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KimTexan posted a topic in Fossil Hunting TripsThis post isn't so much about the fossils, but about me honoring the memory of Joe Gallo. It was the day I went out to do that in my own way and say goodbye and find closure for myself. So, if you're all about the fossils you may want to move on to another post. Two weeks ago Saturday I was on call. I had planned to go poking around at a Pleistocene area I had seen the day before NE of where I lived, but I got called into work to work on a kidney transplant. I worked from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM. By then it was too late to go to the Pleistocene area since it was over an hour away from where I worked and I’d have little time to hunt before sundown. I opted to go to a place about 20 minutes from my work where Joe Gallo, Fruitbat had taken me in April, this past Spring to fossil hunt. As I drove there I got emotional and tried to stifle my tears. I pulled into the area and parked my car. I sat there a few seconds trying to figure out what to do and how to go about this. I came here to remember Joe and say goodbye. I wasn't really sure how I was supposed to do it. I'd never done a fossil hunting memorial thing before. This was the only thing I could think of to get some closure and honor our friendship. It was going to where he had taken me. All the other places we had hunter were places I took him. I got out of my car and stood there looking at an open field of sorts strewn with a network of eroded washes and rocks. Joe had parked his Jeep Liberty right there. I visualized the position of everything how it was that Spring day when we were there. I remembered our conversation, where we walked as we hunted there and the poor mama killdeer bird Joe harassed. He wanted to see her nest. She was fierce and courageous. I laughed at him for harassing her. He said he didn't want to accidently step on the eggs and destroy them. I stood there and cried remembering. The field was an area of the Eagle Ford group I had not been to before that day in April. It had chunks of Kamp Ranch material all over the place, which consisted of finely crushed shell material imbedded in thin orange plates of something resembling sandstone. There really weren’t any obvious fossils there. That day in April we both looked. Joe mostly harassed the mama bird (I'm joking). This was the mama killdeer standing up to Joe. While I went to investigate some of the network of washes to see if I could find anything in them. I didn’t find anything. After a few minutes I walked back over to Joe. He held out a small piece of the Kamp Ranch to me and said “Here look at this.” He had a smile in his eyes as I took it. He didn’t say what it was. I looked at the plate looking at the tiny pieces of crushed shells. I didn't see anything so I flipped it over. Then on the other side there I saw a small little shark tooth! My face lit up with a smile. I said "That is really cool!” I held it out to give back to him and he said “No, it is for you.” Now he had a big smile on his face. I was touched. I said something to the effect of “Awh, thank you Joe. Are you sure you don’t want it?” He insisted I keep it. He often tried to give fossils to me that he found while we were out hunting. Some I insisted he keep. The shark tooth is my favorite though. It sits in my kitchen window above the sink. I walked off to looked bit longer. I found a pretty cool looking plate of ammonite impressions. It was the only fossil I found there worth keeping and the only thing I saw related to ammonites, but it was pretty cool. This was the shark tooth and my ammonite plate I found We had hunted a few other places that day and at that point it was getting close to sunset. I needed to go home. I stood there talking to Joe. He always seemed like a rather lonely man to me, although he denied that was the case. He was a loner and when I asked about friends he had he said that most had died or moved away and lived elsewhere. He didn't have any in the area. From what I gathered it seemed he didn’t have people he spent time with on a regular basis at all, if ever, besides his daughter who lived a few hours away. He had retired within the last year, so maybe he was still getting adjusted to being retired after teaching for 39 years in the Dallas Independent School district. Over the short time we had known one another we had talked about our childhoods a bit and had things in common. Our childhoods had been painful and difficult. I guess you could say we were both wounded souls. Part of our friendship was based on that connection of understanding what it was like and how it impacted our lives even now. I had found significate healing and come to a beautiful peace about my childhood over the years and was happy to help anyone along on their journey who was interested in finding it too. We had many shared interests. He had a B.S in Chemistry, a B.S. in Biology and a Masters in Molecular biology . I had a B.S. in Biology and Medical Technology with a minor in chemistry and I did a lot of molecular biology in my work. So we had a lot in common in our educational background. We both love of plants. We both had a strong interest in ferns. Joe knew so much more than I about them. He had collected native ferns all over Texas. We both liked gardening, camping, photography and traveling and of course fossils. I have 50/50 custody of my kids. On the weeks I was without them I needed to occupy myself with something, because my house seemed so empty without them. That was when Joe and I would occasionally go out to dinner, go fossil hunting or just talk. He had been married twice and divorced from both. I was still going through divorce and had been for a year at that point. His last spouse and mine would have made a good match. We had enjoyed hunting and talking that day in April. He was a really nice, sweet guy with a quiet disposition. He was quite a bit older than I was. Our interest were simply friendship and someone to hang out with occasionally and go hunting now and then, nothing more. I also was eager to learn anything related to paleontology from him that I could. I hoped that he would be willing to be a mentor of sorts and he seemed delighted to do what he could to teach me what he knew about paleontology. As I stood there talking with him somehow I felt the void of people in his life. I am a very warm and affectionate person to my friends and family. I give hugs when I see them and when we part. Human touch is important to me. Many years ago when I did my clinical year of rotations for my Med tech degree I had lived with my grandmother in Florida. There were numerous times she would want to just hold hands with me. She said it was lonely getting old. She usually lived alone when I was not there. So I would sit and hold hands with her. Human touch meant a lot to her too. She taught me to see the need in others for human touch and have compassion for them in their need. I was of the belief that Joe didn’t get to experience human touch very often, since he lived alone. I thought I could be an agent to impart that to him. I can’t imagine how deprived I would feel if I didn’t get to hug and kiss my kids everyday. I thought about living alone as Joe did and I felt a sadness for him never getting to experience human touch and hugs and such. So before we parted I asked if I could give him a hug. I always feel awkward when I ask a man that so I always feel the need to qualify it. I told him it wasn’t romantic or anything like that, it was just the belief that all humans need to experience human touch and I thought he had a shortage of that in his life. He admitted that he never really got to experience human touch. So he gladly accepted my offer of a hug. I gave him a nice big hug. I think the hug really touched him. The look on his face became very soft, like I had melted his heart. It felt good to communicate care to him. We said goodbye and we got in our cars and parted ways. As I remembered that the tears really started flowing. I felt happy that I had not been too shy to offer the hug and miss the opportunity to communicate care for someone who would be gone too soon, in only a little over 4 months or so. I had come here to remember our friendship and hunting together and to say goodbye to him in my own way since I was not able to attend any service. I gave myself a moment to grieve. I bought tissue with me and had a good cry for the loss of him and the plans we made, but were never able to do. Then I said a little prayer for God to comfort me in my loss to help me find a new hunting buddy and mentor type. I also prayed for help to find something really nice to honor the memory of Joe and our friendship. That done I put the tissue away, pulled myself together and got my pack out of the trunk of my car and began the hunt. There really aren’t many fossils to speak of other than the crushed shells. So I was skeptical that I would find anything at all, but I wanted to believe that I would find something worthy of serving as a token and reminder of friendship. I had no idea my request would be grant, but it was. I walked around for a few minutes looking at the Kamp Ranch material. I wasn’t finding much of anything. I crossed over into a grassy area and walked around for a bit. I found a few cool pieces of septarian nodules with almost all aragonite that still had shell in them. They were cool, but didn’t really measure up to the kind of thing I was looking for to serve as a memorial type specimen for me personally. I walked around a couple more minutes and then from about 30 feet away I saw something! A big smile spread across my face. My heart began to beat a little faster as the rush of excitement at the potential this find may have. I quickly walked over to it to check it out. I knew exactly what it was. These things can be really good or they can be complete duds. I didn’t see anything yet to tell me it was going to be good, but I just knew in my heart it had to be for the sake of my friendship with Joe. It was going to be something to serve as a memorial to him in my house, so it had to be. This is what I found. I took off my pack and pulled out one of my trusty chisels and little sledge hammer. I placed the chisel over a crack running along the top of the rock. I gave it a couple of whacks. The rock looked loose enough to pry out. As I pulled out the 3 inch chunk of rock I saw a large cavity filled with small, fine, yellow calcite dog tooth crystals. Jackpot! This is the rock I pulled out of the cavity. This is what was inside. Sorry, no fossils really, but it did form around mollusks of some kind, maybe ammonite. It was better than I had even hoped for. I had been wanting to collect one of these since I found them for the first time nearly a year before. I didn’t find them here, but at a location not too far away. They were large and intimidating. Some that I saw were about 3 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and maybe 20-24 inches thick. I estimate they would weigh a few hundred pounds. The worked needed to extract them and break them up had always seemed so daunting to me. I had believed they would required more brawn than I thought I had or was willing to exert to be able to bring it home. So I had never attempted to collect one. Today would be the day though. I was determined to extract this large chunk of rock. I didn’t measure it, but my guess it was just over 2 feet long and maybe 18 inches wide and about 14 inches tall. I have no clue on the weight, but maybe 200 pounds or more I’d guess. This is a hint that I saw after I had already taken out the chunk. The little veins of aragonite showing on the outside of the nodule. I put the chunk aside and attempted to pull out a larger segment of the rock. I soon realized that I needed to dig a trench around the rock to get it out. I didn’t have digging tools in my pack. Thankfully my car was only a couple hundred yards (200 meters) away. I had a small shovel and small hoe type thing with three prongs on the other side. This was a thick clay which my little shovel wasn’t a match for, but the hoe tool worked pretty well to hack into the thick clay and pull out large chunks of it. I dug a little trench around one side and the end about 10 inches deep and 6-8 inches wide. With this I was able to pull out a few large chunks of the rock. I removed them and then laid them to the side and worked to remove more. I had to use the chisel a few times to split it up. There was no way I could lift it out or haul it to my car without breaking it up. I have removed a few big chunks and dug part of the trench around it here. The color and lighting are off on this one. The light was getting low so my phone camera was having difficulty with the lighting. This is it from the side after a bit of the outside chunks were removed. By this point the sun had sunk down behind the hill to the west of where I was, but it wasn’t sunset yet. I only had about half of it out. I had been working for about an hour or so already. I began to worry I wouldn’t be able to get it all out before dark. I had to work quickly. I began trying to remove the chunks on the back side of the nodule, but it wasn’t going too well. So I had to dig a bit of a trench on the back side hacking away at the clay again. As I hacked away I kept hitting the rock, but assumed I was just hitting the gray shale coating . I didn’t care much how it looked or if I chipped it so I kept trying to dig out the side. Only later did I realize that the septarian must have fractured and lost a large chunk from the backside of it. Sadly the rock I was hitting was not shale, but the exposed calcite crystal covered in thick clay. The sun had basically set, but there would still be light for a bit longer. The last two pieces I wanted to leave a bit larger. They were essentially loose, but I couldn’t get them to budge. The bases were attached to shale that was still imbedded in the ground. I sat down on the ground a couple feet away and put my feet on one of the pieces and pushed with my legs to dislodge it. It came lose after a couple attempts, but then it was so big and heavy I could barely lift it, but I was determined. The next piece was even more stubborn. I had to dig out from behind it a bit more and then I sat down again to try to dislodge it with my feet and legs. Instead of push it out of place I ended up pushing myself back. I dug deeper into the clay and removed it. I tried again to push it out. Finally it came lose. I began to quickly take the chunks to a little hill with a level embankment near my car and pile them there. After a couple trips I looked down at my muddy hands in the dim light and realized both of my hands were bleeding and covered in blood. The dog tooth calcite felt sharp, but I had not realized that I was being cut by it. It was too late to do anything about it now. The sun had fully set and it was getting dark pretty quickly. I continued carrying the rocks to the hill. Then there were little fragments and small, but good size rocks with crystal on them. I put those in two backpacks I had and carried them to my car with my tools. I left the hoe tool there and then came back to fill the hole back in with the dirt and other rocks lying around and tried to pack it back down so that it didn’t leave a little pit. Then I pulled my car up as close as I could to the pile and loaded it into my trunk. Finally I was done! In all it must have taken me close to 2 hours to dig it out and haul it to my car. It indeed was a lot of work, but I was so thankful it was so close to my car. I had some bottled water I used to pour over my hands to wash off the mud. Then I had wet wipes to clean them a bit more. My hands weren’t bleeding too bad. The cuts were more like bad paper cuts, but my palms and fingers were covered with the little cuts, but in my mind it was so worth it. I got in my car and pulled up to where I had parked before. I took one last look at the field, I was a bit teary eyes, but I felt this had been a good trip. No real fossils to speak of, but I honored the memory of a friend. I think he would think the nodule was cool. He would have liked it. The next day I spent quite a bit of time cleaning up crystal. It was very time consuming. I must have spend over 4 hours cleaning them. Since the septarian had broken open prior to me finding it all the cracks and crevices had filled with mud. Even with all that work I only managed to get maybe half of them cleaned to a reasonable degree. I'll post a few pics of them cleaned up next.