Future Find From The Past

Updated: May 27

(a little story of discovery)


She found it on the north slope. About halfway up. Sitting alone out in the open as if dropped on purpose by someone. That someone was the glacier long gone. She came running down to the house with it, surprisingly heavy when she handed it to me for a look.

“It’s full of fossils!” she exclaimed with no small amount of gleeful amazement.


A rough chunk of shaly limestone, it was indeed chock full of shell fossils.


“Oh, now, isn’t that a neat specimen!”


She smiled up at me, happy to have shared her find. “What are they?”


“I’ll have to check the books but I think they’re Linoproductus. Large procutoid brachiopods from the Pennsylvanian epoch about three hundred million years ago.”


She gasped and wowed at that, her eyes were shining. “Three hundred million?”


“Yup,” I straightened and hefted the rock. About twenty pounds. Handing it back to her then waving my right arm and hand over her head in an arc from south to north she followed the hand then gazed north toward the spot she found it.


“This used to be a shallow sea here where we’re standing now. The seafloor was inhabited by these creatures and many others, including a very cool looking amphibian called Eryops–sort of a salamander-like animal that was about six feet long. Some fossils of those have been found in the Cañon del Cobre formation not far from here in Rio Arriba county over the mountains."


Pointing at a nicely exposed fossil in her find I elaborated, “This is sort of like a clam but not closely related to clams at all. Just looks a bit like one.”


Pointing west toward the point at eleven thousand foot elevation, I told her about the glacier that formed, covered and scraped across the lands the ancient sea's currents once surged and flowed over. "The glacier may have pushed this find of yours from someplace between here and the point up there before it ended up where you found it."


She squinted into the setting sun toward the point then at the rock, thoughtfully turning it in her hands. "Three hundred million years ago. . . and I found it!"


"Yes you did and it's a wonderful find."

"I'm going to be whatever you call people who find and study fossil rocks," she proclaimed in her six-year-old voice. I knew she meant it.


"Paleontologist."


"Yeah, paleontologist. I'm going to be that."


I was happy for her discovering her purpose and profession so early in life. Took me damn near thirty years to do that.