No offense to the good people who live there, but after a couple of hours, there really ain’t that much to do in Noble.
Once you eat at most of the restaurants and visit the Super Wal-Mart for the hundredth time, you mostly just find yourself walking aimlessly down dirt-roads and barren fields, looking for either dead bodies or meth-trailers, whatever comes first. Well, at least that’s what I did most of the time.
Driving down Main Street however, there is one local tourist trap that I had continually ignored – the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum. For those not in the know, Noble is apparently the Rose Rock capital of the world and this quiet little house off the side of the road is the one place in America totally dedicated to this wholly red dirt phenomenon…
The official rock of Oklahoma—sorry, KATT—I personally first come to know the Rose Rock when a girlfriend in high school gave me one accompanied with a poem she wrote; of course, at the time, I was a little bit bummed because it wasn’t a session of heavy making-out with some light petting down by the schoolyard. But, in retrospect, it was very much a sweet gift that means more now as an adult on the edge of death than as a dumb kid on the cusp of life.
Parking on their gravel lot—no Rose Rocks there, ironically enough—walking inside the restructured home, it’s admittedly not an immediate instant of jaw-dropping awe; the first room is basically a gift shop, with many different strains and styles of the rock for sale, some on little stands with glass buffalos, some in a mixed bag of other assorted rocks, and some that even have green stems and leaves, designed to look like an actual rose.
Shaped like the famous flower, of course, Rose Rocks were formed in the Permian era some 250 million years ago—6,500 years if you’re homeschooled—when a vast but shallow ocean covered most of Oklahoma. The barite from the seawater crystallized around the quartz sand, delicately mingling with the reddish sandstone and, over time, creating the strange rose-like features on these rocks which are at their densest in Noble County and the surrounding central Oklahoma areas.
The historical precedent of all this was made so much deeper when you entered the second room, filled with not only the geological science behind the rocks, but mostly interesting dioramas of them in their natural setting, as well as various probable world record holders, including a bowling-ball sized monster that I was momentarily plotting an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist around.
But, the more you investigate the small exhibits throughout the museum, the more you realize that the Timberlake goes into more than just red rocks, with a surprisingly positive Red Earth historical bent to the proceedings, including an extensive—for a Rose Rock museum, at least—look into the life of Cherokee Chief Otacity (Mankiller) Ostenaco, and how the blood of the Indigenous people who died on the Trail of Tears formed the Rose Rocks.
When you’re done looking at the museum pieces and reading the home-made placards, double-back around and, on your way out, you’ll come to yet another gift area, this time with the cloying things that most Oklahoma museums have got, like dream-catchers and rock-candy. I bought a small book on the history of rocks in general, just to put a few dollars in the Rose Rock coffers to ensure that, for one more day, the Timberlake will stay open.
So, how interesting can a home-made museum about a single type of local rock actually be? The honest answer appears to be quite a bit. The next time you’re in Noble and have exhausted most of your options of all the fully depressing amusements there, take a half-hour or so out of your precious time to visit the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum.
And when you’re done, I don’t know, go back to the Wal-Mart Supercenter and hang out in the parking lot drinking tall-boys or something.