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This hobby ROCKS

Cornelius teen Brian True loves to collect specimens and plan field trips for the Tualatin Valley Rock & Gem Club


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Thirteen-year-old Brian True sits amid one part of his 10-ton rock collection in his Cornelius home. He will help at the clubs annual rock and gem show this weekend at the Washington County Fairgrounds.Collectible teddy bears used to fill the shelves of Tina True’s Cornelius home until a rockslide (of sorts) swept them away. More specifically, they were crowded out by the hundreds of rocks her son, Brian, and husband, Dave, have brought back from all over the Northwest.

“I’m hoping the house doesn’t sink,” quipped Tina, pointing toward not only the rocks — which weigh an estimated 10 tons and line baseboards and window sills as well as shelves — but the bulk of trophies Brian, 13, has scored by winning the junior division of the Portland regional rock and gem competition three years in a row.

Brian, 13, is a confirmed rockhound, a hobby his dad and his mom are only too glad to encourage. “I’m happy to put up with rock dust,” Tina said. “They are out there making memories.”

It all began about six years ago, when Brian stumbled on his father’s rock collection from childhood, discovering rocks wrapped up and stored in boxes. His father told him about collecting rocks when he was a kid and described each rock — sparkly samples, specimens with deep black centers, oddly-shaped ones — as Brian unwrapped it. He was hooked.

“I started going to rock shows,” he explained. Tina, who works as a teacher’s assistant, saw an opportunity for Brian to spend time outdoors with Dave. She found the Tualatin Valley Rock & Gem Club online, and soon Brian and his dad were attending TVRGC meetings at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center.

That was four years and many field trips — not to mention many rocks — ago. Brian’s quiet demeanor belies his passion for the hobby. When he’s in his workshop, where most of the rocks are stored, he’s all business, focusing on cutting, polishing and tumbling rocks. He likes sharing his knowledge, and has hosted rock programs at Free Orchards Elementary School.

One of his biggest coups is his position on the TVRGC board, where besides being the only person under 40, he’s also the field trip chairman, planning and executing outings for other rock enthusiasts.by: COURTESY PHOTO - Brian True burrows into the ground as he digs for rocks on one of his many field trips.

Nearby trips may have as many as 20 people attending, he said. Those further afield are for “extreme” rock hounds: a term Brian defines by how far they’re willing to travel; and his mother defines by whether they’re willing to hunt for rocks in the rain.

A March 29 trip will be near Vernonia, where hounds will hunt for agates. Thundereggs are more likely to be found on a May 31 trip near Prineville. A jaunt to Plume, located east of Burns in southeast Oregon, will take hounds on a three-day guided trip in mid-June. Brian has planned a campout at Saddle Mountain for mid-July, while mid-August will take the group to Glass Butte west of Burns, where obsidian can be found.

Brian and veteran rock hounds tend to know what they’ll find in any particular part of the state. But there are surprises. “Sometimes we find blue agate and pyrite — fool’s gold,” he said. And the one rock that eludes him and other members on the trips is amethyst.

While the focus is on rocks, there is wildlife to be seen wherever hounds travel. “I saw a black bear cub in the Coast Range,” Brian said. “At first, I thought it was a dog until I saw it stand up and start to climb a tree.”

On the other side of the mountains in Eastern Oregon, rattlesnake awareness is important. “We’re careful not to step on sagebrush,” Brian noted. “They’ll generally rattle if you get close.” The teen hasn’t had any close encounters with snakes, but he sees plenty of black-tailed deer and pronghorn antelope.

Membership chairwoman Dorothy Snook said the local rock and gem club has about 150 members. While almost all are adults, Snook emphasized that young people are welcome.

“We encourage people of all ages to join,” she said. “There are scholarships available for children to attend the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Camp Hancock near Fossil. You never know where it might lead.”

Brian True’s dream is to one day own a rock shop. In the meantime, he said his mother doesn’t have to worry about any more storage space for rocks. “When I find a better specimen, I swap out the lesser one.”

Brian True is the youngest member of the Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Clubs board of directors. He is also its field trip chairman.See for yourself: rock and gem shows abound

You don’t have to travel halfway across the state to see amazing rocks and gems. The Tualatin Valley Rock & Gem Club will host its annual Rock and Mineral Show at the Hillsboro FairPlex Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, March 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

See jewelry, fossils, supplies and equipment — and head to a corner just for kids. Cost is $1. Children 12 and under are free with an adult. There’s free parking, and the MAX line is nearby.

The Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St. in Hillsboro, features Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals curator and Geologist Lara O’Dwyer-Brown at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 as part of the Center’s Spoken Word Lecture Series. O’Dwyer-Brown will discuss how the Northwest became home to a plethora of captivating rocks, minerals and semi-precious gemstones that draw collectors from around the world. 

In addition to the lecture, a traveling display of these natural wonders will be in the lobby from March 4 through April 26, including thundereggs, petrified wood, quartz, agate, jasper, metallic ores, the Washington State gem and even Oregon’s state rock.

The Rice museum itself is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at 26385 N.W. Groveland Dr. in Hillsboro, just north of Highway 26 via the Helvetia exit. Cost is $8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 students, children 4 and under free.