If you grew up without television or cellphones, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.
Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch. If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds and didn’t wiggle very much, the ants considered me scenery, which was okay by me.
Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.
The ants carried pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects *especially beetles and wasps* and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint. Invariably, they took their gleaned goodies straight into the mysterious hole leading into the central parts of their colony.
Can’t you just see a couple of sweating ants lugging a crystalized wasp wing into the throne room? I can!
I never actually witnessed the ants placing items on the outside of their pebbly hills, and I’m sure they had to obtain Queenie’s orders before they did any outside decorating.
Unless they were rebels.
I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?
My favorite anthill pickings to take home with me were the tiny hollow-bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery, fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries earlier for hunting small animals and birds.
What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.
Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family. Arizona pyrope garnets were used to make bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Rumor has it the Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.
One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two- and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and in ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times its own weight and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.
Because I had heard garnet dust is used for cutting metals, I consulted with Michael Castaῆeda, a water-jet professional who daily works with garnet dust in his line of work.
- Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10 on that scale.
- Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on the equipment used, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone when using water-jet cutters.
- A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80-, and 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
- Two hundred hours of use is possible from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit versus only thirty minutes from a mixture of aluminum oxide.
Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about their work ethic.
Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like ants, but that “we should also know what we are busy about.”
I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little red jewels from the earth is both resourceful and intriguing. Just think, they do all that work with no pickaxes, pullies, or hard hats!
As usual, I love to hear from you! Have you ever found any treasures on an anthill?
Jodi Lea Stewart is a fiction author who believes in and writes about the triumph of the human spirit through overcoming adversity. With an Okie mom and a Texas stepdad, her writing reflects her life beginning in Texas and Oklahoma, later moving as a youngster to an Arizona cattle ranch next door to the Navajo Nation, and, as a young adult, resuming in her native Texas. Growing up, she climbed petroglyph-etched boulders, bounced two feet in the air in the backend of pickups wrestling through washed-out terracotta roads, and rode horseback on the winds of her imagination through the arroyos and mountains of the Arizona high country. Her lifetime friendship with all nationalities, cowpunchers, and the southern gentry allows Jodi to write comfortably about anything in the Southwest and the South.
TRIUMPH, A NOVEL OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT is a 2021 International Firebird First Place Multicultural Fiction Award Winner
TRIUMPH, a Novel of the Human Spirit, launched not long ago. If you loved To Kill a Mockingbird, and want a dramatic, sometimes humorous, version of New Orleans life, St. Louis, and Texas in the early to mid-century 1900s, all wrapped up in beguiling plot twists and unforgettable characters, read TRIUMPH, a Novel of the Human Spirit by Jodi Lea Stewart.
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What’s next from Jodi? Another epic historical fiction catapulting the reader out of Texas into Mexico, Argentina, and China and into the epicenter of another intriguing human drama. Look for it in 2022.
BLACKBERRY ROAD is a 2020 International Chanticleer First Place Multicultural Award Winner
Trouble sneaks in one Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a black man who Biddy, a sharecropper’s daughter, knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.
“Beyond the humor and entertaining antics of the main character, Biddy Woodson, BLACKBERRY ROAD has depth and meaning as it explores stirring universal themes that we expect in great literature” ~ D.B. Jackson, acclaimed Historical and Western author
BLACKBERRY ROAD is engaging, entertaining, and a book that is sure to linger with you . . . the trip is well worth the time ~ Cyrus Webb, Host of ConversationsLIVE, president of Conversations Radio Network, tv show host, author, and Amazon top reviewer
THE ACCIDENTAL ROAD is a 2021 NEW MEXICO-ARIZONA BOOK AWARD First Place Adventure-Drama Winner
Kat, a teen, and her mother Take off on Route 66 to escape an abusive home life and stumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty Arizona town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for the simple things of home and a sense of belonging. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did mess up and take The Accidental Road of life.
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