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The conversation took a ‘rocky’ turn as we sat on a bench in Idaho Falls

Living the Wild Life

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As Bill Thielbahr and I discussed a bench on the Idaho Falls Greenbelt, we were approached by a local woman. Since we were at the bench donated to the City of Idaho Falls by the Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Society, she assumed that we might know a little about rocks. Little did she know that Thielbahr, a geologist, has been chasing and identifying rocks most of his life and probably has liquid silica running through his veins and maybe a stone or two hidden in his body.

“Do either of you know much about rocks and could identify some for me?” asked the lady. “My mother and grandmother collected rocks and I would love to know what they are.”

She and Thielbahr exchanged contact information so they could meet to identify her “treasures.” He explained a little about the bench and that part of the mission of the club “is to educate, friendship and to help other others identify rocks.”

Before she left, we discussed the upcoming 10th Annual 2021 Members Sale that will be held on Saturday, October 9, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Bonneville County Fairgrounds next to Sandy Downs Racetrack. Admission to the sale will be $3 for all people 13 years and older.

“All items for sale at the Members Sale have been collected by members of the Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Society,” explained Thielbahr, one of the members spearheading this event. “Items are from unique places and seldom seen by the public. Items will include rough and polished rocks, slabs, gemstones, finished jewelry, minerals, fossils and handcrafted artisan pieces.”

The member’s sale is one of two events that the IFGMS hold each year for the public. The Gem and Mineral Show, which is a two-day event, is usually in mid-April on a Saturday and Sunday and hopefully will be held again in 2022.

“The April show features many commercial dealers, events for children, about 50 cases of specialty items displayed by members and demonstrations of special skills like wire-wrapping, gem making, lapidary and gem faceting,” said Thielbahr. “The October 9 sale is just for members to sell what they have collected and made. It is also educational because members delight in talking about their items and how they were acquired and/or fabricated.”

During the summer, the IFGMS holds several field trips to visit the claims held by the club and other places where interesting rocks can be found. In addition, some members of the club have spent as many as 30 days hiking, locating and collecting rocks throughout Idaho and surrounding states. Rocks collected and prepared for the public will be on sale at the Membership Sale on October 9.

One such type of rock targeted this summer has been some unique tube agate from Central Idaho. Several large pieces have been found by members of the club with David and Connie Anderson collecting a huge 146-pound piece. Small pieces of this tube agate in slabs and polished pieces will be at the October sale.
As you visit the Idaho Falls Greenbelt, you can find the IFGMS bench right on the Snake River across from the Idaho Falls Recreation Center.

“The Idaho Falls Historic Downtown Foundation sponsored a project called, “Art You Can Sit On” and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the annual IFGMS Gem and Mineral Show on April 12, 2014, the bench was donated to the city,” Thielbahr said. “It was made by Idaho Travertine and on the supporting side of the bench are specimens of rocks and minerals found in Idaho. These items are placed on the supports where they can be found in Idaho.”

Some of these specimens have been broken off or chipped away by vandals, but as the self-appointed caretaker of the bench, Bill Thielbahr repairs and replaces the items damaged throughout the year.

Just a little warning – if you sit on the IFGMS bench and know a little bit about rocks, be prepared to engage in rock-talk and possibly gain a new friend.

Bill Thielbahr | Bill Schiess,