March 2, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

According to geologist Allan Jeanneret, “Most people think geology is just the study of rocks, but it’s actually a study of the whole Earth and its structures.”

Jeanneret’s love and passion—some might say obsession—for rocks and anything rock-related began in 4-H Club, in his hometown of Brock, Nebraska. “They had a program on rocks and minerals led by a local school teacher. Later, when I was 15, he led field trips for Peru State College, and was able to drag me along.” That was when Jeanneret’s interest crystallized.

After earning a degree in geology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he spent the next three years working oil fields—mostly in Texas and Louisiana—before beginning his now 34-year career working for Nebraska Public Power District at Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville, Nebraska.

Today, Jeanneret is not only an avid rock “hounder” and collector (his license plate reads “Rock Hound”), but also a dealer. He and artist wife Tammy have a gem and mineral business, buying and selling their finds at various venues. Tammy also creates and sells rock paintings and designer jewelry.

“It’s great to be able to turn your hobby into a business,” he says, “and bring in income doing what you love and what you’d be doing anyway.” Both are also active in the Nebraska Mineral and Gem Club, which supports six gem shows a year as well as rock swaps, demonstrations, and other events. “Rock hunting is alive and well in Nebraska,” Jeanneret proudly boasts. “The club now has 75 members.”

But of all his rock-related activities, Jeanneret most enjoys his rock hounding digs with two fellow geologists. The trio, who have hunted together for 10 years (usually in southeastern Nebraska) look mostly for Lake Superior agates (a type of quartz) that came down in the glacial till. “We all have different areas of expertise, which help us know where to look. We walk a lot of rivers and creeks, and drive an all-terrain vehicle with boat props so we can float in the water.” And if they aren’t finding any rocks? “We’ll fish or hunt for mushrooms, so we usually come home with something.”

His years of hunting have resulted in a vast and varied collection, including agates, petrified wood, fossils (with skulls and dinosaur vertebrae), and a lot of Native American artifacts such as hatchets and arrowheads, some dating from 5,000-10,000 years ago.

What is his favorite find? Woolly mammoth teeth. Mammoths are an extinct type of elephant (and Nebraska’s state fossil).

His rarest discovery? A thunder egg formed from volcanic rock, found when he was 12.

What won’t he sell? “Anything that brings up a special memory for me of how I found it.”

Asked what makes his life-long hobby still fascinating after all these years? “You never know what you’re going to find,” he says. “When you cut into a rock, you’re the first person to ever see what’s inside.
That’s pretty amazing!”

Visit the Nebraska Mineral and Gem Club website at nerockgem.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.