Or perhaps more accurately, how I attempted to become an amateur paleontologist. In what seems like a lifetime ago, one of our favorite hiking spots in Reno was a place called Thomas Creek Trail. On the way back from one of our weekly hikes, my son and I spotted something poking out of the dirt. Out of curiosity we began to dig around the protrusion. At first I thought that it might be a child's shoe due to the plastic feel and the shape of the object. At this point our excavation efforts had only afforded us a view of the eye socket and part of the cheekbone. The strip of cheekbone looked like a shoe strap to me. (In fact, I'm not even sure they still make the kind of shoes I'm thinking of. And they were probably made of vinyl not plastic. All I remember is those dress shoes with a strap that I wore as a small child were not very flexible or comfortable.)
Completely intrigued now and somewhat confounded as to why the shoe would not come loose out of the dirt, I became obsessed with freeing my prize. My son long ago gave up out of boredom. He was only 4 or so, you can see the attention span may not last that long. I was not about to give up though. He'd have to learn some patience. (Yeah, not really working my parent brain there.) This darn shoe! Wait. Is it a shoe? That's a pretty long foot for a kid. Hey, wait, those are teeth. Cool! I've found a skull. Probably belonging to a deer. And hey here's the spinal column. Well, now it's just a matter of time, clearly this poor animal hadn't been buried very deep. I wonder if they'll let me take it home. Hum.
Yeah, I never got much farther than that. Turns out, the body was buried at an angle, and beyond the skull, it went deeper into the ground. I also was having a bear of a time digging around a large rock that seemed to have the skeleton wrapped around it. I decided it was time to give up the ghost and head home before my poor neglected child mutinied on me.
Still, I wondered if I might be able to return with better tools. Trust me, a dig needs something more than a few large river rocks for shovels. I called the Wildlife Department and asked if I could keep it if I was willing to dig it up. The nice officer told me that it was all mine. He thought that it had probably been poached and quickly buried. Hum. My thought was it got caught in the flood waters earlier that year and was killed and buried in the silt. He's probably right, though. He is the professional. Either way it's a sad deal.
I never did make it back to dig the skeleton out. We were about two weeks out from moving to Bozeman, so I had to forgo that adventure for the more realistic excitement of packing up the house. Oh, well, not sure what I would have done with it anyway.
This is the fourth story in the Adventure Series. You'll find story three here. From there you can follow the links backwards to the other stories if you like.