A Major Discovery: In the Badlands National Park
a NCIENT RELIC or BEETLE POO?
During a recent visit to Badlands National Park my wife and I learned that this region is legendary for unique fossils such as the three-toed horse, camels (in North America!) and an array of prehistoric marine life...With our fossil reference guide in hand and an Indian Jones-like spirit, we began our quest to unearth one of these elusive relics for ourselves
The sun rose behind the rocky outcroppings and we couldn't help but to imagine that we were transported to another planet. We continued our hike through this Mars-like terrain, accompanied by the occasional prairie dog and bighorn sheep observing our every movement
After several hours of searching, I finally stumbled upon a discovery! A sphere so perfect that we were certain that it had to be a fossil. A quick photo and a message to the national park left us waiting in anticipation! You see, my wife has had this incurable, bucket-list desire to discover a unique fossil of her own. Needless to say, when I unearthed my prized possession, she was slightly bitter that I would be the victor in our pursuits.
Back in the car we continued on our journey across the country. Our plans had us flying to Iceland in just a few days, so there was no time to waste! It was not long before I received a message from the park staff. The person that had received the message informed me that they were not able to accurately identify the item in my photo, "great sign" I thought, "it must be something good!" A sleepless night would ensue as I lay awake, pondering what one does once they become famous. Oh well, I guess I was about to find out!
The sun rose, the sleeping pads deflated and the homemade hodgepodge of oatmeal steamed on the dashboard. As the car motored on, we heard a "ping" coming from my cell phone. "Here we go" I thought, "this is when I become famous!" I scrolled the lines one by one until an unfamiliar word lingered "pallichnus". The pause in the authors voice resonated even through text, eventually finishing the sentence, "aka dung beetle ball." I had found a sun-crisped, perfectly spherical, solidified ball of dungle beetle poo! I read the message over once more, hoping to discover hidden text that mentions the rarity, the importance, the significance of this ball of poo, the same ball of poo that I had been caring around in my hands over the previous 24 hours-nothing. My wife filled the car with laughter and I couldn't help but to crack a smile thinking about the irony of the situation.
We continued east towards the coast, with a quick stop at home to visit family and friends in Pittsburgh. We shared the story with my wife's parents and then headed out to run some errands for the day while the family stayed back to manage a community yard sale that was taking place. When we returned, the yard sale was in full swing. I walked around the tables filled with old knickknacks, until I saw it. Laying there amongst the items for sale was my ball of dung beetle poo...with a $5 sticker on it none-the-less! I was appalled! I removed the sticker, grabbed the ball of poo and walked away proudly with my major discovery tucked securely inside my pocket.