I mailed a rock to Afghanistan. You'd think my brother would have been thrilled to get a piece of the ranch to keep him company. He seemed a little underwhelmed. He obviously didn't inherit the rock thing. The rock thing comes from my mother. At least, I think it's her. I don't recall my grandmother ever dragging home rocks as souvenirs from her own pasture. My dad tolerates it and hardly ever lets us see him roll his eyes. My mother, on the other hand, gave each of us a big rock for Christmas one year.
Personally, I am constitutionally incapable of returning from a walk across the field without my pockets loaded with rocks. These are not valuable rocks in monetary terms. No diamonds, gold, or even semi-precious stones involved. But I consider my Christmas rock priceless. The land we live on was once buried under a huge glacier. Hence the name of nearby Glacier National Park. The sheet of ice picked up rocks, dragged them along, and left them behind when it melted. Thus we have dozens of different kinds of rocks, transported from miles away. Red, purple, green, all shades of gold and brown, pink and gray. Striped rocks and speckled rocks and rocks that look like frozen ripples of water. If I remembered my geology better, I could tell you whether they were sedimentary or igneous or whatever. Some are frosted with snow white lime deposits. On the south facing slopes, lichen blossoms across their surfaces in brilliant paint-splashes of orange, yellow, pale green and black. The rock my mother gave me is half the size of a bowling ball, crusted with orange lichen. I hauled it home to South Dakota, then moved it to Oregon, and now it has come back to the ranch with me. What's so special about a rock? It's just plain old granite. But my mother carefully extricated it from the edge of a tipi ring perched on the rim of the coulee over in the west pasture. Once, a hundred, maybe even two or three hundred years ago, my rock helped pin a hide in place and protect a family against the ever present west wind. And now, it holds a place of pride in my home.