Monday, July 31

Up this morning at my friend’s ranch on south side of the Black Hills and out the door early to go pick up my college roommate (from quite a few days ago) at the Rapid City airport. Gathered up Tim and we enjoyed the drive back to the ranch on Hwy 79 that runs also go the east side of the Black Hills. Rolling, undulating land that looks so green still for this time of year. Very nice of Bruce to allow me to bring my friend Tim along to enjoy the ranch for a day.

We got the introductions to Bruce and Jennifer taken care of and helped with a chore of getting tarps secured over a small row of recently baled round bales of hay. More important for the horses than the cattle that their hay not get much moisture from rain or snow on it. Cows have multiple stomachs to process their feed (they chew their cud) but horses do not and therefore don’t do so well eating hay that’s gotten wet and moldy. So, we we’re lifted up high on the end of a large fork lift to help spread tarps over the top of a stack of bales while Bruce and Jen strapped the ends down to the bales. Then off we went on partial tour of the ranch for Tim.

Decided to head up high to Flint Hill, where a large natural outcropping of flint stone exists at a significantly high point on the ranch. Early people gathered there in years past to extract the hard flint and craft it into tools. Very cool spot on the ranch. On the way we stopped at a wonderful overlook of Hell Canyon. Breathtaking views down this long stretch of valley below.

Bruce sharing a story about Hell Canyon

We also stopped by Jennifer’s Fell Ponies in the corral. they are an individual breed that’s native to the UK. In fact, there has been a resurgence in interest in them since Queen Elizabeth died and a Fell Pony was featured at her funeral. They were here horse of choice and she raised and loved them. Unique breed to the Highlands who specialize in climbing the rocky fells (hills) of northern England and being work horses, pulling wagons, moving heavy objects and carrying heavy loads. They are full grown and I don’t know how many hands high they are but not that tall.

Tim getting acquainted with one of Jennifer’s Fell Ponies.

As we got toward the top near Flint Hill we ran into a herd of horses from the neighboring property which is a Wild Horse Sanctuary. Bruce isn’t sure how they get labeled “wild” as they seem very interested in us and sure looked to be wanting a treat. Still very cool to see a herd of horses running on their own out in this country. Here’s a couple of photos and a video of our encounter with them.

Second herd we met, almost all of them seemed the same color
As we encountered the first of two herds.

Checked out flint hill and found many pieces of worked stone that may have been flakes or pieces of flint being tested to see if it would fracture in the way the finder wanted it to for good making of tools. We then headed back to the house for a break. And met up again a little later to go check out a very special spot on the ranch that has pictographs made by paleo peoples; etched away and pock marked rock surfaces into animal and other images. Such a pleasure to be able to share some of these amazing sites with others and I was glad Tim got to see these things.

Tim & Jennifer at the pictograph site
Examining them up close
An elk? Or some other large antlered animal?
To the right, is that a baby or a predator being pictured chasing a line of larger animals?

We shared a great evening meal that all helped to prepare and enjoyed more conversation. Turned in for the night to a fantastic light show again tonight. Tons of what we call at home “heat lightning” that just flashed over and over again lighting up the sky. And occasional true bolts of lightning illuminating the horizon. And some thunder boomers and some rain and some fairly strong winds. Wonderful to be sitting on the 2nd story covered outside porch of the guest house taking this all in and not in a tent or the small camper back where we dig wondering if this will be the one that does us in!

Sunday, July 30

Got up this morning in Rapid City and checked out of the Alex Johnson Hotel in downtown and drove to very nice local coffee shop called the Pure Bean. Nice space with just a good vibe a good feeling about it. I did my daily Wordle game, journaled and updated this blog while relaxing there. I checked in with Bruce to see if they needed anything from Rapid before I drove south to his ranch on the south side of the Black Hills. As usual he needs nothing from me! So I pressed on toward their home. I stopped in for a pie so I wouldn’t go empty handed.

View from the guest house on the ranch property.

Got there and had a good visit with Bruce and Jen for a bit and we planned to have a cookout at the house that evening. I bothered Bruce enough that he relented and agree to let me help with some chore. He usually, wisely, does not, assuming I could be of very marginal help! Bruce asked if I have ever operated a zero turn machine? Uh, no, but that won’t stop me from trying to learn. The grass around the guest house needed cut but Bruce was pretty reluctant to let me try, thinking the teaching would be more trouble than it would be worth. Understandable.

He drove the John Deere zero turn mower over and showed me two or three important things and said don’t mess it up. Luckily he did not stick around long to watch. It was some slow going at first and I’m not going to say I didn’t hit anything, because maybe I did, but relatively very little (noticeable) damage was done to the fence and the children’s play set. Very little! I got better as I went along and kind of got the hang of it. Mind you, I am far, far from ready to cut the Queen’s lawn but I succeeded. I drove the mower over to neighboring house to cut some of the grass there and was moving right along until I stopped to move some water hoses out of the way. (No, I did not run over them!) Went back to the mower and for the life of m e could absolutely not get it to start again. Tried everything I could remember from my lesson from an hour ago, to no avail. Nothing. Only good thing is, later Bruce came over and he also could not get the darn thing started. So it was not just me!

We decided to go out for supper instead of cooking on the grill at the ranch and drove north into the Hills to a not that fancy place that might just be open on a Sunday evening – the Hitching Rail in Pringle, SD. Bruce warned me to be prepared for a bar fight (or two) and offered to simply yell out once we walked in that “Steve, here, is ready to fight any two or three of you nasty dudes on motorcycles!” I respectfully suggested he not. Maybe lucky for me it was not open after all. We were ready to turn around and head back to the ranch for our cookout after all when I said let me see if restaurant they like in next town north, Custer, was open. They said there’s no cell signal here, but I shocked all by getting a signal and calling the place – they’re open until 9pm so off we went. I guess my having AT&T has finally become helpful.

Had a good meal together and good talking and catching up. The weather started to turn a bit and there was a very light rain while we were in Custer. and it sprinkled a some as well on our 20 minute drive back to the ranch. It then started to get more and more windy. Saw a thunderstorm warning come over my phone as the winds were noticeably picking up.

The winds are picking up
Weather in the midst of changing at the ranch.

Then I started watching quite a light show as the lightning just lit up the night skies. Took a video from the porch of the guest house in pitch black night sky that does show some significant flashes of lighting. Then the rain and really high winds started in. Glad I was not having this weather back in our pop-up camper where we are digging. And I hope the Baker, Montana area is not getting this storm wether I’m thee or not; the sweet, durable and loyal camper is there all alone!

Nighttime light show from all the lightning.

The storm is starting to subside a little and all is in tact still here. The lightning does make every rancher I’ve ever met very nervous; lightning strikes often start grass fires, which can grow and become a significant problem to animals people, houses and the grass, which is the lifeblood of the cattle ranch. I hope no fires start tonight.

Saturday, July 29

Got up in Faith, SD and met my friend, Wade, for a coffee at the local shop in town. Had a good visit then I took off for Rapid City to hang out for the day. The drive south through central South Dakota was beautiful today. Sun shining, some puffy white clouds, clear and warm and the vistas were fantastic. Rolling green hills in every direction. Open and not many structures or trees and that’s in big part why it’s so beautiful.

Wide open spaces in S Dakota
Looks lush and healthy; can change quickly in sustained high heat with no rain.
The open road

Got down to Rapid City, SD and stopped in for lunch at a favorite of mine, the Firehouse Brewing Company. They are housed in a downtown old brick firehouse building. Good food and good beer. I sat at the bar since I was by myself and enjoyed a nice lunch break.

The Firehouse was hopping on a pretty Saturday afternoon.

I toured a favorite gift shop that’s too difficult to describe. Wonderful Native American art and gifts, clothing, jewelry and an art gallery. Prairie Edge Trading Co. is a must visit if you’re passing through Rapid. I relaxed outside for a bit reading my book and watching kids play in the downtown splash pad park. Felt good in the shade and plenty hot in the sun. They kids were sure having fun as it was a little hard to concentrate over the squeals of joy each time the jets of water exploded from the ground.

Main Street Square right downtown; what fun for kids and families.

I checked prices on hotels and although it was more expensive I chose to stay downtown at the historic Alex Johnson hotel. It’s a very cool old hotel with polish and charm. I’ve stayed there before and wanted to again. I inquired and asked for best price and bit the bullet and stayed there. Here are a few photos of the place.

On the ceiling of the 2-story lobby area
Apparently we rub his nose for luck?
What a majestic fireplace
Floor tiles in the lobby area – they look quite old and we’ll worn in place. I know this symbol predates the Nazi party’s appropriation of it, but don’t recall its meaning before then?

I checked in to my room, took a break, then headed by vehicle about 2 miles away to check out the kitschy “Dinosaur Park” that’s been up the winding hill from downtown since the Depression – it’s a WPA built project. I was given a neat, old postcard, by my sister, from this spot that was sent to someone in 1952. It’s on the wall of my workshop at home. I asked Elizabeth and she nicely went over to the shop and took a photo of the postcard for me so I could see if I could replicate the image. The park is on top of a significant hill with overlooks on two sides down into Rapid. It consists of a half dozen or so concrete dinosaurs styled in positions as they thought best in the 1930’s. Pretty neat. Take a look at my effort to capture the old postcard in todays light.

The postcard addressed to someone and mailed in 1952.
My recreation of the view. The T-rex in the foreground is shown with tail dragging as was the custom in 1930’s. He’s suffered some wear and tear on his head and little arms. Missing his hand claws and sharp teeth that can be seen in the old postcard.
Big ‘ol concrete dinosaur on top of the hill
Classic fight as T-rex and triceratops square off in the sunset
Hungry long neck getting a leafy snack
View back down into the city from the park

Went out for a meal then walked to my favorite ice cream shop in town; Armadillos Ice Cream. I was almost too late as I showed up at 9:51pm and they were preparing to close at 10! Thank goodness I made it.

Friday, 7/28

Had a good day messing around and catching up with some chores I needed to take care of. Found a lovely little combination clothing store, coffee shop, small restaurant, hair salon, shoe store, flower shop, kind of place in Faith, S. Dakota. Very small towns sometimes seem to do these combination stores versus one specialty per shop. This one is beautiful and inviting and very comfortable. I went in for a hot chai latte (which they had!) and left with a new acquaintance who happens to own a hotel in Buffalo , WY that I am now invited to stay in and left with a new shirt. I have a problem. I actually have many problems; but high on the list are a Jones for Chai lattes and for Western shirts with snaps, not buttons! I bought my first western shirt on my first trip west fossil hunting with my brother-in-law. I did it, I didn’t feel comfortable in that shirt, didn’t think I’d ever wear it, felt a little like I was faking a western look and clearly I wasn’t western. But …….. all these years later, as my dear wife can attest, those types of shirts, both long & short sleeve,are almost the only shirts I now wear! I love them, I buy them every trip west, and can’t seem to have enough of them. As I said, I have a problem! (I plan to thin out my closet when I get home, recycling one shirt for every new one I’ve purchased)

I visited with good friends from near Faith, SD today. So nice to catch up with them and share stories about our families with each other. They are cattle ranchers and own ranch property that has dinosaurs! In fact, their son found a T-rex on the ranch many years ago that started a relationship with our local museum, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. The star of their “Dinoshpere” exhibit has been Bucky the T-rex for many years now. We had a nice evening meal together at a local restaurant I’ve been to every time I visit the area and took a drive around together after supper to check out favorite spots nearby. So very good to check in with them, it had been too long since I last stopped by.

I crashed at the same hotel I was at last night in Faith and plan to visit with One of my friend in the morning a the coffee shop before I head south to Rapid City tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27

Cleaned up in camp and secured everything as best I can there for several days away. Wind, May you be gentle and ever blowing in the nicest way possible! All will be fine I’m sure as I travel into South Dakota for a few days. Going to visit a few different friends whom I haven’t seen in a while. Two have fossils around, and that’s not the only reason I like them each!, and the third is just Bruce! All are ranch families that I’ve met through various shenanigans and I appreciate knowing each of them.

Left Baker area after gassing up and getting some ice. Drove southwest heading for Reva, SD where Tom & Breanna ranch and are growing a wonderful young family. I stopped off at Slim Buttes campground for a lunch break and to check it out for a possible camp site for the night later. I forgot to take any pictures but imagine stark white chalky like rock erupting straight in in huge columns and chunks with cedar trees climbing all over it. It’s a cool place off SD state Hwy 20 and is visible from a good long distance. I may snatch a photo from the internet to paste in here.

Met with the family at their home and we hung out for a while and caught up with each other. Their young children are all mature and very well-behaved (even if their parents find that hard to see sometimes?). We shared and visited and they graciously asked all about our current dig going on in Montana and looked at my photos from the dig. I saw that the general store in Reva had ice cream and whispered this to the parents (but not quiet enough because little ears heard as well!). We all piled into one car and went to the store for an errand they needed and most importantly, for wonderful ice cream served up y the proprietor, Vincent. He knew the kids and knew what they each “needed!” We adults all joined in as well. Great visit and welcome from my friends.

Let’s say I have a new good friend. Not sure who enjoyed it more me or him? Note his cool dino shirt he had on!

I pressed on to Faith, SD after my visit. thought about staying overnight at Slim Buttes in a tent I have but it had been raining and skies looked threatening AND I’m a little soft, so I booked a hotel room instead! Had a good cheeseburger at King Drive-In in Faith and promptly feel asleep on the first bed I’ve laid down on in 3 weeks (at least first bed not shaking in the wind).

Funky skies while driving in central SDakota; mixing of serious storm clouds under with white puffies on top.
From inside the truck, same cloud cover as above. Looking in the rear view mirror you can see how much clearer it was behind, north, of me.

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

Tuesday, July 25

Up early after a hot day yesterday and quite warm at night as well. Turned the camper A/C on last night and not sure what I’d get after the hail damage it took two weeks ago. It worked! Comfortable dinner meal and relaxing and good for sleeping as well.

Got going to the triceratops dig site and started off by updating our scale map where all bones found on the site are drawn in place as they are found. We’ve come up with a few small pieces in the last week that hadn’t been added to the map yet. They are still in place until they get mapped. Takes me a while to do the drawing and mapping; but needed information gained by having a clear map showing location of every bone and their relationship to each other in situ (in place before they are moved). It was getting hot so mapping wrapped up and got the shade canopy up as well as the two side panels we created to give more shade from the direct sun. It was windy today, really windy at this exposed site and had difficulty getting the canopies up and to stay in place. Seemed several times that the whole thing was going to be uprooted and take flight. And it actually did while I was on the phone with someone! One of the side tarps flew up and ripped the metal rebar stake right out of the ground. A lot of noise and quick action stopped it from taking off and taking the whole deal with it. I ended up standing there holding the tarp in my arms while on the phone call and while part of it was still attached to the frame and trying to set sail.

It was windy most of the day but eventually it either slowed down a little or I just got more used to the howling of wind as it rushed through the openings we cut in each tarp to let some air through to keep it from flying away. It did quiet down eventually. I am working again on removing the stubborn solid rock coating that is locking the individual bones to each other (making it very difficult to separate them so they can be field jacketed for removal). had some successes where a rib piece was touching the scapula and where the scapula touches the frill. Also removed a rib that was nestled up against the huge scapula by wrapping it in foil then covering it with duct tape. Also taped a couple of wood splints to it where it was very fragile. Will field jacket it tomorrow. It’s looking more clear to me each day we clear away the rock coating holding each piece to its neighbor.

Good look at the frill so far exposed. Doing too much “preparation in the field,” which I know better than to do, but need to find where the separation is between different bones so we can take each out.
Piece that was touching the large scapula bone next to it. Ready for plaster and burlap jacket.

The time seemed to get away from me and the sun wanted to set so I cleaned up the site, covered tools and the fossilized bones with a tarp, put the shade canopy away and went up to the top of the little butte I’m on for the sunset and a photo or two.

From up top above the dig looking East
Pano shot from on top of the butte we are digging on.
Sunset over the truck again tonight
Sun setting beyond “Big Butte” and the cow pond on my path back to camp.

Monday, 7/24

Had some business to take care of first thing in town this morning. Got windshield replaced that was damaged in the terrible hail storm we had a couple of weeks ago. Got my chai latte at Compass Coffee while I waited and did some shopping at Merri’s wonderful store, Russell’s, in Baker. Went in for one shirt and came out with three; typical me. I don’t shop much nor buy myself many clothing items but always shop for a shirt or two at Russell’s when I’m here digging. Merri’s husband Don stopped in to take his bride out for lunch and they asked me to tag along if I’d like. So went out for a sandwich with the ranch owners, then got my truck with the new windshield, grabbed a few groceries and ice and gas and did some laundry then headed back to camp. It was already very hot, showing 100 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Which is the temperature and which is the local radio station call number?!
New windshield but old hail damage all over

Got out to the Olivia triceratops dig late afternoon and with time to see what I could get done. Just setting up the shade canopy with side tarps was quite an ordeal with the strong (sustained 20mph?) winds. Each time I’d get a corner set another would blow off the canopy frame! Got it secured and tied down and bungee corded down and rocks sitting on guide strings and felt like had three sails out and ready to really race away. Eventually I forgot about the threat of the the whole thing blowing away and got to work on rock removal from on top of the frill and uncovering of a couple of rib looking bones that were penetrating out from under the frill piece. Also found another bone that was new to me, looks quite small, maybe it’s a process from a vertebra, not sure yet?

Also found an ossified tendon (fossilized tendon) when I grabbed a rock to hold something down. There it was sticking out of, but still locked in place, in a hunk of hard stone-like clay. I think this is the first tendon piece I’ve seen at this dig. Are not uncommon running along the bone processes that stick up and out from each back (dorsal) and tail (caudal) vertebrae. I think I may leave this little piece of rod-like fossilized tendon in the rock matrix for display. Haven’t seen any sign of vertebrae yet so also no tendon until today.

Tendon is the brown pencil-shaped piece at the bottom left in the piece of matrix that came from some unknown place at the dig site.

Sunday, July 23

My friend Jeff has been with me for a week of fossil fun and got up early to head home to Indiana about 5:15am. Texted back and forth later today and heard he was stopping for the night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. That’s a good long haul for one day; I’m sure he’ll be home by tomorrow afternoon. I went back to sleep then up and got some breakfast and a lunch together (leftover pizza from last night) for later.

I got out to the main dig site at about 11:30 and set up the shade canopy complete with two side tarps to help provide shade all around. Was hot and clear again today. It read 102 degrees in my truck yesterday afternoon and looks like the high was 98 today. And we had a very nice breeze almost all day which really helps to make it feel better. I don’t recall how long this really hot spell is forecasted to last, but at least a week or so I think.

The improved hobo encampment over the triceratops dig. Looks like a mess but many alterations have been made through trial and error on past digs!

I worked on removing a hard rock cap that’s between the frill bone and the scapula. Don’t want to have to take out these bones all in one field jacket; would be really heavy and unwieldy. So I’m trying to find the separation between the bones but unfortunately that is solid rock that’s adhered to both bones. So there’s that! I also removed a lot of excess rock/soils from the end of the frill area where a few ribs are poking out. Clearing around and beside them to remove as much of the excess soils as I can. The large area of frill is really taking shape as it gets more exposed. It certainly not a complete frill the but the outside edge is clearly coming into shape and it’s a significantly large piece. Hopefully we’ll have enough of the right bones to be able to identify this partial specimen. Thee are many, many varieties of ceratopsians and it will be a challenge to specifically ID this one.

The “gumbo” (bentonite) butte directly north of the dig site showing the contrast with the perfectly blue, cloudless sky today.
More is being exposed; hard to see it but the frill area is taking shape and the scapula is starting to really show.
The orange outline is around the frill and green is showing part of the scapula with is testing immediately on top of part of the frill.

I took plenty of water and drink breaks and ate some lunch in fits and starts; when it’s so hot out I often don’t feel like eating. But I do eat, it’s important to have some nourishment to keep going. I also took the alone time at the dig to just sit and read a little and to call my kids to check in. I miss each of them and was good to just chat for a bit.

Evening view looking East from the dig site

The specimen is looking better after each session of working on it. Really taking some identifiable shape now. I ended up staying on the dig site until just before sunset. Not the smartest thing to do the heat breaks and the views are great at that time of evening. Got back to camp to clean up and made a simple dinner for one this evening. A new windshield is on schedule for the morning in town so I’ll get a chance for a visit to my favorite shop for a chai latte and maybe some reading while I wait for the new glass to be installed from the hail damage two weeks ago. The windshield has stayed in place but I think some of the cracks are growing; decided to replace now to avoid possibility of the thing totally breaking apart as I drive on the rough trails on the ranch.

“Like a Rock, Chevy Tough!” Maybe some swag from Chevy may come my way if they see this?
Sunset over the ranch on my way back to camp
My attempt at artsy photography on the way back to camp; a couple of fence posts bordering the spectacular sunset.

Saturday, July 22

We had a great day today. Jeff & I were up early(ish) had a light breakfast and left camp to drive to Glendive, MT to visit a friend of mine. I didn’t really say much about Bob to Jeff letting what he saw and learned just unfold. Bob is many things, not unlike most people I meet out west, he has done many things and seems like has always had more than (a lot more than) one job or occupation at a time. Not everything I repeat may be true, but most of it is!

Bob was a boxer, think Golden Gloves boxing, when he was a young man, he rode the rodeo circuit busting broncos, he turned his love of hunting into a guide service where he’d take people out to assist (gets them on an animal) including not just Montana and Wyoming but also guided fly in trips to Alaska to hunt bear, he is an expert trapper of wild game and nuisance animals (nuisance to the cattle ranchers), think coyote and bobcat and mountain lions who are attacking the cattle, he’s an expert taxidermist, making unbelievably artistic representations of the whole animals in action positions, he’s recently retired from a career as a manager in the oil fields, and, oh yeah, most importantly, he’s an avid fossil hunter who lives on the edge of wildly remote and rugged Hell Creek Formation badlands chock full of dinosaur bones!

Anyway, that’s Bob! He has an unbelievable “man cave” where he has fun and lots on display and his workshops for various activities. Jeff was in awe of all that was going on there. After a tour of what Bob has affectionately named “The Pit” we toured some nearby badlands exposures that he knows as typically showing micro fossils (small pieces of a variety of things and occasionally a meat eating dinosaur tooth or two). We each found some things and had a good time just out hunting and talking. I found a couple of teeny, tiny pieces, a raptor tooth and a raptor hand claw that were each barely 1 centimeter long. I also picked up a slightly larger, but not much larger, theropod tooth that looked a little more robust. Of course, Bob found the largest tooth of the day, a nice theropod tooth about 1-1/2” long and showing the characteristic gleam of dark brown-blackish enamel.

They are small and hard to see but zoom in on the lid of the can to see two small serrated meat eating dino teeth & one claw; along with the other small micro fossils I picked up today.

It was a new weather experience today out in the badlands. More classic Montana mid-summer than I’ve had yet in the past 3 weeks. Hot, clear skies and unusually, we had virtually no breezes. It was really hot – the truck read 102 degrees when we came back to his home. It felt plenty hot. And as usual when in the shade it’s okay. We relaxed in the shade of the awning of The Pit and had a cold drink and swapped some more stories until we’d taken too much of Bob’s time and we left for camp.

We wisely elected to stop in town, in Glendive, for an ice cream treat and some of the dairy shop’s A/C. Saw a family with two young boys in line waiting for their order and said hello then one of their boys noticed the foolish bling stuck on my croc shoes I had on (in public!). There were Pokémon and dino characters on my shoes. So I offered him a piece of dino bone I had picked up that afternoon and still had in my pocket for some reason. He seemed to really like it and Jeff had a small piece he nicely gave to the other little boy. We all talked dinosaurs for a moment or two and off they went with their ice cream.

We drove on toward camp and stopped in at the Beaver Creek Brewery in Wibaux, MT for a local beer and some pizza. Another nice break in the A/C. It’s Jeff’s last night here before he heads home to Indiana tomorrow morning. We got back to camp after supper and each enjoyed a nice shower then sleep. Great day today.