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June 18, 2014

In Search of the Ancient Past

Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – I had always wanted to go dinosaur hunting, but time and circumstances had prevented such a venture. However, after continually repeating my request, my daughter and nephew finally made arrangements for the hunt.


Obviously, we were not going after the real animals, just their remains. I couldn't believe that we would be picking up fossils that were 100 million years old or older. I also wanted to take the knowledge back to Malaysia for possibility of finding fossils there.


We would be going north near the Canadian border. Our driver and four wheel drive Yukon took a sharp left and began to climb up around winding gravel roads until we alighted on a plateau. The land spread out for miles and was planted in peas and hay. Cows roamed around behind the barbed wire fence. We arrived at the homestead, Mary, me, Suriani, our grandchild, Leeila and my son Dzul, 16 months and 3.5 years respectively. A real crew!


Cousin Ryan, my nephew who left Northern Virginia two months earlier, was there to show us the possible fields. Ryan took us back of the main house to a trailer where his quarters were located. We continued to wonder where the field were. Then about fifty yards from the house was a vista beyond belief.


A rugged valley separated two sides of the plateau. The distance between the two mesas was about half a mile and the depth around 100 feet in the irregularly cut gorge. A creek ran at the bottom. There were high cliffs punctuated by down falls where the earth had slipped over millions of years. We all got into the Yukon and with the four wheeled drive engaged, descended down along a semi-gravel road to the bottom of the coulee.


The secret to finding a fossil is the put your tongue on it and if the stone sticks, then you have a reminder of the ancient ways. We arrived at the first down fall and began to taste the stones one by one. Finally, one stuck to my wife's tongue and it turned out to be a dinosaur remain about the size of my fingernail on my pinkie finger. We all ran to look at it and saw the color and began to hunt for stones of that complexion. I was watching Dzul, so my roaming distance was small, but the others seemed to have luck farther up the down fall.


We did find some amazing balls we laughingly called testicles because they were hooked together much like cherries only much closer. We tried to fathom what they could be and took some back with us. We examined three other down falls but with two young children, the climb up to where some substantial remains might be was thwarted. But we didn't care. We all had a few small dinosaur remains to take back with us.


The Yukon drove straight back up at about 90 degrees (or so it seemed) and we were happy after about two hours of the search.


We know there are large dinosaurs on the property because a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Leonardo was found there and is currently roaming the museums of the world. They did find it in its entirety, complete with skin and tissue.


The Indian Marbles, as they were called, turned out to be some kind of iron mixture too complicated for me to understand. They were known in the Navajo region of the southwest, but no one had reported them in Montana.


Our first venture was great fun but not like our second one which I will report on next week.


...Life is good. . . . .


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