Alone at last


So, we got D’s mom moved last week into her house. This was accomplished with three local moving guys, a large truck and a shoehorn. After the truck got full, we tied a few boxes to the bumper, glued a wheelbarrow to the roof and talked the mover guys into sitting on a stack of Christmas greenery. Then we crammed a few hundred items into my car and a few hundred more into her truck, and presto! We made it.

Now she’s in the throes of unpacking and making lists of the stuff North American Van Lines lost or broke. Somehow the headboard to her bed has disappeared. And her ladder, and our ladder. I wonder what the folks who ended up with extra stuff are saying? “Well, now, looka here what we got, Marybeth. A new headboard! Wonder what it attaches to? Go get that new ladder we got and see if they go together.”

And we must have a brief moment of silence for our most tragic loss. Yes, one of Madge’s framed photos of Elvis has suffered a grievous crack. Of all of the horrible things to happen, and now this. Sigh.

So now I finally felt a bit more settled into our own house, spreading out all by ourselves. Or, at least until we were invaded by our goddaughters from Chicago and their mom and dad.  The girls are 8 and 10 years old, and had never been to Texas before. However, in school this spring, one of them was lucky enough to be assigned a project on the Lone Star State. This was particularly helpful, because she was able to share important information for us new residents. It is vitally important to know the state flower (bluebonnet) and the state bird (mockingbird), because it is my understanding that if stopped by a Texas Ranger, they are allowed to quiz you on these items.

(Note that that only applies if you are stopped by a Ranger with a badge, and not one of the ones with a baseball bat and cleats.)

Of course, if confronted by the stern visage of a Ranger, it would be hard to remember some of the lesser-known factoids, such as the state pastime (plastic surgery), state’s highest point (hairdo of any number of Dallas women), and state weed (concrete).

We took the girls out for good Tex-Mex, swam, and drove around to look at the sights, because they don’t have tall buildings with lots of glass in Chicago.

Then there was the afternoon that I tried to kill them. I’d read a story recently in the Dallas Morning News about this neat little park where you could go dig for fossils. The girls are very into nature, so this sounded like a great idea to me.

So we set off for this desert fossil park, loaded with a small cooler of water and washcloths, umbrellas to keep off the blazing sun, and a handful of gardening tools with which we planned to extricate the massive T. rex skeletons.

The park appeared on the newspaper’s map to be just 1/16th of an inch west of Fort Worth. But there was no map legend to show scale. Therefore, this 1/16th of an inch translated to, roughly, 784.02 miles west of Fort Worth.

This small distance issue wasn’t a problem in and of itself. However, it did wreak a bit of havoc with Aunt Laurie’s timeline. you see, it’s August. And the word “August” in Texan means “holy hot as you can imagine.” We had planned to get to the fossils early enough in the day that we could actually survive.

However, since the trip took a bit longer than anticipated, this became more difficult. It was exacerbated, too, by a few missing details from the newspaper story.

Now, it hasn’t been that long since I was a newspaper editor. However, it must have been long enough ago that in the meantime, facts, like distance scales on maps, have become optional. Such as, that the fossil park was really just a few acres of a desert wash. And that it was miles from civilization, and could only be accessed by turning onto a tiny dirt road off the highway, hanging a left at the large brown steer, cutting back to the right at the huge beavertail cactus, crossing a dry wash and a creekbed. And there were no signs on any of these byways and highways.

As intrepid explorers, of course, we were undaunted by these challenges, except for the mumbling of a few choice words by a former newspaper editor. We made our way to the gravel parking area. After our long trek, we were forced to use the handy nearby Papaw’s Potty. This added to our sense of adventure, at least until I picked up the roll of toilet paper that Papaw had left, only to see the world’s largest and ugliest spider hanging on to the other half. Startled, I let out a small scream. (I mean, who expected a spider out in the desert?)

I reflexively chunked the paper away into the corner of Papaw’s Potty, where it unfortunately bounced off an even larger spider-mom who was sitting on an egg casing about the size of a Cadbury egg. This seemed to piss her off a bit, because she reared up and threw the paper back at me. This was when I decided that Papaw’s Potty wasn’t large enough for me and the wild pack of killer spiders.

We then trudged off into the fossil park to begin excavating T. rex. We had made such good time that it really wasn’t high noon when we arrived. It was only 11:48 a.m., which is much, much cooler.

The fossil park consisted of an old wash, about 25 feet deep. This had the lovely effect of holding in the sun rays, raising the comfortable 106-degree temperature to a little-harder-to-handle 456 degrees. The best time to find the fossils, according to the paper, is after a recent rain. We had rain recently, back in April, so the fossils were practically falling into our hands.

It really was an educational experience. Besides learning about fossils, we learned physics, such as how difficult it is to hold a shady umbrella in one hand and dig into rock-hard desert hard-pack with the other. We also learned that water can leach out of the human body really fast, and that it’s bad when your face turns the color of a bing cherry.

OK, I can admit it. The 40 minutes we stayed was about 39 minutes too long. Luckily, we were able to hose off the girls with ice water from the cooler, so I was spared the embarrassment of having to take them to our own ER with heat stroke. I’d have never lived that one down.

Not that I’ll live down this little fossil adventure, either. But at least I can point to our treasures: 15 tiny, unrecognizable shards of what may be pieces of former lake creatures. And the girls have forgiven me, after their core body temps dropped back down below 103 degrees, and with a small payoff from the American Girl store.

Now they’re back to Chicagoland, where it was only 75 degrees today. I’ll bet they miss our warm, sunny days already.

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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3 Responses to Alone at last

  1. Wanda says:

    Next time you have children visit you in Texas, I can give you some ideas of fun and cooler activities to do.

  2. Jane Andrews says:

    Miss you and your wit and humor!!!!

  3. Beth says:

    Miss you!! I’m not sure Wanda understands just how fun a day at the fossil park is.

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