Mercifully, most of what we did on this trip was visit with family and friends over the New Year’s holiday week. And, for most of you, that would be tedious torture indeed.
But I do want to tell you about the Gray [TN] Fossil Museum and dig site. During road construction a few years back, the backhoes turned up some ancient fossil bones. They turned out to be 4-7 million years old. The governor got $8 million and also had the road diverted and the dig began. It was discovered that the animals had been trapped in a pit made when a cave collapsed and created a lake. The lake held alligators, turtles, fish, that have been uncovered so far. Tennessee was obviously a great deal warmer then than now; it’s that global warming.
East Tennessee State University—incidentally, where Ron started his college career—developed a paleontology program. Students and volunteers now dig throughout the summer season and do lab work through the winter, in the time honored tradition. So far, only 5-10% of the site has been excavated and they are still working in a test trench. They have discovered 2 new species, a tapir and a red panda. Ironically, the Knoxville zoo 100 miles down the road specializes in modern red pandas.
The museum is state of the art, especially set up for school age children, but appealing also to the rest of us. They often have traveling exhibits and docents will take tours to the dig site, when it is active. And there is a first rate store, with T-shirts for sale unusually inexpensively. Also, one of the volunteers makes tiny tapirs out of Fimo and sells them for $3.
The other thing I have to report is the existence, just down the road from Gray, the S&M Amusement Co. I kid you not.
cJan 2009 Carol Kerr Buckles