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Usrey's Rock Bin
By Lisa Carroll, Staff Writer 
Published in the March 14, 2013 edition

Usrey’s Rock Bin is a large, brightly lit space filled from top to bottom with minerals, crystals, rocks, beads in every color imaginable, and fossils of all sorts. They sell hand tools for rock hunters and jewelry makers, rock tumblers and the grit that goes in them, and other lapidary equipment for the rock hound, as well as tons of resource books.

Owners Bill and Doris Usrey are a couple of rock hounds for life. “We went to a rock show in 1967 and got hooked!” says Doris.  Back in the day, the Usrey's spent all their spare time on rock hunts, taking their two boys along on their adventures.  Wanting to share what they found with others, they began showing the public how to find, dig, and cut rock.  After retiring from work in 1987, they took their rocks and gems to the road full time with the Gem Faire circuit, and traveled all over the western United States. It was a love of camping and catching crab that first brought them to our coast, and eventually the Usrey's  settled down in Lakeside. In 2003 they opened up their first rock shop, which was originally in a much smaller building than the one they are in now.

Bill, who spent 20 years as a Scout Master while the kids were growing up, recalls his first rock hunting trip with the boys. “First trip I was on, we had to go out to the middle of a desert past Fallon, Nevada. It was dark. There was supposed to be a fire laid out so we’d see it and know where to go. So we got on a ridge and looked out, and all we could see was a tiny pinpoint of light, very far away. We eventually made it there, after wandering in the desert all night. All we had for tools when we were first starting out was a claw hammer and a screwdriver for a pick.” 

Doris and Bill Usrey of Usrey's Rock Bin teach beading, wire wrapping, and rock cutting, in addition to having the biggest rock shop on the coast. (Photo By Lisa Carroll)

Over the years, Bill and Doris have collected more than a few rock treasures.   Bill took me around the store and showed me their awesome collection of fossils, such as trilobites and coprolite. “There’s a lot of fossilized oddities around here besides me!” Bill quipped as he showed me his prized fossilized cobra head.  Once they found a well preserved dinosaur in a cliff side in Wyoming. Then there is this gorgeous shark's tooth whorl Doris found in Diamond Mountain, Nevada. “I first thought it was an Indian painting, but when I turned it over, I saw it was actually a fossil! I show it once a year at the Reedsport Gemshow, the 3rd weekend in July.”  The Usrey’s are active members of the Lower Umpqua Gem and Mineral Society, which meets on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 2pm in the Community Center at Winchester Bay. All are welcome to attend.

The couple still enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. Every 3 months,  the Usreys bring their equipment to the rock club meetings and show people how to cut rock into cabochons. Bill loves to cut rock. “It’s like a Christmas present, when you cut a rock. You know there is something in it, you just don’t know what. But when you cut it up, you get whatever Mother Nature wants you to have.” We looked through many examples of artistry found inside of geodes, rich with colors you might only dream about, and full of life dancing in designs once hidden from view.

Bill is also an accomplished wire wrapper, and he teaches this art in the store. “You can let your imagination go wild with wire wrapping,” he told me as he shared examples of his lovely work. Doris does excellent beadwork, a talent that has held steady in spite of fading eyesight, and she delights in teaching others how to bead. “I start people out with a bead board and show them how to design and adjust the color on their beads, so they’ll have something decent when they’re finished. I’ve done beading since I was 5 years old. I used to roll beads out of the colored funnies and home made glue. You cut the paper in long triangles, coat it with the glue, and roll it around grocery string.”

Behind the store are lots of uncut rocks and geodes people are welcome to pick through, and Bill is happy to cut the rocks for you. This is a great place to take a kid, because both Doris and Bill are very knowledgeable in their field and they make rocks come alive.

The Usrey's are approaching their 60th wedding anniversary in April. One is tempted to describe their marriage as “rock solid”. Once a person gets into loving rocks, they told me, its a desire that stays with them. “We’d travel between different towns for the rock shows,” Bill related, “and we’d see a road somewhere and we’d have to take off to go rock hunting.” Rock-hounds will always be the type of people to see a cliff side or a mountain face and cannot help but imagine what secrets lie beneath, hidden in rock. “There’s still a few roads we haven’t seen!” Doris assures me.

If you want to learn more, or are interested in taking a class, contact Bill and Doris at 541-759-2321 for more information on their rock store or Tugman RV storage.

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