Sept 28, 2023

It’s been a quiet month & a half since I came home from the summer field work in Montana. Mostly been working on home projects and visited Elizabeth’s Uncle T in Canada. Haven’t worked on any fossils since I returned home nor am I teaching at Franklin College this semester. Turns out I did not have any students sign up for the fossil preparation lab class this term. I am disappointed and okay with this at the same time. Disappointed to not have continuing interest at the College but we are doing some traveling this fall that would have crimped my time to teach in the classroom.

I did a school visit last week and talked with 6 science classes at a local middle schools here in Martinsville. It’s my second year sharing with these teachers and their classes. It was a good day and had smart questions and enjoyed the visits. A smaller group from these science classes is coming to visit the fossil workshop tomorrow so a few students will get a closer view of what we do here. I’ll try to grab a photo or two tomorrow and then add it here later…

The big news here is Sparky the Sinclair gas station dinosaur did get placed up on the exterior of the workshop this week. It was quite a process with a few starts and stops but the bottom line is that he is up atop his new perch and seems quite happy about it! Started with my initial idea of placing him on the roof of the building at the very peak. Here’s the stand I designed for him and installed up top –

First effort; not exactly a failure but clearer heads prevailed.

Notice the electric line precariously close to the stand up on the peak? I did too but chose to ignore it knowing I could somehow lift the dino up there and not touch this live electric line! A friend and my dear wife greatly encouraged some “recalibration.”

Plan “B” was hatched. I built a stand that would mount to the front of the shop, up high, bolted it through the brick wall with carriage bolts into wood supports beyond then added angle brackets also bolted in place; looked good and I think it’s high enough to allow truck to pass by underneath (I think?). Here’s the second effort –

New new perch location, lower and not so near the electric service line.

A friend agreed to help lift the dino into place with his tree trimming bucket truck but was leaving on a well-deserved family driving vacation and would be gone for at least 3 weeks. Could Steve wait 3 weeks? sure, but will he?, Nope. So I called a friend in town who originally helped me unload Sparky the day I got home from Montana and Joe mistakenly said sure! Here’s Joe back in August playing instead of helping unload Sparky –

Joe and Sparky

Joe and Shannon came over at dusk and I’m not saying this caper was committed in the dark of night, but it was committed in the dark of night! We talked over different options about how to possibly lift up the dino to the perch that’s 13’-6” above the ground. Joe wisely threw out my first couple of ideas and he came up with the great idea to stack two pieces (bucks) of scaffolding on top of one another then use m y truck as staging area to lift up the dino and place him on the top of the scaffolding then we “just” lift him from there up onto the wall mounted perch. Nothing to it!

Here we are setting up the scaffolding.

Let’s just say it was tremendously harder than we thought to lift him up. We debated at length how much we each thought he weighed; my guesses were around 150-200 lbs, Joe said no way, he’s only as much as a bundle of shingles, 80-90 lbs! He is hollow and made of aluminum but is awkward at 8’ long with a head sticking up about four feet and a long tail going the other way…. Don’t know his official weight but lifting it up over our heads while standing in the back and on the tool box and on the very top of my truck was no easy feat! We three did manage to get him on his side on top of the scaffolding, but the mission was only beginning. We struggled to right him, getting him rolled over onto his feet. I got out an extension ladder and worked from it while also having one foot on the scaffolding to get the best vantage point to pick him up without me going overboard.

We were tired and hot but we got him up on the scaffold!

Now “just” need to lift him straight up about 16” then move toward the garage and the deed will be done. (A side note here; Joe’s wife, Shannon, was present and fully committed to the project, helping whenever and wherever asked to help. Including at one point pushing against the side of the scaffolding while we were above her trying to lift the dino and she was quite concerned if we failed that the the whole deal, dino and all, would come crashing down her direction. – for sure! She was a trooper.) I had an idea to place blocks of wood under Sparks’s feet while rocking him back and forth to artificially raise him up so we’d have less distance to finally pick him up and move him to the wood perch. Joe would lean him toward himself on back to feet while I slid a 6×6 under the front two feet, then I’d do the same, leaning him my way while Joe slid wood under back feet. We alternately did this step about 6 times, each time raising him up another 6”! Worked well until we ran out of 6×6’s. Then we started using 2×6’s and 2×4’s and things got a little less stable. Take a close look at the photos –

Examining the situation to decide what to try next
Sparky up on scaffold, then sitting atop stacks of wood to raise him further up toward the heavens!

Let’s just say the final few inches were the hardest. I had on foot on a ladder and the other on the scaffold top ready to try to lift him up while Joe insisted he could lift the tail end up while straddling the edge of the scaffold from a seated position. I offered a second extension ladder but he didn’t need it, he was sure. There was considerable grunting and groaning going on from both of us while trying to get into positions where we could do the final lift. Joe: “I think I’m cramping up and I can’t do this.,” Shannon: “we need to stop and just call the local fire department ladder truck – they’ll understand that we can’t raise it up and can’t lower it down and they’ll come help!,” Steve: “I don’t know what to do but I’m sure it’ll be okay.” (making no one feel any better!). Finally Joe agreed to accept a ladder assist next to him to partially work off of. Ladder was set up, we each got under our side of the dino and after a partial lift and set back down on the teetering blocks of wood on top of the swaying scaffolding next to two crazy people on ladders we made a final lift and up he went, over he slid and just like that, Sparky was up on his perch. Only two hours after we started!

Note the pile of wood that tumbled over as we lifted Sparky up!
Ta-Da! It is done!

We had accomplished the unthinkable, the undoable, and we did it! in the dark of night, Sparky took his rightful place on the dino workshop.

The next day with his hat and glasses on; looks like he belongs and has always been there!

Here’s a link to a couple of videos from the final push – you can hear the fear in Shannon’s voice and the ill advised faith in mine!

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipORoZrXv5a0ReyVmPGTFSxWG7k9NohqDgk14XdoZ9wQAErX8df8MbI8dgXXegy4sw?key=VFNVOGtQRWxadGMwQk5uM0ZnQVB0bDZmZGpDWnJ3

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipOc2jh140T6U4j58OhLDYXT6k-RDpgy3b5BV34XKGPUSEiRlFnZ6IZnxeXKltYKlA?key=enBzbV84WXRjb3lqOEtaMUhmR0xBM0VvdV9vd2lB

Saturday, August 12

Stayed the night Friday in Mitchell, SD. Famous as the home of the “Corn Palace.” Look it up if you don’t know what this is. Arrived at the hotel about midnight “my” time (mountain time). Up and going this morning pretty early as I want to make it all the way home, 12 more hours of driving, if I can today. Great driving weather yesterday and again today. Had lunch and evening meal stuff with me so I didn’t stop for any meals, just for gas and to check on Sparky, to insure he was staying put up on top of the tool box in the bed of the truck. He rode pretty well and after a few tightenings of the ratchet straps he settled in and I stopped thinking about whether he was going to fly off or not!

Sparky continues to insist we only stop at Sinclair stations; I have no idea why?
A dino is still following me on my way home down the highway.

I did get lots of stares and some thumbs up gestures from passing cars as they noticed this big green dino riding along with the tattered truck and trailer. A sizable amount of duct tape and bungee cords and ratchet straps were holding the whole outfit together for the 1355 mile drive home. I was getting tired driving so long and listening to podcasts but got a second wind when I switched to local radio and found some NPR reporting then some really good music being broadcast for me. Celebrated by trying to hum the tune to “Back Home Again in Indiana” as I crossed the state line with Illinois and made it home by 10pm my time (now on central time), 11pm here. Elizabeth woke up and greeted me; nice to be home!

The next day (Sunday) I worked on emptying the truck of all the triceratops dino bones we collected and all the other gear shoved into every crack and crevice. And first had to start by removing Sparky from up top. Friends came over to help me get the dino off the tool box and couldn’t resist going for a ride on Sparky! Dinosaurs do seem to bring out the inner child of most of us.

Joe going for a ride on Sparky before helping to offload him.

Friday, August 11

Up early and worked for almost 6 hours to break down everything in camp an d load the trailer and truck and clean up. I never think it will take that long but I am undoing my entire home for the past 5 weeks and packing it all up, including a bunch of triceratops bones in field jackets, and the toilet and the clothes line and the shower tent and, and, and…. It was a beautiful morning, low temps and clear skies with a light breeze – good morning for all this necessary but no fun work.

Last photo from the Olivia dig site last night before I left. The ranchers like the open prairie grass lands, I love the exposed rock buttes full of dinosaur fossils in the distance. Something for everyone!
Last evening at the dig site. Appears nothing left there. But, …. I did leave the control point metal stake in place just in case I see something else here when I come back next year. The control stake allows me to re-establish a North-South sting line to re grid the area and add more items to the bone map – maybe!
Opening and closing my last gate for the season as I leave the ranch all loaded and ready to drive the 1350 miles home to Indiana.

Drove south for a different path home than the one I took to come here on July 5. Headed to Deadwood, SD, in the Black Hills, because I saw a certain little dino who whispered he’d like to be my friend and would I please adopt him (you know how persuasive little green dinosaurs can be!). I acquired him at a cool antique emporium and figured out how to strap him down to my metal tool box in the truck bed. Now have triceratops bones and a whole sauropod dino in the truck bed!

Silly thing climbed right up into the truck; what could I do, had to adopt him.
So far so good. He has stayed put so far although I think I need a leash in case he gets frisky?
There’s a dino following me down the interstate!
Of course he only wanted to stop at Sinclair gas stations.

Made it to Mitchell, SD and found a hotel where both “Sparky” and I stayed the night. On to Indiana in the morning.

Thursday, August 10

I invite lots of folks to come out and check out what a dinosaur dig actually looks like and/or just prospect for fossils with me. Glad to do it and always have fun with it. Vaughn and Jessica were just silly enough to agree to come out to the ranch with their adorable twin 3-yr old daughters. I sure had a good time and think the whole crew did as well. The girls started truly identify fossils and differentiate them from rocks. Especially broken shards of fossilized turtle shell. I’d say they were close to expert by the time our day was done.

We started at camp and looked at some bones already in their protective plaster and burlap field jackets.
Just getting started to figure out the difference between fossils and rocks. Notice how far the twins stayed away from me – smart girls!
They each brought me things they were finding and progressively got better and better at identifying fossil bits and pieces.
Now we are finding things!

We had a good time doing some shaky climbing of the gumbo buttes and prospecting and following the cow trails from one fossil spot to another. The girls are adorable and each had their own personality, for sure. How cute. I enjoyed hanging out with them and searching away and showing others how this whole thing works.

Vaughn and the girls (notice how helpful I was to the parents by allowing the girls to each have an ice pick for digging fossils!)
Beautiful day and fun family out on the ranch fossiling it up!

After the group left I drove rest of the way out to the Olivia dig site to wrap it up for the year. Had the large frill piece to finish jacketing and then recover the rib fragments under it and …. See if the head is hiding right there under the pile of bones? Alas, it was not. Nothing else after the rib fragments. I flipped the frill piece over and the protective wood frame I built worked – supported the fragile piece very well and it flipped without dropping any of its chips! Once flipped over I added some more wood to support the whole piece and help it to be stable for the long drive home.

When first arrived today, ready for some more plaster to be added to affix the wood to the piece.
Plastering the wood to the frill jacket.
Flipped over in this image so the “bottom” is now up. Added the two braces on this side and plastered the opening that was the base of the pedestal of rock holding it up.
Sad site, kind of. Canopy, side tarps, all tools and water and plaster and burlap strips and shade umbrella all loaded up. Frill piece all secure and ready to be thrown over my shoulder and carried to the truck – NOT. it’s about 2’ x 3’ with some surrounding rock matrix in the jacket from the bottom side of the frill and added weight of the wood and plaster and burlap. Probably 350 pounds or more.

Unpacked the puzzle of the three or four rib fragment pieces that were poking out from under this big piece of frill. Gathered each up carefully as they were cross crossed over each other making removal just that much trickier.

Three rib fragments in this photo; can you ID the outline of the three ribs?

My friend, Nathan, nicely drove out to the site in a side by side little vehicle and was able to back right up to the frill piece so we could heft it into the lowered tailgate of the bed. Then backed it up to my lowered tailgate and slid it from one to the other. Too, too heavy to just lift (at least for me!). Nathan and I went out for a meal that evening in town instead of me going back to camp to break down stuff there to get ready to leave for home tomorrow. Good idea, go be with friends and have fun on my last day in Montana instead of working all evening in camp!

Wednesday, August 9

Went in town for ice (and one of my chai lattes!) first thing then back to camp, made up a lunch box and filled cooler with drinks then off to the Olivia triceratops dig site. Driving is fine again on this trail, but for a few deep ruts made when first passed through when really wet still. Got to the site and backed up the hill to the dig with no issues (this time). Saw a few antelope on my way back to camp. I’ve never been to Africa but these beautiful animals sure look like my image of an animal that belongs on the African savannah.

Lone male watching over a herd of female and young ones.
The group the male was keeping an eye on.

Worked on pedastaling the large piece of frill bone. It’s very fragile because it’s only about 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick and about 2’ x 3’ around. A big, flat, thin bone. To pedestal a fossil bone is to dig all around it on all sides straight down so the piece looks like it is now up on a pedestal. Then the really tricky part, dig away at the sides of the pedestal so that the you can tuck the burlap plaster soaked strips can go over the edges and “grab hold” of the underside of the piece in as many places as possible. This is so that after this top side is plastered with as many coats of burlap as needed, including draping it over all the edges and getting the burlap to get “purchase” on these edges, the dried, plaster coated piece can be “flipped” over so the bottom can be capped with a coat of plaster. The flipping is particularly anxiety causing. You or a group of yous break the hold of the soil/rock pedestal the piece is sitting on and then in concert, we “flip” the piece over. If it’s a large piece we often build up a pile of softer soils next to it so it can be turned over right on to this soft landing spot. We’ll see!

The frill piece covered with foil (rocks to hold foil down temporarily) to keep wet plaster off the fossil surface.

I plastered the frill piece every which direction and around all edges to make the field jacket as strong as possible. Put about 4 rounds of burlap over every bit of the exposed surfaces. May put more on tomorrow before we try to flip it. Spent the rest of the afternoon building a frame of wood to sit on top of the frill to support it when we flip it and to be a base for it to sit on. Connected the wood on top with two pieces that went under it to tie it all together – like a sandwich with the plastered frill being the baloney and the wood frames being the bread. Umm, I’m hungry! Nathan (one of the ranch owners adult children) came later in the evening to chat and help me carry the heavy, heavy scapula to my truck bed.

The scapula is in its jacket in the foreground. It’s heavy for sure. We used two shovel handles to make an impromptu stretcher to carry it over to my truck.

We wrapped up and headed back to camp about 8:45 for a nice meal together. Good to hang out with Nathan for a bit before I leave for the season.

Tuesday, August 8

Got up and went into Baker to do some chores. Especially stopping by the tire shop to check my right rear tire I keep needing to put air in it. Started there and yes it had a slow leak they patched for me. Found no foreign object but patched a leak. Went into town for a chai at my favorite coffee shop , some groceries, gas and ice, drop off a candy gift for a friend in town, and did my laundry. Spent most of the day in town. Look what I saw at the coffee shop that was new for the month of August –

Just for me?! Nope, apparently it’s Dinosaur month; who knew?

Back to camp and gathered some snacks for late lunch and drove out to the main dig site; didn’t get there until about 4pm. I set up one lean to tarp but didn’t need the top canopy because the sun was low enough already. Removed the cover over the bones and decided to chip away at the solid rock attached to both the long scapula bone and the frill piece. Frill running under the scapula. I piled loose soil up to brace the scapula when we would “flip” it over. Started by chipping away at the hard stone connecting the two pieces. Chipped out some stone then saw the whole scapula piece move; the link between the two bones was broken. Only thing left to see is how clean the separation is. Once I flip the bone over will the stone connection break clean or will some of frill come with the shoulder blade or the other way around – part of shoulder left stuck to stone stuck to the frill piece? Frill came with the shoulder. See the photos below. Could have been much worse. I’ve noted in our field log that some of the frill (030-042019) is now going to be in the plaster field jacket of bone 030-042-01. Once we open the jacket in the lab and clean the scapula bone we’ll try to carefully remove the frill pieces to see if they can be replaced where they belong on the frill section. Easy-Peasy!?

Frill, ID # 030-042-19, now separated from adjacent bones. Is “sitting” on top of several ribs and other smaller bones. We’ll soon see how well the field jacketed frill can be moved away without taking the bones below it.
Frill photo again with excess pieces wrapped in aluminum foil to be left right there inside the field jacket so will be close to where they came from when we work on this piece in the lab.

I also flipped the other long bone (possible other scapula?). Now both are ready for additional wood splits to be added for stability and the bottoms (now rolled over to be facing up) to be capped with plaster and to lock the additional splints into place. Mixed plaster and applied burlap soaked strips to both bones by myself. It’s possible to do the plastering alone but NOT preferred. Either the plaster sets up too fast and gets hard in the bucket or you just struggle to slather plaster on each burlap strip then crouch over the pieces to apply the strips then run back to the bucket of plaster and repeat. Good to have help with this chore and it can be done alone. Finished up late with both bones now totally free and completely plaster on both sides with wood splints added on top and bottom of each. That’s when one stands back, stretches out and admires ones own work. Good thing to remember to do; take a break and admire what you just accomplished. Sat down for a beer and watched the sun set at the dig. Stayed a little too late and drove back to camp in almost full darkness leaving the dig around 9pm. I was fine, but not the smartest idea. It was a good day.

Monday, August 7

Tim and I had a nice time last night talking and playing cards after our late dinner. Ended up talking until 2:15am and needed to be up at 6:30 for Tim to pack and get something to eat and be ready to leave the camp by 8:30 to catch his return flight from Rapid City to Chicago. We made it and had a nice drive south today. Unfortunately it started raining here at camp before we left for the run to Rapid airport. Hope it doesn’t really rain while I’m gone all day.

We made it when he wanted to arrive and Tim boarded just fine even with misc. fossil parts and pieces in his backpack. I headed to a coffee shop I know in downtown Rapid for a chai and to catch up on to some work stuff. By the time I got downtown it was really raining hard there. Left the shop and drove west into the Black Hills on a road I’d never traveled before. Saw some new sites but was pretty limited in views because 1) it was raining, 2) heavy clouds and fog shrouded everything so hard to see very far at all, and 3) I was driving on a very windy road and needed to focus not site see very much! I popped out from this small road onto hwy 385 north near Deadwood and stopped an an antique shop and at Chubby Chipmunk, a local chocolatier whose specialty is fancy and very delicious truffles. I picked up a few truffles for a friend in Baker, Mrs. G., and got one for myself that was out of this world wonderful. Then stopped by the antique shop not for an antique exactly. I saw they had Sinclair Gas Station bike aluminum dinosaurs. This gas company used an image of a long- necked sauropod dino (think Brachiosaurus) on their signs and also had fleshed-out almost cartoon like metal sculptures painted deep green. These were modern, not from an “extinct” Sinclair station. And we’re pretty cool. We’ll see, no idea how I’d fit him or her into my truck or trailer for the long ride home? Here’s a shot of what they had in stock –

Big or small? Painted or I do myself? Fit or not fit in my truck bed with all the other stuff going home with me? Fit in the back seat???

Sunday, August 6

We kind of plodded around this morning, doing things at the pace each thing dictated. In other words, we slow poked around camp, having breakfast and showers, getting lunch ready, etc. The rain has finally stopped after three long days and it’s not a bad thing that we are delaying our departure for the dig site. The more time, wind and sun the better for negotiating the terribly slick, greasy even, trails we drive on out on the ranch. A little bit of moisture and the whole thing can go sideways, literally the truck will just slide right off the trail and not go forward nor backwards.

Breakfast fit for a king in the camp.

We left for the site around 11:30am and took off in 4 wheel drive Low. The lowest, meanest, most aggressive setting my truck for traction and ability to stay upright. At first it was okay, as we swayed outside the exact two tire track trails when they clearly went into deep mud/water. At those junctures we bore down and and repeated the mantra – don’t ever stop, keep moving forward even if sliding around. It worked with some puckering and angst by both of us. I think it’s easier on the driver because of the allusion of some control; the passenger has none and just has to have faith. After 12-15 (?) of those slip-slidy encounters we came to a running creek near the dam. We stopped to examine and plot our course. The normal path seemed right but the swiftly moving water was 12” deep or so. So we turned back. No, silly, we gathered a bunch of loose tree limbs and old cedar tree hunks and fence posts and laid them down in the stream, which was perpendicular to our path. Tim stayed out of the truck to document the dash across the “river” and I backed up, revved the engine and took off in a straight line right at our new wood-pieced bridge. Shot right across it and up on high land; what me worry?!

Pressed on to the dig, with several more close calls on super slippery, slidy mud trails. We made it and elected NOT to try to back the truck up the 20-25 foot climb up to the dig and parked below. Have become spoiled by having the vehicle right on top of our dig. We spent the first hour or so shoveling mud out and away from the fossil bones. Don’t know the exact amount of rain received in the last 3 days but may have been near six inches, which is unheard of and a tremendous amount in such a short time in this area of exposed dirt and soils. Tim admitted once we arrived safely that he was pretty concerned we were not going to make it and in his mind was thinking about the distances back to camp if walking was required!

We removed a bunch of muck to gain access to the fossils. It was time for a lunch break sit down then we were ready to start pedestaling bones and applying field jackets. Tim worked on carefully chipping away at solid rock that was attached to the arm bone (radius) and the unknown bone sitting directly below it. After just a little bit of chipping away rock he broke the two bones free of each other! We flipped the radius over and left a only a small chip imbedded in the bone below it. All good . Did more plastering and carpentry chores to use wood supplies we had on hand to make splints and other bracing that we attached to the bones with the same burlap strips soaked in plaster and wrapped around the fossils.

Scapula, ID #030-040-01; the first bone found last year that made up this dig. Just now getting covered in protective plaster. Pls ignore Tim’s chicken scratching s all over the wood splints. He was trying to explain something to me!?
Bone that just got separated from radius arm bone that was sitting on top of it at the far right in this photo. Getting ready for encasement in a field jacket with wood splints for structural support.

We did a bunch of plastering together and worked very well as a team. Tim slathering the burlap with plaster, striking excess off & back into the plaster bucket then handing to me the soaked strips to apply in criss-crossing patterns on each fossil. It’s much easier with a couple more hands, 1 or two more people but we did fine together. The day was coming to a close and I had the bright idea to back the truck up to the top of our little hill so not have to carry stuff as far to the truck. Tim took off for a short break to walk around and prospect for any new things. The truck was still in 4 wheel drive low, the ground seemed firm enough after several more hours of sun and light breezes so surely it’s cool. Yep. I lined up the truck with the path, put it in reverse like we’ve done many times before and promptly back up the hill; all was going well. Until the driver’s side front tire slipped over the path and headed down the very steeply sloped side of the hill. I was stuck and out all in lock down, in park with parking brake on. The tires were just spinning and I was going nowhere good. With tail between legs (because I should not have tried this maneuver) went back to the dig.

Tim and I finished up, covered everything and got ready to go or to sit down for a drink at the site and admire the scenery and our work. It was then that I shared with Tim what I had done! He took that in stride as a good companion does. Heck, we are only about 5 miles from camp and it’s 8:15pm, we could walk. He was a big help in observing and studying the situation and offering advice on which way I might turn the front wheels to try to get out of this problem as safely as possible. I tried to slightly turn the front wheels to the right and go forward to get back on the path, since the front left tire was up and going over the hill in a bad way. Nope. Just slid a little more to the left making the truck list out farther down the side of this hill – toward the side where we may roll over instead of drive down it?! We agreed to try something else since driving forward was definitely not working. Agreed to straighten the front wheels again and this time try hard to back up further to right the truck and get on top of the hill so we could drive down safely. It was scary, and I drove backward and we did it! Then drove it down in the correct path a bit and was clear we were okay. Put the thing in park and we celebrated with a beer up on top of the butte at the Olivia dig; celebrating all we had accomplished and what we had avoided.

View from on top of Olivia dig looking at the truck now in a safe position; time to celebrate and enjoy the views.
Good friend in beautiful surroundings
My friend, my college roommate, Tim B.

Tim is a special friend and by special, I mean maybe not all there?! You be the judge – here are just a few photos & video showing his exploits just on this one afternoon!

Don’t ask, it can not be explained
See caption above
This is what I have to deal with. Enjoy! Nothing more need be said

Saturday, August 5

Kind of a lazy day today because it’s raining again. I understand that three solid days of rain, in a row, at this time of year, here in Montana, is really rare. Uggh. People often ask me why I come out in the hottest time of the summer to dig fossils and my answer is that when it rains the trails out into the heart of the ranch are absolutely impassable when wet. And here they get rains in May and June and often not a drop after that. I’ve been out west in July-August in the past for 5 full weeks and not seen a single drop of rain. I don’t know how much we got over the last three days but I heard some people mention over 6 inches of rain. That’s a lot out here.

Mud city! After three full days of rain, yuk!
It’s a mess. And no going out into the field in this muck.

We messed around and it rained and rained, then rained some more. I laid down for a nap and Tim took a walk around the camp area in the later afternoon when rain stopped. Then it started again. Big time. Hard, driving rain with strong, strong winds. The concession I made to the storm was to get up and put my clothes back on so I’d be more ready to evacuate just before a big one would hit. Tim hid out in the airplane hanger on site (don’t ask) watching the storm and worrying a bit. It eventually passed. I woke up just in time to yell for Tim, “Let’s go, it’s time for Brew Tunes!” We drove carefully on the small roads out to asphalt and into town to the Old Skool Brewery for music trivia night. It’s a once a month affair I really enjoy. I didn’t think Tim was into it but turned out great and we joined up with a team of folks I’ve played with in the past. Good time. We did not win but were in 2nd place before the final “playoffs” where we were not victorious. Good evening and we had a good time.

Friday, Aug 4

It’s raining again today. After rain started around 2pm yesterday, it has not rally abated yet all day today. So no digging for fossils. It’s not that a little light rain would stop us but it’s driving to to the dig site that’s the real problem. The exposed bentonite (mostly referred to as “gumbo” around here) clay soils are unbelievably slick when just the slightest bit wet. When soaked with two full days of rain the trails I use to drive out to the site are absolutely unpassable in my truck even in 4 wheel drive low setting. And the Olivia triceratops site is basically in the middle of the ranch and takes 20 minutes to drive to the site on normal dry days. So no go.

We went into town after lounging around the camper all morning. Had lunch at a restaurant and visited the ranch owner, Merri, at her beautiful store in town called Russell’s. We’d may have a chance to get together, she and husband Don, with us for a meal tomorrow, we’ll see. And if I can convince Tim of the righteousness of the plan, we may go to “BrewTunes” at the Old Skool Brew Pub in Baker on Saturday evening where I have enjoyed the music trivia game they have about once a month.

We got some grocery items and ice for coolers then headed back to camp. Stopped by a friend’s ranch and checked out his fossil collection and other neat stuff. Tim got to use an air scribe tool (like a mini jack hammer) to work on a ball of rock holding onto tons of small fossil shelled critters. There’s a site near here where these marine fossils can be found. It’s in the Fox Hills Geologic Formation dating to about 67 million years old. (I’ll post a photo or two in a bit)

Tim working with a mini jack hammer on some marine fossils locked in hard rock matrix.
Tim and Don using air scribes to release fossils from surrounding rock matrix