Cleveland Museum of Natural History used to have a research outpost in Willoughby, Ohio. Young scientists were housed in the white barns on the school administration grounds with rows and rows of algae-filled fish tanks. I loved it there. Dad liked to talk with the scientists while I looked at turtles and fish and whatever else they might have. I think the scientists enjoyed my absolute adoration of everything there, including the scientists.
They always seemed pleased when I brought them something to research. They were especially excited when I brought them a soft-shelled turtle. The “finding” of this was as simple as stepping on the poor thing, but no one had seen them in my river before. The scientists plunked him into a fish tank with promises to love it as much as I loved it. I transferred some of my love to the blonde scientist and vowed to bring him more things of interest.
The opportunity for another visit to the research scientist came when I watched a big chunk of cliff fall into the river. KABOOOOMMMMMM!!! That was exciting. It will always be a mystery why I am standing in just the right place to see such things. The huge pile of rocks held some treasures, but I wasn’t allowed to play on it since the adults had some piffling concerns about more cliff falls. I had to wait until after the next spring floods had abated to find the fossils in the red shale littered around downstream. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the fossils because they looked like crayfish in mud, but I would take any excuse to visit the blonde scientist and his fish tanks. Dad didn’t take much pleading to take me.
There was quite a pow wow around my rock in the research barns. Nobody had seen anything like it before. The softness of the rock made these kinds of prehistoric fossils very rare. Could I bring more? Sure! How many do you want? As many as you can get. This of course was an insane instruction to a bored and lonely child in the woods. The next day I took the wheelbarrow down the road, across the rapids, across the broken rocks downstream, loaded the wheelbarrow with fossils, back up the broken rocks downstream, back across the rapids, back up the road. The fossils were dumped by the side of our driveway to be augmented by subsequent trips. I had a mountain of them by the time Dad came home from work. Dad laughed and promised we could deliver them that evening after I had bathed and eaten dinner. He didn’t understand my burning desire to go right away, and I’m sure I never ate dinner faster. I swear he ate slower.
It took some time to load up the car, even with Dad helping. When the tires on the car looked like they might explode and Dad was worrying about the shocks, I regretfully left the remaining small mountain of rocks by the driveway and we went to see the scientists. I was a little disappointed that they used a forklift instead of carrying them carefully with their hands, but they seemed pleased to get the fossils. Actually, they looked rather dumbfounded by the quantity, and they didn’t seem as rare any more. I decided that I wouldn’t bring them as many of anything in the future if it devalued my finds.
They closed up the research lab at some point, and I had to take my discoveries to the actual museum in Cleveland. The disinterested secretary didn’t set my heart aflutter like the blonde scientist, so my gifts diminished. My gifts stopped altogether when I found my turtle dead and mounted in a display case, without even a mention of me finding it on the little white card next to it. I felt burning resentment when I found my fossils in another display case, the white card naming a scientist for discovering it. HE didn’t push a wheelbarrow full of rocks across the rapids. HE used a forklift to move it across the parking lot. Dad said I shouldn’t care about getting credit when advancing science. That’s all well and good, and I agree, as long as someone else doesn’t get credit for my sweat.
I have more of these fossils laying around my house. At least I know who discovered them :)