The Name Game
We left sunny Summerville, South Carolina on a warm, breezy, beautiful Friday afternoon. Our destination was the Lee Creek mine at the PCS Phosphate quarry in Aurora, North Carolina for the opening day of the spring 2009 fossil collecting season. Long time fossil pal T$ was with me, as was my long time wife. T$ loves collecting teeth, so its no surprised that he was excited to be going. My wife, after a 5 year collecting hiatus, finally agreed that she would try collecting at Lee Creek one more time. Her expectations of this trip were low, not because of the mine, but because of yours truly and my lack of assistance on her previous trip. But promises were made, compromises reached, and deals were worked and she rode shotgun with a smile on her face to our first Mexican feast of the weekend at Moe’s. I was karma loading. Eating a strict diet of south of the border goodies in the past has always invited mojo and deterred mosquitoes.
After our meal, t$ mentioned that the weather was supposed to be nasty this weekend. How could it be?? It was so nice for the drive, which coincidentally, ended at another Mexican restaurant for dinner with Scubapaul, RivrDigr, and Chuck of Southwest Florida Fossil Club fame. During supper, Scubapaul started the "What’s your name" conversation with my wife. Surely the wife of diTchweEziL should have a comparably vapid rodent-related screen name. I called her "Culvert Ferret” on her first trip to PCS back in the days of NCPC and Block 26. During our gem hunting trip to Spruce Pine, I called her "MEIN Ferret.” She never really liked either of those, so she didn’t have an answer to Scubapaul’s initial appellation inquiry. Immediately, the brainstorming began. Scubapaul came up with Gutter Gerbil, which could be shortened to "G.G." That drew a lot of laughs, but no real acceptance surprisingly. "Canal Fox" was also thrown out there. I heard "Weezilette", and "Weezilene". "ChickWeezil" was my suggestion. I can’t remember all of them, but after dinner my head hurt as badly from laughing as bad as my stomach from the sub-par Arroz con Mariscos.
We arrived at the parking lot on a cold, windy, rainy Saturday morning. Everyone was excited to be there, even my wife. We stood around in the rain for a little while waiting for the bus to start, and finally around 8:30 Curtis Ormond arrived in shining armor astride a short bus, followed by a big van. It would take a little while to get everyone in there, but the newer ride was comfy at least. Then another bus was located, and soon we were all on the way. A short walk down the road from the parking area and we were in the pit.
Ahh, the pit. Seemingly endless mounds of glorious, fossil shark tooth bearing dirt piled up as high as apartment buildings all waiting to be plucked of their serrated plumage. The material was so new that I didn’t see a weed all day. That could mean choice pickings, but only closer examination would tell. We walked around looking at pile after pile of great looking material with few teeth on them. It had to be because the piles needed more weathering. My wife and I spent at least 2 hours in this one massive section of lower Yorktown that should have been covered with teeth. No footprints. No Teeth. That stuff is normally just solid with black phosphate pebbles, but they were only beginning to appear through the thick sandy grey sediment. We also found numerous areas full of large bone but bereft of exposed teeth.
About halfway through the day, the constant rain and wind became much colder and we took refuge in the valleys between mounds. Even though the sand wasn’t blowing in our eyes like normal sunny dry days, the wind, rain, and cold really packed a punch. It was 12:30 and I had not picked up anything I considered great yet. My wife had found a handful of teeth, including a beautiful cow shark tooth, and she was surprised herself how much fun she was having despite the weather. Maybe it was the quick wit of her guide? Yah, probably not. I bet it had more to do with how FUN it is to collect fossils in Aurora! Thank you PCS for allowing us to collect!
The rain, cold, and wind continued to worsen, and my wife had enough by 1 so we started to head back to the bus with the goal of being out by 2. We sauntered at a leisurely pace and came across an untouched mound of Pungo. She took the high road, and I took the low. At the far edge of the mound, I finally came across a little Chubutensis in awesome condition that guaranteed we would not leave without a nice representative of the Carcharocles lineage. Though not as successful as other hunts, this one was good in other ways.
I boarded the bus a few minutes behind my wife to find that we weren’t the only ones already satisfied with our finds and ready to go. Pat greeted me at the door and asked me what I called my wife. I didn’t have an answer, and she suggested "Feezil" (for female weezil). I sat next to Feezil, or ChickWeezil, or Gutter Gerbil, or GG, or whatever she ends up accepting as her BRF name and she still had a smile on her face. On the worst conditions I had ever experienced in the mine, she was still happy. Husbands know when their wives have had enough. As familiar with that look as I am, I didn’t see it then and I was happy too. She later even said she would do it again voluntarily. As I relaxed after a tough day in the field, I took pause to appreciate the steam rising from the other soaked collectors as they all shivered in unison on the bus. We’re some hardcore people to go out and participate in this hobby. I imagine a lot of people would look at me and wonder if I’m crazy? Then I look back and wonder "Is it time for fajitas yet?"