Sunday, July 21

Woke up this morning to pretty heavy rain; didn’t hear anything about the chance of rain on the forecast? I know I shouldn’t wish for the wet weather to go away because it’s so precious to life around here in the high plains desert environment. Rain grows and sustains the grasses, which feed the cattle and allow ranchers to cut pastures for hay for feed in the winter, which allows ranchers to survive by raising healthy beef cows for sale. Rain = livelihood.

But…. rain makes getting out into the badlands terrain where we hunt & excavate fossils almost impossible. We drive on trails in the dirt which gets super slippery when wet. The natural soils at the surface around badlands is referred to as “gumbo.” Not sure where the name came from but it’s apt. The gumbo is mostly bentonite and it turns to slime with moisture. Nearly impassable on foot with even a slight hill let alone trying to force a pick up truck up, around and over gumbo hills.

So naturally, I took off in my truck this morning for the current excavation site! I made it through a small bog, then up a slippery hill, then slid a little sideways down the next decline then got to the very narrow, very steep uphill which falls to my left about 25 feet if you stray off the path by 2 or 3 feet. I tried, then slid sideways back down, backed up, put the truck in 4-wheel drive Low, tried again, slid back, then backed up farther, got a running start and severely slipped close to the edge falling over and elected to park the thing! Wise choice.

I walked from there to our dig site about a mile away (in the mud). Scraped mud and a little standing water out of the dig excavation site and got to it! We’re finding more bones, as we excavate one, we find another. All very cool.

This photo shows a couple of cervical (neck) vertebrae in the foreground and part of a big paddle-like shaped bone (pubis) that’s part of the pelvis. Not sure yet what this is but may be all from one animal. The bones are kind of “jumbled” (that’s a scientific term meaning “all tossed & turned all over each other”) so removing them one at a time gets pretty hard to do; difficult to remove the top one because it’s resting directly on bone below. It can be done, just extra care is needed. We may elect to take several bones together in one plaster field jacket to avoid hurting bones below but this makes the “jackets” bigger, heavier and harder to get up and out of the site then back to the truck for transport out. The site is pretty close to where I can park so won’t have to carry to far.

There’s the truck about 75 yards from where I’m standing at our dig taking this photo.

I cut out early to walk back to my truck to fight my way out back to camp. Sunshine and breezes dry up the wet trails pretty quickly and so no problem getting out. I cleaned up and got ready to go out for an evening meal with Don & Merri, owners of the ranch where we’re currently digging. They suggested going to neat little town about an hour away called Medora, ND for a meal and to see an evening play, the “Medora Musical” at an outdoor theater there. I’ve stopped in Medora a time or two but have not seen this musical production put on every summer season. Medora is nestled into some really beautiful painted badlands adjacent to the T. Roosevelt National Park. I understand the town and musical production are the no. 1 tourist attraction in the state of North Dakota. Very nice on Don & Merri to invite me along. The aftermath and evening weather turned out to be perfect. Warm sunshine giving way to pleasant, comfortable evening sun set and temperatures.

What a spectacular setting and a fun (family friendly) production. And we had great seats in the 3rd row.

Enjoying myself and going with the flow the weather demands is what it’s all about.