Last day for this field season. I am ready to wrap up and be home and I really enjoy being here, near Baker, MT on the ranch I’m on, with these ranch owners and the now familiar friends and folks in and around town.
I went into town this morning for a couple of errands and enjoyed a nice chai latte (my last for this trip) at my fav coffee shop. Got back to the ranch headquarters about 10:30 and met the crew there who helped me haul the big bones out of the dig site yesterday. They had the really big jacket ready to load into my truck with the help of a tractor. So glad they were able to help me. Did some more visiting with a neighbor rancher then headed back to camp then out to the dig site for the last time this trip.
I intended to plaster jacket the dozen ribs and clean the site so it’s left in good condition. The weather was very nice today; with a high of only 75 and low forecast for tonight of 48! 75 and 48 on August 13th – “Toto, we’re sure not in Kansas anymore!” Had good finish to the season and the day. The jackets were a little soft but it all worked to get the ribs out. I added some small metal rods to each rib jacket to help stiffen them but wasn’t enough. I forgot how difficult it can be to (successfully) jacket a thin, long bone. The trick is to really undercut the matrix from under the bone so the jacket can get “purchase” on the bone to prevent goodies from falling out when you turn it over. Hard to do as these ribs were all so close to each other. It mostly worked and where we had small failures, we were able to salvage small bits that fell out and return them to the bone before we covered the bottom of each. Tricky.
Had to walk the 75-100 yard trip back to the truck carrying the last of our supplies about 4 times to get everything removed. I carried all 12 ribs that had been jacketed in one trip – almost! Got about 70 yards and wisely stopped to lay them all down and take half in each of two trips up to the truck. I’ve found that every person fully engaged in this crazy fossil passion is a little off – me included!
Here’s a photo showing the two bones left still in the ground. One looks to be the beginning of a rib and the other appears to be a scapula (shoulder blade) that was under the group of ribs. The scapula got damaged a little when removing the ribs but I didn’t know where the scapula stopped and found that three ribs seemed to be laying directly on the shoulder blade, making it really hard to separate them from it.
We finished up and removed everything from the site but the control point metal stake and a few other stakes that mark certain main intersections that we use for mapping the specific location of every bone found at this site. Also put a tarp over the couple of partially exposed bones and covered it with about 12” of loose soil to protect it until I’m able to return.
Hope to find more of this specimen heading back (east) toward the hillside. Maybe more there including a skull!?
One last photo as I was driving back to camp at sunset; the full moon was rising over the badlands so I stopped to take a picture. Right then I heard a cacophony of yips and howls and distant cries from coyotes sounding off. Real fitting end to the trip.
I’ll pack up all the field jackets in the morning and close up camp then head east, home.