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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

Rock Stars

PULLMAN, WASH – “I collect mainly from two areas,” Jason Shull said, a Pullman rock enthusiast, “they come from Washington and Idaho. I go on big walks and hikes and kick rocks over and try to determine what material might end up being good and what ends up being what we call ‘leverites’, where you just leave it right there!”

With a heavy pack full of rocks, Shull hikes over 10 miles a day when he’s on the hunt.

“I’ve got to have the right kind of pack, the right kind of shoes. I’ve got to be protected from rattlesnakes. I’ve got to have water. I’ve got to be able to take weight out,” Shull said.

When Shull returns home, he rarely has any space left in his backpack full of rocks. He began putting his minerals out on display in the lobby of his small business; today, he owns Brain Body Balance Rock Shop, and he has collected every rock on display.

“This (stone) is one of my absolute favorites. I found it in some river gravel and did not know that it was in hydrous, which means it has water inside of it. I was looking at it one night in my living room enjoying it and rolled it with a light and sure enough I saw that, and I think I woke up the whole house,” Shull exclaimed.

Kurtis Wilkie is an earth sciences professor at Washington State University, and he is a rock hounder himself.

“If you were to think of Pullman, let’s say…20 million years ago, we would have been in the forefront of the Rocky Mountains,” Wilkie said, “and we would have had these peaks sticking out everywhere. Those peaks now are Kamiak Butte and Steptoe Butte, and they have metamorphic rocks at age of about 1.5 billion years old.”

From dirt covered rock to shining crystal, Shull’s process to get his minerals ready for the shelf is meticulous.

“They start out in a rough, dirty form, and I usually just soak them in water for a while,” Shull said.

After a few days in a soak, Shull began cleaning.

“The longer you soak them, the more the material loosens up. And then I’ll pull them out and scrub them like crazy. I have all these tools here for scrubbing and picking, and I put goggles on and just go to town and scrub like crazy,” Shull said.

If rocks needed additional help ditching the dirt, Shull used cleaning agents and then dropped the rocks in mineral oil. Shull said a simple wipe down after the oil bath is usually all a rock needs to get it ready for the shelf.

“I want to be able to provide material that’s inexpensive. The community aspect of it and contributing to other people is the part that really ties this all together for me,” Shull said.

Along with a passion for rock hounding, Shull is also interested in minerals for their metaphysical properties.

“I have this motto called ‘don’t argue with the fish’. It’s a saying that I use. I was a professional fisherman, and when you’re getting them, you’re getting them. It doesn’t have to make sense, right? You don’t have to argue with the fish, you’re getting them! The idea is that if it makes you feel good, if you enjoy it, if you are calmed by something, by the presence of a stone, if it reminds you of somebody, and that brings good feelings, I don’t really have to understand it completely…don’t argue with the fish!” Shull said.

Chloe Gage, a WSU student, often spends her free time visiting rock shops around the Palouse. Gage said her rocks give her a sense of comfort that she does not find in other objects.

“I started collecting rocks when I was five,” Gage said, “and I’m not a very spiritual person, but with this, it kind of gives me a little sense of spirituality. Sometimes when I’m really stressed, these rocks can hold my stress.”

Wilkie said rocks are like art objects and, “that’s why a lot of people will collect them; the shape, it’s natural, and just the luster, the color in something that you find that is made by nature…for me, mineral collecting is part of that. And plus, it gets you outside.”

Shull said he tried to make things happen his whole life, but they never quite felt right.

“I’ve fallen in love with the material and the way it makes people feel, the way it makes me feel,” Shull said. “I’ve probably done nine different things in my life. This just kind of happened, and it is definitely the most natural, right feeling thing I’ve done. And I seem to – no matter what I do – keep getting more momentum and people really love it. So, don’t argue with the fish, right?”



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Note: Murrow News is produced by students of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. Northwest Public Broadcasting proudly supports the work produced by these young journalists. 

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