Lauren Wright

Lauren Wright was a geologist mapping talc deposits in Death Valley when he ran into me. I was operating a hoist at the Western Talc Mine in Inyo County CA at the time. That was over a half century ago. Our encounters were brief, but he took me seriously, a teen-age miner by trade, dusty dirty and not doubt smelly. He showed me the maps he was making, how a diabase sill of molten rock intruded into a formation of dolomite and how the reactions between the two kinds of rock produced talc. Talc is used for baby powder, ceramic tile and in a host of other things. I didn't understand the chemistry, but everything else looked straight forward, if not simple.

Lauren had empathy for me. Our last encounter at the mine, in 1948, was decisive. He told me about the chaos geologic structure in Death Valley. When he described it, I wanted to read about it. He said all I had to do was write to Dr Levi Noble, the author and he would send me a copy. Here was a man from the big city taking time for an ignorant desert rat. He sincerity and ability to simplify complex ideas haunted me for years. He gave me the confidence to try to go to school, though my high school education was strictly marginal, even by 1940's standards.

Lauren is still alive. He became a professor at Penn State and never lost his interest in the desert. Now retired, he winters in Shoshone, the gateway to Death Valley, leads field trips for the curious and dabbles in the local museum exhibits

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