An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Ruben Garcia
West, Texas Meteorite Recovery
Here I am at the corner of Adair and Marek where the first stones were found.
The mundane drive home from work was made less so when all of the sudden a news report on the radio caught my attention. The reporter described a brilliant fireball that was caught on camera high above Texas, near the Austin/Waco area. It was at that moment that I knew I’d be heading to the “Lone Star State” very soon. I began packing for the trip two days later after another report explaining that meteorites had been found, emerged from the Waco Tribune.
It was 3:00 AM on Thursday morning Feb 19, 2009 when I pulled out of the driveway and headed toward the interstate (I-10) that would take me most of the way there. By 10:00 PM Thursday evening I reached Waco, which was my destination spot to meet up with fellow meteorite hunters Sonny Clary and Steve Arnold. Friday morning we were all up early, bought a few supplies, and headed out towards the small town of West, Texas.
Upon arriving in West, Steve – who had arrived the previous day – explained to us where meteorites had already been found. Right away Sonny and I began knocking on doors to try and obtain permission to hunt the property of many of the local residents. Meanwhile, Steve left to try and locate meteorites near the outer limits of the strewn field.
Me fighting through thick bamboo to hunt in more "meteorite friendly" areas.
Discovering “Hopper” The Meteorite Finding Dog.
Sonny approached a white mobile home and immediately noticed a nice meteorite sitting on the wooden porch. He knocked on the door for a minute or two and when no one answered walked away leaving the meteorite where it sat.
My phone rang, “Ruben, did you see that meteorite on the porch?” Sonny said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “There is a nice stone on the porch, and it’s just sitting there.” Sonny explained. “Sonny, do you want to buy it?” I asked. “I don’t buy meteorites when I can find them,” He proudly declared.
Within minutes I had flagged down a neighbor’s passing car and sheepishly asked if they could tell me who lived in the house. Pauline Alligood was the answer they gave. Before I knew it the kind passers by even gave me Pauline’s work address and phone number.
I called Pauline and asked if she knew that there was a meteorite on her porch. “What, that black rock that Hopper brought up and dropped on the porch is a meteorite?” She said. “Hopper?” I asked. “Yes,” She explained, “Hopper is a stray dog that we took in a few weeks ago and he’s been dragging all kinds of stuff to the porch.”
After realizing that I had inadvertently discovered the only meteorite finding dog in history, I raced over to do a short interview with Pauline as well as try to buy the stone. Pauline was not ready to sell, so an hour later I was back out in the field looking for those hard to find black stones that only a few days earlier were speeding towards our tiny blue planet.
Finding Meteorites In West
Once out in the field I ran into Mike Miller - who told me the day before that he probably would not be able to make the trip. It could be that a full day of reading email after email of how other meteorite hunters were making finds changed his mind. Nevertheless, we said a quick hello and then Mike and I began the hunt. It didn’t take long before Mike walked up to me and showed me a very nice 50-60 gram stone. “Wow, Nice Job!” I said. I don’t recall if we were too excited to take pictures or just forgot our normal routine which is: find meteorite, take coordinates, and then pictures –but somehow it didn’t get done.
Slowly, meteorite hunters from all over the world began to trickle into West. As the hours went by we all began to notice that there simply were not as many meteorites as we had imagined. In fact it was almost always the case that if a meteorite was found, another wouldn’t be found within a 300 – 500 foot radius.
Steve Arnold, having found about an 8 gram meteorite earlier in the day asked how I was doing. “Not very good.” I said. Steve suggested that we drive to an area near where he found his small specimen and try our luck. We drove longer and further than I felt comfortable with, as I was sure we were too far and would be hunting outside the strewn field. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Within a few minutes of wandering down a dirt road I spotted a cemetery. The cemetery, with its short grass looked like a good place to find a meteorite – that is, if any had fallen there. Seconds later I surprised Steve –and myself - when I said, “I don’t believe it, I found one.” “No you didn’t…. did you?” Steve asked. Yup, my very first West meteorite was found in a cemetery.
The cemetery stone.
No more meteorites were found in the immediate area. However, our finds did seem to come much easier over the next two days.
Mike Miller’s Find
Tracking meteorites in a newly fallen strewn field is something like putting a jig-saw puzzle together – The more pieces are snapped into place the more the puzzle makes sense.
After a few days Mike Miller and I had found enough small meteorites to ensure that our trip would be a success, and so we decided to begin looking for the “big ones.” Within just a few minutes of locating an area that we felt would produce larger pieces we asked permission and once again began the hunt.
Mike wandered in one direction as I meandered in another. I began scanning back and forth when all of the sudden a black rock caught my eye about 20-30 feet in front. A fully crusted 30 gram meteorite came into sharp focus as I drew nearer. “What a beauty.” I thought. I called Mike over and said, “It’s pretty, but not what were after.” “But you’ll keep it anyway?” Mike jokingly asked. “Ya, I’m not gonna throw it back” I replied.
My 30 gram specimen.
Once again Mike wandered away looking for bigger, better stones and I stayed to make sure that nothing was left behind. A few hours passed when my phone rang. “Dude, I’m a genius!” Mike said in his quiet confident tone. “How big?” I asked. “It’s over 150 grams.” He said. “Come check it out.” Sure enough, Mike had found a 212 gram fully crusted meteorite just where he and I had predicted it would be. We took pictures and coordinates and kept on hunting.
Mike showing off his 212 gram rock. Mike is Out-Standing in his field!
Mike's rock up close.
Over the next two weeks we found more meteorites but no one found a larger specimen. In fact, as of this writing I’m only aware of one stone that is larger.
Our totals were as follows:
Mike Miller = 8 stones, 365 grams total.
Ruben Garcia = 15 individual stones - with all but 2 being fully crusted – 197 grams total
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Good luck and happy hunting!