I should be used to the summer routine of Marmarth field season– it sounds so simple, really – just pop off to the badlands, show some people the joys of field work, and before you know it, right back home again. But of course, things are never that simple. This year, I had a project at work that absolutely had to be finished before I left. I had an obligation to another dig in Tennessee that’s really come to rely on me. I have children out of school for the summer and a wife with obligations of her own. So I felt pretty rushed and disorganized, and this year Tyler (do I get to call him Tyler since I knew him before the doctorate?) has some fossil sites that might be pretty scientifically important, so I need to be on my game.
Now that I’m here, it all comes back pretty easily, and the hard work is all worth it for some important reasons. First, I’m contributing to actual, real-life science – that’s a big old sackful of awesome. Second, I get to work with some of the best people I’ve ever met. Third, I get to help those people experience the joy of scientific discovery, with the added bonus of forcing them to dig through tons of rock and dirt, because I’m a terrible person. And fourth, but definitely not least, every time I’m out here, these wonderful people enrich me with new knowledge, with humor, with amazing stories, and especially with camaraderie.
Is it worth the blisters, the aching back, the heat, the dust, chipping through obnoxious concretions and sometimes coming up empty-handed? Hell Creek yes.