Wednesday, July 26

Another warm day, but not as hot as it has been for the last several days. Light breeze helped make it feel better and not so strong as to blow me and the shade canopy of the side of the butte where we’re digging. I went into town for ice and grabbed a chai. I ran into a person in the gas station (where I grab ice) who had a Purdue University ball cap on. Even though it violated every principle of my alma mater (Indiana University – IU) I greeted him with a friendly “Boiler Up!” He didn’t respond right away but then quickly explained his son went to Purdue, not him, and he forgets sometimes that he has the hat on when folks recognize the symbol. I said no problem and that I am an IU man and really shouldn’t have greeted a Purdue person any way. All light hearted. We started a conversation and ended up talking for several minutes and I was introduced to his wife. They were on a great western driving and camping out trip together and are from Cincinnati – not too far from us in south-central Indiana. Eventually I mentioned fossils, because it’s me, and that’s what I do…, and they seemed interested in coming out to a dig site but were headed south today so wouldn’t work out. I invite many people to come out to check out the dig and few take me up on the offer. Possibly they think I’m just being polite or it seems too fantastical? Fun to say hello to someone from near us in a so out of place location. Go all the way to SE Montana to meet someone from Cincy.

I headed back to camp, made up some lunch and stocked the cooler with waters, etc. then stopped by to visit with friends who work on the ranch I’m digging on. Good to see Howard and May-Lynn and check in with them.

Pronghorn Antelope – One fellow with eight does on a recently cut hay field

Got to the dig site after noon & started in on plastering a couple of smaller bones I wrapped in foil & tape yesterday. Wanted to plaster jacket them each for safe travels home. I opened a new bag of plaster, a type I’ve not used before. Had mixed results. It didn’t seem to thicken much and was noticeably sandy. We’ll see how it sets up and dries. That done, I set up the canopy and side tarps in less than strong wind – what a pleasure to not absolutely fight the wind to get some shade.

Worked on more separating bones from each other; trying hard to not harm fossil bone while trying to crack or break solid rock that’s formed around each bone and between them when sitting next to or overlapping each other. must continually remind myself of an old fossil excavation adage – “Don’t prep in the field!” Meaning don’t throughly clean the surface of bones to satisfy my desire to see what we’re uncovering at the potential harm being inflicted by loosing small pieces and go generally breaking things! It’s harder than one may think to hold back, wrap the bones in protective plaster field jackets before picking them up and then celebrating having a “2nd Discovery” back in the lab when we cut open the jackets and sometimes find things we had not seen nor known about when in the field. Much better practice!

Looks like it may be a lower arm bone (radius likely or the ulna) to go with the upper arm (humerus) we jacketed & collected last week.

The bone pictured above really fought back hard today. It has a thick, hard, solid rock coating adhered to the surface of the bone and connected to adjacent bones. We could try to take a “pile of bones” all together in one large field jacket and separate them once back home in the workshop. But …. That would be very, very heavy and in an unwieldy shape with parts & pieces sticking out there and there. Not a good idea unless it’s a potentially very special find. It’s hard to make out what’s what in the photo but the bone is outlined in blue maker on the photo. At both the top and the bottom it still has a solid rock coating and in between it’s been removed down to the bone. I mostly was trying to separate the rock covering from bones to the left and right so each can be isolated for removal. The darker brown is bone surface and lighter colors at the ends are (nasty) rock. We made up some thicker plaster, cut burlap strips to length for this piece and went to work locking it in a field jacket after wrapping it with aluminum foil and some duct tape. Will likely add some wood “splints” to the surface and plaster them to the jacket to add stability since the arm bone is fractured in at least two places and can shift around if not locked down. Was the end of the evening and I didn’t stop to take a photo of the plastered bone, but the thicker goo did better and did seem to lock it all in place as we wrapped in differing directions and through a tunnel dug under the bone near the center.

Main set of bones as of this evening. The arm bone was jacketed that lies between two piles.

Took off about 9pm for camp after getting the dig site fully covered and cleaned up. I’m heading out of town for a few days to visit some other ranch friends in S. Dakota starting tomorrow so needed the dig to be very secure from rain and wind getting in where we wish it would not!

I’ll finish up here with some sunset photos; is this a blog and fossil adventure or nature photography? Who knows? Oh, and the people I met first thing this morning at the gas station sent me an email saying they’d reconsidered and would really like to come see the dig! Wonderful to hear from them and I responded trying to figure a time that may work; I’ll be away fronte dig for a few days and they may be heading farther away from this area by Monday or Tuesday. We’ll see if we can work it out; hope so.

On the trail heading back to camp
Super artsy! Post with Sunset is the title. Use only with permission and with generous financial contribution to the author! (Just kidding)

Here’s a link to a cool short article about a mammal fightin’ and a biten’ an ancient dinosaur in China. Fossil was found in Pompeii-like ash field there. Two animals locked in combat likely “frozen” in tome by ash from a volcano. Very cool! https://phys.org/news/2023-07-mammal-dinosaur-once-in-a-lifetime-fossil.html