the trail to the source which was at the top of this small volcanic cone which showed the first out cropping of the more solid material. That’s when he decided to head back to the spot and start digging the next spring to see what was there and how much he could find. This was started in the spring of 1946 after getting back from his tour in the war. Within a couple years he could see that the material was vast, he thought, and then made a purchase of a small cat to help with tearing the cone down to retrieve the precious material. The one time that his mother went with him for a week to see the discovery and where he digging is when Shirts decided to name the material after his mother which was Carey! After digging Carey with cat’s as well as track hoes the cone was some 200 feet high and now is 10 acres of a pit some 75-100 feet deep and no more of the plume is or has been found because over the years he dug it all out.

Now the location of the material was between Bend, Oregon and Prineville, Oregon roughly which the two cities are about 40 miles apart in the high desert of the eastern side of the Bend Valley. Then if by way of Prineville it was some 30 miles south and east which was in the area of the Powell Butte Range. Powell Butte Plume was one of the rarest materials ever found in that area and even today that material draws a king’s ransom in price as many slabs that may reach a 3x3 inch would be priced in the $300.00 to $500.00 price range depending on length of plumes and color.

After many years of digging Shirts was not willing to give up and studied the pit trying his level best to try and find another vug in the pit that may hold more of the material. So he was always hiring guys with track hoes to dig for a week or so which nothing was ever uncovered. It was shortly before Shirts died in 2001 that he made one last attempt to reach and recover more of the Carey Plume. The last dig only produced a hand full of chips. The following year, 2002, Shirts was found in his shop with his hands folded in his lap sitting in his favorite chair as he died in the shop he cared for so much with his mass collections of the material."

Got a note from another rockhound:

 His name was Shirley C. Quant not qwaunt...his nickname was shirts.   I knew him very well since the 1960s and I know all the history of the carey agate, when, where,and how he found it . I see his son Bill and his daughter Marcy 4 or 5 times each summer..Mr. Quant did not die in 2002 sitting in his favorite chair at his rock shop.he died Nov 26, 2003 at St. Charles medical center in Bend Oregon

 


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