Wednesday, March 2, 2011

55-Year-Old Mystery Solved

I was eight years old the summer we moved out west from Illinois to an old CC Camp on the Spokane Indian Reservation at Wellpinit, Washington. Dad was mining uranium there at the Midnite Mine, now an ecological superfund cleanup site. We lived in a very small trailer house parked in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded on all sides by tree-covered mountains. Two other families and a couple of bachelor geologists also lived in trailer houses at our camp. A generator supplied us with power but we had no running water. Blue Creek was a narrow, shallow stream that flowed along one side of our camp, at the base of one of the mountains. I don't know if that was the source of our drinking water or not for my mother walked uphill behind our camp to fill her water bucket so there may have been a spring back there.
The water that flowed along the little stream called Blue Creek was clear and cold. Above it ten feet or so was a trail that led to a beaver pond where we caught some of the tastiest trout I've ever eaten. I've included a recent photo of the stream that I found on the USGS website that monitors the stream for pollutants. When we lived there the summer of 1955 I loved to play by the stream. One day as I lay on my stomach staring down into the water I saw an amazing thing, tiny rocks just like all the other rocks along the bottom of the stream, except these were clumped together in a regular pattern to form a little tube. I carefully removed one from the stream and looked at it in my hand. There was no creature inside, just this tiny tube of rocks. I can remember showing it to my family and we all marvelled at the creation but had no idea how it had been made.
I've never forgotten that discovery and until last week had no idea what it was. I was reading a novel whose title I've already forgotten, and came across a description that fit my discovery to a t. That little tube made of rocks is the creation of the caddisfly larva, nicknamed the rock roller by western fishermen. Now that I know that and can google it I see that yes, that is definitely what I found in that cold water creek in central Washington fifty-five years ago. I love a good mystery!