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Found 5 results

  1. Persistence In The Field

    March 6, 2010 It was time to paddle one of my favorite places. The water had finally receded from recent rains to make the trip manageable. It was also a test for a shoulder injury that I had been working back into shape. So I waved to my wife and slipped the boat into the cold water. As I negotiated the twisted channel, I noted many changes to familiar stretches of water. A new tree down here, a missing log jam there and fresh, untracked gravel soon became part of things behind me. Yet the water still had its surprises as I dealt with the first of four major, new logjams. Slippery mud banks, ripping briars and budding poison ivy greeted me on every portage around the chaos of flood debris. But at the same time, I started to make a few finds and a jaw fragment with a tooth root made the morning a little easier to bear. Late Cretaceous fish jaw/tooth fragment - cf. Pachyrhizodus sp. In familiar territory, the memories of past finds kept me optimistic. Anticipation generated the excitement I felt when I reached under the water to lift out a dark object. Most of the time it was nothing; this time it was part of a fish. The unidentified bone fragment was soon followed by a vertebra from another Upper Cretaceous fish (possibly Xiphactinus). Fish bone fragment Xiphactinus (?) vertebra After going around another 20 yard logjam, I found my first mosasaur vertebra of the day. Although it was slightly eroded, I could still make out the eye-like scars where the caudal chevrons of the tail attached. It was still a nice find; I’ve learned to appreciate that what may be a common find in one geographic area can be rare to unknown in others. So any time I have the chance to pick up a 70 million year old reptile bone, I generally do. Within the next two hundred yards, another mosasaur caudal vertebra, this one in a little better shape, laid just under the water. It was already a good day. The solitude of my solo run allowed me a state of mind which made it easy to imagine walking on the bottom of the late Cretaceous sea or hiking through somewhat familiar Pleistocene terrain. I pictured complete fossil skeletons just a few feet inside the Taylor Group clays and mammoth herds lingering on the banks above me. However, on a steep descent back into the water, a slight slip on the muddy bank focused my attention to the reality of the risks involved while alone. I moved on with heightened senses. I am often amazed at how some finds are made. When I turned around to lift the boat off a sandbar, something caught my eye. Straight lines contrasted with the rounded gravel and this time it was a fractured horse tooth. Yet a few minutes later, that “contrast” was a nice, resharpened Pedernales dart point. My fossil hunting mojo continued over the next hour or so and I added two more mosasaur vertebrae to my cargo. Mosasaur vertebrae, horse molar and previous finds Chevron attachment scars on mosasaur caudal vertebrae Then, it happened; I saw tracks…aarrghh! I switched hunting modes as I looked at the size 10 footprints. They were fresh enough to be from the morning or the previous day. I studied the directional patterns to see if I was following a fisherman or fossil/artifact hunter. After a few hundred yards, I concluded it was a hunter; the weaving imprints left me with little doubt. When it happens, I try to look where they haven’t or look even closer where they have. It was time to be both tracker and hunter. With my adjusted viewpoint, I kept moving on. Scanning and tracking, in and out of the boat, I found a few tidbits missed by the other hunter. Smudges on the algae coating the underwater gravel indicated I was still “following”. Yet after about a mile, the pattern of the tracks started to change from a wandering to a more linear path. Ahhh…they might have been tired or running out of time. Either way, it allowed me more unexamined gravel to search. The reward for persistence came only 4 feet away from the tracks and… One of the largest flint knives I’ve found With overcast skies and late afternoon approaching, I became more selective in the areas I comprehensively searched. On one of the last large gravel bars of the trip, I stepped out of the boat to pull it from the current and, several feet off to the side, I caught sight of another dart point. (The adrenaline was still in my system from the previous find!) I felt a big smile as I reached for the camera. My wife and friends would be surprised by all the finds when I got home; but, I would enjoy telling the story of each one. Who was the last person to touch this before I did? What happened that day? I finished photographing the Hoxie point and started to scan the bar. About 15 feet away, I reached for what I thought was just a chert flake and I pulled another artifact from the sand. This one appeared to be older than the others. It may be a variant of a late Paleo San Patrice point. Impact damage was the likely cause of the flake scar on the tip. I chuckled on the way back to the canoe. At the water’s edge, I looked down and spotted a broken, crudely flaked point. The chuckle turned into a laugh. Broken point/scraper What a day! I lifted my paddle and gear in one hand and hefted the 16 foot boat on the other shoulder then purposely made my ascent up the bank at the take-out. My heart pounded by the time I reached a spot to drop everything. However, with the exertion came the satisfaction and reward of persistence in the field.
  2. October 3, 2009 We have all had those mornings when it seems that our timing is off just a little. This day started that way. Usually, I adjust by trying to focus more on what I'm doing than other things. Dan and I were teamed up for a return to one of our most productive jungle areas. The possibilities of what we might find crowded my thoughts. However, I think it was the forecast for storms that had me a little preoccupied. There were times along the twisted road that I could see Dan's headlights disappear in my rear view mirror. Fortunately, he was in sight when I discerned a vehicle pulled off the road in the opposite lane. I slowed down to see what was out of the ordinary when I noticed a large tanker truck stopped about a quarter mile further down the road. That wasn't normal. I still felt like I was a cup of coffee behind...but that soon changed. Shortly after passing the tanker, I noted a trail of liquid in his lane of the road. Aha, now things started to make sense. It was tracking the liquid on the dark road that allowed me the seconds needed to avoid a large dead black cow in my lane! I tapped my brakes several times to signal Dan, and he made it safely around the heifer. Crisis avoided, and we were back on our way. Totally focused in the present, I mentally reviewed the logistics ahead. Dawn was late in the overcast skies, but a large column of smoke was clearly visible several miles away. My thoughts were soon interrupted by distant flashing lights and more smoke. All kinds of scenarios played in my mind: someone's house on fire; burning trash; or a car crash.... When we pulled to a stop behind the fire trucks, the roadside brush fire was intense. They closed the road...add 10 miles to the morning. That's how the day started. It was good to finally get in the water. We figured our weather window was short, so we rapidly assessed each site we encountered. Small fragments of bone and the occasional flint spall teased us in our journey. Finally, a high terrace bank revealed more flint debitage to Dan. It was misting when he called out, "hey, I think I found a Clear Fork tool!" Indeed, it was. Further on, a small movement caught my attention. "Cottonmouth!" Close to three feet long and a couple of inches thick, it was a reptile large enough to have no regard for our presence. Its head was raised alertly as it stopped along the bank. It was a handsome snake. We cautiously snapped a few photos before continuing our quest. Agkistrodon piscivorus The skies darkened more with the first drops of rain. Dan donned his rain jacket. I had layered clothing and decided to see if the shower would last. As it slowed to a drizzle, I smiled at my decision...then, it really started to rain. Dan laughed while I fumbled with my poncho. "Did you decide to trap those damp clothes under plastic?" he chided. I smiled sarcastically. It was pouring. The rain cycled from light to heavy all the way back to our vehicles. We still had half a day left. It was time for plan B. I called my wife, who was graciously monitoring the weather radar, and asked how things were looking. She said we didn't have any major storms headed for "plan B", so we put it into action. When we descended into the canopied stream, I reminded Dan this was where I had accidentally smacked him upside his head with a paddle handle. He returned a sarcastic smile. However, the sarcasm faded in the damp gloom as he occasionally picked up a few cool, old bottles. Then, in the shallows, I spotted a treasure... Archaic knife …it was a beautiful Archaic blade! As I pulled the camera from my pack, Dan cried, "Mosasaur vert!" Less than 8 feet away, there it was...the vertebra of a 70 million year old marine reptile. It was an exciting double find! Both discoveries rewarded our efforts. The day had shifted from a "step behind" to being in sync with our surroundings. Downstream, while crossing one of several log jams, Dan noticed a raccoon disturbed by our efforts. Seconds after his observation, I watched a deer mouse scamper from beneath his feet. The tannin stained water continued to hold promise as we worked our way through the stream-bed. Soon Dan called out again, "I got a vert! It’s a good one!" The fossil fish vertebra was perfectly framed in the gravel. Our initial identifications settled on Xiphactinus, a large tarpon-like fish of the Late Cretaceous, due to the strut like features on the side of the vertebra. If true, it was his best one to date. Unidentified fish vertebra We didn't really notice the light rain. Tantalizing clues and the aura of recent finds kept us focused. Our eyes swept like radars over the terrain before us. "What's that next to your foot?" I asked. "Where?" Glare blocked Dan's vision. Out of the water came a puzzling small bone. It was suggestive of a hoof or claw core. The latter would be very significant for the location. We were excited by the possibilities as I bagged the find for later research. pathological bison / cow hoof core With a damp end to the day, Dan and I shook hands on another successful adventure. Night fell; an hour or so later, I was doing a little research on the mystery "core" when my phone rang. It was Dan. "Hey man, you're not going to believe this, but on the way home...." Fortunately he was safe, and it did not involve a burning road or a dead cow...but that's his story to tell.
  3. A Little Flint

    September 20th, 2009 In the search for fossils and other treasure, rain can be friend or foe. However, given the historic drought that is affecting most of Texas, you cannot complain about the rain these days. A friend and I decided to see if we could leverage the rain's recent effects on a heavily collected waterway in our state. We ended up rescuing several finds from nature's grinder. During our excursion, I tried to take advantage of the digital video capability on my camera...it might have taken advantage of me. I cobbled together a montage of video, photos, and text to give you a chance to see a memorable trip.... We were hoping for some mosasaur material and Pleistocene presents, but if you want to take a look, we found... .
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