Jane the Geologist

This is a note from ‘Notes To My Kids”. My daughter, who majored in marine biology at Texas A&M, once upon a time liked rocks…..

To Jane:

All kids get interested in a hobby or past time as they grow up. It can be something unexpected, something that they see on TV, or an interest they see a parent enjoy. In your case, you got interested in rocks and fossils, perhaps from hearing me talk about geology and the oil business, which I knew a bit about.

You got the rock bug before Christmas one year and I did some research on what to buy to get you started on that. I bought you two books: Roadside Geology of Texas and A Field Guide to Fossils of Texas. The first book had road routes you could take through different areas of the state which highlighted the rock formations along the way. The other described the fossils you might find in a location or in a rock. Needing more than books, I found you a real rock hammer and magnifying glass. With books and tools in hand, we went rock and fossil hunting on weekends when you were with me.

On one, we went down Highway 180 from Mineral Wells, looking at the Cretaceous limestone that lined the way. We stopped at spots noted in the books and got out of my truck and hammered away. We did something like that on 377, north of Granbury too, in the road cuts there—limestone again, in fact. But the real find was not there and was seen on an expedition down Fall Creek near Acton.

Dinosaur Park near Glen Rose is a place where the bed of the Brazos River has exposed tracks of the ancient reptiles from the distant past. You can walk by them and see their footprints and toes, sometimes their claws as well. That same limestone was in the Fall Creek area and made up its bed. One Saturday, we went walking down Fall Creek, west of the bridge, and found a track in the rock that was not covered with water. I had a camera with me and took some shots. A picture of it is still in a frame on your desk at my house. You can see the three pointy toes in the white limestone surrounding it. Something big and hungry had walked that way millions of years before.

As time went on, the track disappeared. Once, not so many years ago, I tried to find it and had no luck at all. I found out that many times the rock is fragile, and tracks don’t last long sometimes. Like the beast that made the print, the track was washed away by the endless waters of time flowing down the creek.

After some time, you lost interest in this hobby and turned to other things. Kids are like that, as are adults. Interests come and go as the years go by. Some remain throughout life. Even though rocks aren’t your thing now, I can see the same spark in your eyes with the animals you study at college. Do you remember when I came to Galveston, and we went to the marsh where you and your class had tagged the hermit crabs? When you were poking around in the water and mud, I saw not just you as twenty years old in college, but also you at Fall Creek that day. The times looking at rocks are like the footprints the dinosaurs left in the limestone and are like tracks in the riverbed of time. They make a mark, are seen for a while, and then disappear because nothing lasts forever. But while we are here, the footprints are there for us to see and be reminded of the steps we, and those before us, took down the fast stream of being alive.


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