I had the privilege to dig at this locality many years ago on a field trip with the Prineville rock club. I became fond of the black agate filled eggs along with the good conversation of the owner, Darryl Friend, who has passed on to leave his son Loren with his wife Melanie and kids to run the ranch. A picture of Loren Friend with our Prineville rock club guides Joe and Janice Van Cura (the best guides on the planet).
This small exposure is just a few miles northeast of Richardsons Ranch, but the thundereggs look very different. Unlike the Richardsons Ranch that is open every day of the summer, the Friends Ranch is only open a few times a year. In 2014 Friends was opened for the Prineville and Madres Oregon Pow Wows during late June. The following pictures were taken during the Prineville field trip in late June 2014. There were over 40 vehicles making the one day trip, but everyone was able to fit in the small exposure and dig some thundereggs. It may seem like there were too many people, but these folks are rockhounds and everyone had a blast. I am unable to dig at this exposure very often so I don’t mind a crowd.
Before I tell you about the beautiful black eggs, I must write about the digging. I just love to dig here. The orange/cream color altered perlite clay the good thundereggs are found in is soft and easy. The vein is easy to read, but it still takes some work to dig down to the floor where the good eggs are found. The best eggs have a dark gray color, and are found hugging the unaltered black perlite floor of the vein. There are eggs in the upper parts of the vein but they are small and usually “rotten”. Because the upper part of the vein is exposed, most amateur rock hounds dig only small, compromised eggs and mound the overburden on top of the good eggs. If you have a chance to dig here... make sure you dig DOWN to the floor, and don’t spend a lot of time with the “trash” in the middle and top of the vein... other than to get it off of the 6 inches of productive clay at the bottom. You will know when the bottom is reached because it is hard, black, unaltered perlite.
I have been told by many people who cut and polish, that the agate in the Friends eggs is the best of the thundereggs. There is a lot of depth, and the swirls of black agate make beautiful patterns that hold your attention. Some of the eggs have hollow centers with bytryodal chalcedony that fluoresces a purple color under UV light. The Friends eggs are highly prized by rock dealers as evidenced by the high price tags put on them at rock and gem shows.
I had a few I dug during the 2014 Pow Wows cut at Richardsons Ranch rock shop to show you. The first picture is the black butterfly. The second is a triple with hollows.
This last thunderegg (I call Antman) is one of my favorite eggs from the Friends Ranch.
It was dug a long time ago and came from the upper "trash" part of the vein where the eggs are usually of poor quality.
It goes to show you/me that the worst looking 'egg' may be hiding something very nice inside.