It ain't over till the Fat Lady sings .....
Yes, I know……. it has been quite a while since I last put in a trip report, shame on me.
Not that I have been idle the last year or so, but a major renovation of and addition to my home kept me from spending a lot of time on fossils. Still, I did get to go out once in a while and on some of those occasions I even did pretty well, like on the most recent "father and son"-outing to the Belgian Cretaceous. But….. first a step back.
Most of you have been genuine fossil aficionados for the bigger part of their life, but those among you who came late to this wonderful hobby of ours or – like me - had the flame of their childhood hobby rekindled in their forties will surely recognize the feeling of awe when visiting the collecting of someone who has been collecting for what seems like ages to us late starters.
A couple of years ago, in one of my favorite quarries among those strewn across the Dutch and Belgian border I met this pensionado who has been collecting there for well over 40 years! At some point into the developing friendship, he invited me to his home to take a look at his collection and boy, what a collection it was! One item in particular struck me; a flint-cast of the interior of a Hemipneustes oculatus in absolutely pristine condition. Now you should know this echinoid is not only the biggest species to be collected around here, but also most fragile and rare. Hence, my awe when seeing this extraordinarily perfect specimen.
Needless to say, and - since I knew the odds stacked against me - against better judgment, the next couple of times I visited that quarry I always prayed to Lady Luck to grant me a specimen however meager in quality. Also needless to say as time and visits to that particular quarry went by, I once more settled into the routine of looking for the regular stuff. And so it was a couple of weeks ago. Taking a morning off from work, I took my son once more to hunt for fossils. In considering my options, I decided to go to this particular quarry once more, the more so since my son likes the Echinocorys echinoids to be found there. Driving my car up to the top of the cliff face I noticed a large heap of several tons of flint, salvaged from the sands that lay on top of the chalk deposits. But, since my son wanted to find himself some Echinocory, we bypassed that heap of flint as we walked to the top of the chalk deposists, looking for Echinocorys echinoids. We did find some of those, with my son finding the best specimen, but the rewards were kind’a meager. So we went over a ridge into a nearby quarry to check that out, but that turned out even worse. A bit frustrated about having spent over an hour in the latter quarry without anything decent to show for it and having squandered much of the time I had reserved for visiting another quarry, a little further away, we went back to our car.
But…getting back to the car took so long that I started wondering whether visiting another quarry was worth it as we had only one hour left before we had to be home again. At that very moment I passed by that heap of flint again and told my son we better try our luck here rather than waste a lot of time relocating. So I started rummaging among the tons of flint looking for the regular stuff like Diplodetus and Oolopygus with my son showing little interest for this "heap of stones" At some point my son came to me while I was scavenging a remote section close to some bushes and told me he wanted to go home. I turned my head to tell him "Ok, let’s go home", when I froze…… You know how it goes… at first you don’t even know why you stopped, a sign that you were stopped by a reflex, honed by years of looking for specific shapes. …. and then, lightning strikes as it dawns on you what you have just found.
The rest is history ….I said some words I dare not repeat here and took a picture first . No easy feat with my hands trembling the way they did. Then, with still trembling hands I picked up my prize…… qood quality Hemipneustes oculatus, resting in a block of flint, grinning back at me. So it shows once more: "It ain’t over till the fat lady sings" and boy did she sing loud and clear this time.