For anyone who has ever tried to squeeze a livelihood from a hobby, or clung to some pipe dream for a minute, a decade, an era too long, there is finally some vindication at the end of Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst (with illustrations by the iconic James Stevenson), and for everyone else there is the romance of a second - or a seventeenth - chance.
Who’s counting, though? Certainly not the amateur mineralogist who makes a living from running a filling station, witnesses a boom that includes the popularity of affordable Model-T automobiles, and the bust that accompanies a collapse in the stock market. History rolls along that way, indeed it’s the modesty – even haplessness - implied by the title which is this story’s truest, most sobering aspect. It’s great to dream big, but redemption sometimes has a way of hatching from the smallest and unlikeliest sources.
This book is accordingly full of details and minor diversions which may or may not wind up figuring in the conclusion – because you never know. The chess games that get played in the filling station? The cash drawer that never gets locked? Why do garnets and quartz stones and pyrite and malachite end up counting toward the future, and not all of gaskets and pressure gauges and mufflers and automotive minutiae detailed on the previous page?
And what of the people that you meet? The doubters and bystanders, the fellow enthusiasts and enablers? It almost gets lost in all of the equanimity here (even the man’s wife once derides his fascination; he nods), though finally this story turns on nothing less revolutionary than an executive decision. The museum janitor becomes a curator - just promise not to tell anyone, okay? That gatekeepers should ever be able to see anywhere beyond the barest outlines of a résumé (or that college education you couldn’t afford) strikes me as potentially the most enlightened and pragmatic way out from under the rubble of institutional collapses – forget about giving folks a chance. It takes all kinds: eggheads, pinheads, then probably a couple of heads with some real life experience rattling around in there also. And while it certainly makes for great copy to run around encouraging everyone to think different, maybe it takes a crisis to really mean it.