Lifestyle

A Texas Treasure Hunt: Prospecting for Topaz in Mason, Texas

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Budding prospectors can work up an appetite, and fortunately the nearby Willow Creek Café is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The original location of the famous Cooper’s Barbecue is also close by.

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Photo: John Spaulding. Deloris and Clay Lindsay with family mementos—some dating back to the 1800s.

Back at the ranch, at Deloris’ suggestion, I join her husband Clay Lindsay in a game of dominoes. As I lean over to catch every word of local and family history, this 93-year-old in the weathered cowboy hat demolishes me in every round. I am clearly dealing with a pro. From age six, he was invited to compete with the men in the domino hall, now the Mason Museum. As he served ice cream, Clay absorbed all the best domino plays. Clay’s roots go back to 1858, when John Gamel, his grandfather and a Mason town founder, bought 15,000 acres for a dollar an acre.

For additional prospecting tips, I head to the Bar M Ranch, where owner Mark Hahn and his cattle dog Zeke are waiting for me. “Topaz originally formed as an impurity in the granite,” Mark explains. “As the granite cooled over the millennia, other pockets of minerals cooled at a different rate, some of them forming into topaz.” He suggests hunting along the creek bed, then digging (the deeper the better) near a sandbar or upstream rocks. Because topaz is heavy, the stones settle behind larger rocks that catch them downstream, especially after a good rain.

Mark’s 1,200 acres have been in family hands since the 1920s, originating with his great-grandfather Geistweidt, also a founder of Mason. Mark opened it up to rock-hounding five years ago at the suggestion of a topaz designer, which helps him defray expenses of the working cattle ranch. “Rock hunters keep whatever they find, as chances of finding a stone are about five percent,” he says. Five percent? I’m undaunted by the odds. Nothing can discourage me, now that I’ve caught the topaz fever.

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Photo: John Spaulding. Mark Hahn of Bar M Ranch, with dog Zeke along for the ride.