“ Driving across Texas with nowhere to go“

Over the years Rob Reisener and I spent the summer months investigating interesting meteorite falls and finds. In most cases, we started the actual planning many months in advance. Our planning consisted of; researching the locations, contacting land owners, and sometimes contacting the individuals that actually made the discovery. 

On other meteorite hunting trips—using our version of “cold calls”—we drove through farming communities and stopped to visit farmers along the way. Once there, we would hand out flyers describing meteorites and ask about possible leads.  We also brought a meteorite along  for them to hold and examine. This is one of the most interesting aspects of field work. I enjoy having the opportunity to talk to so many unique individuals and hear their stories.  In this part of rural America, a handshake is as good as gold.  

  We came across one farmer who found meteorites in a field across from his house. He kept the meteorites in a box in his barn. As we walked into to the barn I could see a box with “meterites” written on it. There were several meteorites inside the box. The farmer told us we were welcome to take one for our collection and refused to take any money.  He also invited us to hunt his field.  It was late in the day and we were only able to hunt for a few hours and unfortunately did not find anything.

One of the farms that we visited, was visited many years earlier by Harvey Nininger.  When we spoke to the farmer about meteorites he explained that a man was here 30 years ago asking the same questions. This gentleman still had the flyer that Harvey Nininger gave him. He kept it all of these years just in case a meteorite turned up. We explained Nininger was an early pioneer in meteorite hunting and that many of his techniques are still being used today.

A specific farm that we wanted to investigate during this trip was located in Texas. A meteorite was found along a fence line by a farmer who was plowing his field.  What was more interesting is that he hit another object while plowing that almost threw him off the tractor.  He theorized that the piece he found could have been a fragment off of another piece. We decided to check it out.  When we arrived on the farm, we quickly learned that the size of the field was much bigger than we thought. It would take much more time to hunt than we had.  We searched the field for 2 days and did not find anything. We decided it would be best to return later armed with a bigger coil.  Since we were tired of hunting this field we decided we needed a change. As we drove off we discussed other hunting options.

Portales was only 3 to 4 hours away. Portales has always been one of my favorite meteorites. Rob called Skip Wilson and he invited us to come over for dinner.

Skip has found over 125 different meteorites totaling 213 pieces.  Two of the meteorites were Ureilites and one was an LL3.  The LL3 was purchased from a friend.  As the story goes; two neighborhood kids got into a rock fight. The little delinquents had no idea that they were chucking space debris at each other.  So, one of the missiles ended up on a nearby neighbor’s yard and the neighbor knew Skip had an interest in meteorites and called him over.  After Skip confirmed it was a meteorite, the man offered it to him as a gift.  Skip insisted on paying the man $100.00 for the stone. 

That night, at dinner with Skip and his wife, we discussed the areas near Portales that we wanted to hunt.  Skip told us about a field where a couple of meteorites had been found.  Unfortunately, the field  now was covered with  grass over one and a half feet tall.  However, the area of the field nearest to the road had never really been searched due to all of the junk that had accumulated over the years. We agreed to start hunting next to the road and work our way east.  Within an hour and only two passes along the edge of the field, our metal detector went off.  We had come across many signals before this and dug up targets only to find that they were not meteorites. Rob and I had decided to take turns digging up targets.  I swung my detector back to the location of the last signal and it went off at the same time I hit something hidden in the grass.  I figured I had just hit another old can. When I pushed the grass back I could see what looked like a black chunk of metal sticking out of the sand. I took a second look to be sure what I was seeing and it was a Portales meteorite.

Rob asked,  “What is it?”

I told him, “It looks like just another piece of junk but you better have a look.”

Rob looked a me with a sigh and said, “Okay.”

When Rob pushed the tall grass back he could  see the treasure. It was an iron rich Portales meteorite. We decided not to pick it up because we wanted Skip to be the first one to pull it from the soil where it rested since 1998.

The last Portales meteorite was found 10 years before. The unique thing about the Portales meteorite is that it is a witnessed fall, a treasure for any meteorite hunter to find. 

We called Skip and told him the news.

In a calm voice he said, “I will be right over.” 

As Skip pulled up in his pickup truck you could see the excitement on his face. The meteorite was less than fifteen feet off of the side of the road. Skip walked over and plucked the meteorite from the soil. We were all amazed and began to guess that the weight was somewhere between 400 and 600 grams. (The actual weight was 525  grams.) 

The meteorite was beautiful; full of metal veins, and with a unique shape. Many Portales meteorites are full of metal veins that intersect throughout the whole meteorite. The metal veins running through it could even be etched. Many of the other ones that were found only had metal flakes.  

This beautiful Portales meteorite was the first one found in many years.  We were so elated by this find that we optimistically decided that in the interest of protecting our backs, we had better make plans to use Skip’s wheelbarrow to haul our future finds back to the truck!  Ah, the best laid plans...we continued to hunt this field and the surrounding fields over the next year but were never lucky enough to make any more finds. 

                               256 gram Portales Valley end cut.

Meteorite Scalecube  courtesy of Dr.Svend BuhI,