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If you don’t mind waiting 3-4 years to tour the Thornton Quarry, this is an outing for you.

When you’re traveling south of Chicago on the Tristate, have you ever wondered about that deep stone hole below that “dike” you’re crossing? For years, we’ve traveled that road to Michigan, and I would crane my neck to try to make sense of what was happening below. It was too far down. I could not see action.

My view, however limited, must have made an impression on me because the big hole surfaced once in my dreams. I was at a changing point in my life and in my dream I saw myself suspended over the hole, cradled in God’s outstretched hands. I had no fear.  I felt completely safe just hanging there. So I was curious to finally see the hole–more than  a mile wide and 400 feet deep.

Marv and I were given tickets that a friend had requested several years earlier. The quarry runs tours only twice a year, so demand is high.

Their brochure tells me that, as one of the largest quarries in the world, they mine more than nine million tons of stone a year and produce about 40 different products.  If they continue mining at the present pace, there is enough stone to last several generations. The crusher can “chew” up to 3000 tons of stone per hour.

Over 410 million years ago, the site of the quarry was a shallow inland sea containing reefs.  The excavated stone today contains fossils of animals that once lived there.

We rode on a yellow school bus down a narrow gravel road to the bottom. I was acutely aware that I had no access to a seat belt. I would not have liked to tip over the side. At the bottom we could get out and dig for fossils. I found something that may be a chip of Crinoid (Eucalyptocinites) embedded in a chunk of stone.

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Afterward, the tour guide encouraged us to learn more by visiting a museum housed in an old church in the town of Thornton. We, however, were too hot to think and headed with the friends who went with us to the nearby Culver’s.

We needed cold drinks, not more fossils. But my chunk of stone with its chip of Crinoid now serves as a bookend on my desk.