Thursday 8/11/22

It’s my last full day on the ranch for this field season. Bummer but had a full time here this year. Had four different people each come out for a week to help dig, traveled through the Big Horn mountains, visited very good ranch friend in S. Dakota, had a family from back home stop by for two days during their western vacation and got to spend some quality time with my ranch hosts here near Baker, Montana. I’ve thought many times during the past 5 weeks that being here on this cattle ranch is like being in a National Park, just with no other visitors, no cars or ambient noise, no tourists, no traffic jams, no fences nor billboards nor light poles; instead we have uninterrupted views as far as you can see with bountiful wildlife, terrific weather swings, wondrous star gazing on moonless, clear nights and howling coyote each evening as they round up and check in with each other. Oh, and did I happen to mention there are dinosaur fossil bones about here and there all over this fantastic ranch property?

Newly named (by me) Olivia’s Butte. Because we have found several parts of a new dinosaur here and because Olivia is my so very sweet and wonderful daughter!
Like a National Park only no noise nor tourists nor parking issues nor traffic.
Some parts of the ranch are heavily covered in cedar trees (usually the north sides of buttes).
Hell Creek Formation Cretaceous badland rock exposures dated to be approximately 66 million years old now exposed at the surface all over this ranch. So many exposures so little time to explore them each…!

We went into town for some ice and other provisions (and “had” to stop and get a nice chai latte) then back to camp and out onto the ranch for our last full day here for this year. Went back to the new “Olivia” dig and am a little more convinced several bones we have begun to excavate are each from a triceratops. We collected a few small bones/bone fragments that we have removed and will transport home to the workshop. Hopefully we will be able to prove to ourselves, with some study and clean up, that the fossils are from a triceratops.

We coated thinly the main bones in the dig area with a “winter cast” of plaster soaked burlap strips. Then once it dried we covered the casting area with a tarp then did the hardest thing one can do in this field – we buried it all with the rock/soil we earlier had dug up. All to protect the fossils from rain and snow and from accidental stomping upon them by a crazed cow or two. We didn’t have enough time left once we found the beginnings of Olivia the triceratops to be able to carefully and correctly map the bones to scale on a paper map, dig each fossil and pedestal it so ready for field jackets to be applied, and return them to Indiana to begin the preparations so we can confirm exactly what we’ve found.

What the winter jacket looked like covering all exposed bone surfaces before the tarp was laid on top and a “sh** ton” of rock and soil were dumped on top of the tarp.
Jason and I at our nearby lunch shady spot where we soaked in the mild temperatures.

We got back to camp with plenty of time to spare so we could clean up and head into town to meet up with the ranch owner, Mrs. B., and part of her family (Nathan, the large animal veterinarian, and his wife and two children). Had a nice meal together while the two children were well behaved in the restaurant. I got to hold young Blakely and Jason played mightily with Beau. We did get to stop in Merri’s store, Russell’s, to look around one final time and find any last moment gifts then stopped by Nathan & Erika’s home to check out their handiwork on o home fix up project room. While hanging out there either Jason convinced young Beau to sit and read a bit or Beau convinced Jason? Here’s a snapshot of the two yahoo’s reading together.

Goodnight Moon; what a familiar book. I recall reading it many times over to our children when they were little kids.
Looks like Beau and Jason are doing fine.