A rock procured by technical theft


Cambrian Rock 10in x 7in x 8in, by Annmarie Throckmorton 1993.jpg

How is it that I have no right on this Earth to any rock, any soil, any physical place on this Earth without purchasing it? It seems that I should have a right to my share of the elements of the Earth by virtue of having been born to the Earth. At birth I was not given even one single natural object for my own so I stole this Cambrian Rock which is my totem, and this is how.


Farm irrigation in the desert around Phoenix, Arizona often reduces the Salt River to a bone-dry bed. I had noticed one particular location where this desiccation had revealed the most exquisite, hand-sized rocks. I have never seen such beautiful rocks, not before and not since. The only way I could find down from the bridge from which I had seen those beautiful rocks to that dry riverbed was by a short road through Native American Indian property which was located near downtown Phoenix. Maybe it was the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation, it has been a long time. At any rate, the access road was clearly marked “Indian Reservation Property-No Trespassing-DO NOT ENTER”, words to that effect. I chose a day in midweek, in the middle of the afternoon, during the full heat of the desert day when most people are sensibly inside with air-conditioning. I wanted those rocks so badly, and I knew no other way to obtain them.


I parked my truck at the riverbed and started to haul rocks for all I was worth. It was very hot but I loaded up twenty, thirty of those lovely rocks, each one different in spots, stripes, different hues...beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Each was as unique as a living creature. Just when I had my loot gathered, I was appalled to see three big, grim-faced Native American Indian men coming side-by-side down the center of the dirt road that was my exit. I put the best face on it that I could, running up to them with a simper “Am I in trouble?” Obviously I was in trouble but I had softened them. One said “What are you doing out here, it’s over a hundred degrees. You’re making me hot just watching you.” I wheedled that I was an artist, that my heart needed beautiful things from the Earth, like these precious rocks which I wanted to border my little yard. Such beautiful rocks. They rolled their eyes, managed not to laugh at me, and chose not to punish me for my thievery. They said, “Well, don’t take more than you need.” “Oh, no,” I said, “This is all I need. Thank you so very much for these beautiful rocks.”


Later when I moved I had to let those heavy rocks go, but I kept the most beautiful one and have had it in my living room ever since. A friend took it to a geologist, as an excuse to see her as she was an old flame of his, and she wrote a description of the processes that formed my

Cambrian Rock. I have cherished this unusual rock for many years. Who will love my Cambrian Rock after I am gone? Perhaps at the end I will toss it into the Pacific Ocean to be subducted under the North American tectonic plate, and driven deep into the Earth’s mantle.


My Cambrian Rock, by Annmarie Throckmorton

In the mid-Cambrian era, about five-hundred million years ago,

Pieces of my little rock tumbled down from the Great Lakes of northern Minnesota,

On through South Dakota and Nebraska, up over Colorado,

And down the Salt River in Arizona where it formed for me to find in 1993.


I think that it rode the transcontinental arch that spanned mid-continent at that time.

What a great journey for such a little rock!

A complex rock: red jasper, white quartz, and darker pieces of chert,

Folded into gray sandstone, then pressed at great depths to form granite.


“Most probably moved from the Great Lakes area by glacial activity and deposited where found,”

Said the geologist who took its measure.

The Cambrian was the first great mystery of our earth, the earliest period in whose rocks

Are found numerous large, distinctly-fossilized, multicellular organisms.


The almost organic creases and dimples of my Cambrian rock,

Suggest to me the beginnings of life, from God’s thought to the elements of nature.

The lovely shape of it compels me to the palm-sized planes where I rest my hands.

And I think of the span of time and form that has brought us to this moment.

Caption: Photograph of the Salt River in Arizona by Annmarie Throckmorton, 1981.

I found my Cambrian rock in the dry river bed years later and a few miles away in 1993.

Caption: Geologist’s assessment of my Cambrian Rock.jpg

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