Larry Henderson and Debbi Jackson came all the way from Kansas. Mika Brown, 7, came from Arkansas. Sue Bussey came from Hereford Street in Glen Rose. And third graders came from Glen Rose Elementary School.
Whether from near or far, volunteers came with trowels and chisels and even spoons Monday morning to kick off the opening day of the LS Ranches Dinosaur Track Site behind the Comfort Inn & Suites. All week long, through Saturday, students from Glen Rose schools as well as other volunteers will help uncover the layers of rock and earth in a search for fossils and, hopefully, more dinosaur tracks.
Henderson said he learned of the track site when he was in town for the Fossilmania show in October. Earlier that month, paleontologist Jerry Jacene had stumbled across the tracks while exploring the dug-out construction site behind the hotel. It was on land owned by Larry Smith Sr., who had been excavating the area for the adjacent Stoneview development. Jacene said he was in town looking for dinosaur-related artifacts and gifts for an ill Plano girl, Joanna, as part of his work for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Jacene has owned a prehistoric exhibits museum in Tennessee. He will be the foreman of the Glen Rose dinosaur track site, as well as continue his work at digs in Montana and elsewhere.
“He beat me to them or I would have found them, ” Henderson said as he sat on the ground, carefully digging out what he hoped was another dinosaur print.
He and Jackson are members of the Topeka Gem and Mineral Society.
Mika was on vacation with her family, who happened to be staying at the Comfort Inn. They visited Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World, then Mika and her two siblings had fun digging at the dino site.
“She really does help a lot,” Jacene said of Mika. He added that the dinosaur site will be family-oriented and that it will be dug out by hand rather than by machines, so lots of volunteers are needed. They will be called the “Glen Rose, Texas, Dirt Cavalry.”
For now, there is no charge to dig at the site.
On Monday afternoon, third graders from Candace Stegint's and Jackie Odom's classes arrived on the site, baggies and spoons in hand, ready to help dig. Each child was asked to take a bag of dirt with them to keep.
Jacene began by showing them a poster of several dinosaurs whose prints were found at the site.
He also spoke of scientists finding mummified dinosaurs.
“What does that mean, mummified?” he asked.
A little boy held up his hand.
“He's wrapped in toilet paper,” he said.
“Would somebody write that down for me?” Jacene said. “I've never heard that one before.”
Then Jacene took the children down an incline to the area where the tracks are visible.
He pointed to a small track.
“He's not full-grown yet,” he said. “He was walking. So they (racks and fossils) tell us different stories.”
Jacene had made a cast of a track by brushing on layers of latex. He held it up for the children to see and touch.
“Ooh, it's squishy,” several of them said, laughing and grimacing.
Jacene's message to the kids was that science can be fun and that tracks and fossils can tell scientists much about where dinosaurs lived and how they moved about. The track site is a dinosaur “intersection,” he said, because the footprints show several kinds of dinosaurs going in different directions.
“This is important,” Jacene said as he watched the children work on the mound of earth and rock. “You're part of making history.”
Excavation starts at 9 a.m. Each day with a one-hour break for lunch. The field day will close at 5 p.m. Volunteers should bring gardening tools, gloves, knee pads, paintbrushes (three- to five-inches), spades, sun block, a sack lunch and beverage if desired.