This past weekend Andrew and I drove out to the Ladonia Fossil Park. We’d been there before, during Covid. I remembered the solitude and peacefulness of strolling beside the North Sulphur River.
I had delayed a return trip, due to my terror of the steps leading down to the river. When we’d last visited, I’d resorted to scrambling along beside them down the slope to the water. Fear of breaking a hip overcame any insult to my dignity.
Now, however, the Fossil Park has moved upstream from the old location and they’ve installed a concrete ramp. If I stumbled on the ramp, I would roll on down the concrete until my journey ended at the mud pit below.
While Andrew set up to dig through a pile of loose rock, I wandered off on my own, enjoying the burble of the water beside me and the warmth of the sun on my back. Every now and then bursts of laughter drifted past from a group of children wading upstream. Scuffing my shoes through the gravel, I hoped to find something interesting. This area was once covered in water, an ancient sea filled with sharks, mosasaurs, oysters, and cephalopods dating back to the Cretaceous period, 145 million years ago.
It takes a sharp eye to spot the fossils, tucked as they are amongst the ordinary bits of quartz, shale, and dirt. But if you take wonder in small things, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
I picked up a rock, worn slick and rounded as a peach by the river.
I discovered other things too, bits of petrified wood and bone, shells and imprints of shells, cemented forever in hardened clay.
I traced the curve of a shell, marveled at the smooth lines of petrified wood, and wondered at the lace-like pattern in a bit of bone. What a miracle that these things have persisted, so many millions of years. Not everything leaves such a trace behind. Sometimes, that’s a good thing.