U-Dig is a quarry loaded with trilobites that anyone with a wad of cash and four hours to spare can go liberate from the rocks. Of course I’d been to a number of rock shops and had already spent a quite a few hours fawning over the Madagascan specimens, but I knew the little buggars you find in the US are a little less fancy. According to their website most people came home with over a dozen trilobites when visiting.
The twelve year old tending the admission stand was only somewhat helpful in giving instructions so I took over. I grasped a rock in my hand, which I saw already had a weakness in it, and popped it open with the little rock hammer I was given. Immediately two trilobites could be seen inside, though they were wee ones, very wee ones. My scavenging of the rocks was finding dozens of little trilobites and impressions and pieces scattered everywhere that people had missed and I was only going for rocks that already had visible weaknesses in them.
I wandered around a lot, picking here and there. I found at least two species. Some great specimens came out of the rock after several hundred million years only to say hi and dissolve in my hands. That happened a lot. An old man came by that said he was down here three times a week. He asked if we were finding good specimens. I said yes. His ancient border collie Australian Sheppard mix wandered around the rocks sniffing something out.
Meanwhile more people arrived, with small children… who brings their children to a rock quarry?? Of course these children were just as unmanaged as the rest of the country’s that I’d seen. One little boy climbed up to the very top of the top of the quarry and peered down at all the chipped rock, throwing stones down to hear them thunk. “Get down from there!” his mother yelled, repeatedly, for twenty minutes, until the child got bored of being up there and came down on his own. I was so irritated by this I nearly climbed up there myself and dragged him down by the ear. If you’re going to yell at your children then back it up with some action! Then maybe next time he’ll listen! Of course once one kid goes up so must the rest… within twenty minutes the other boy, from a different party, was prancing up there as the first boy whined, “Why can he be up there when I can’t?” No one did anything for that kid, not even a yell. And as we were leaving the last small child, a girl, fell on the rocks and cut her knee open.
I was getting tired of the kids but my time was running out anyway… I was very very tired and unbeknownst to me the sun had cooked a piece of my back because sitting on the rocks made my pants slip down a little bit and my T-shirt slipped up a little bit. UGH. On the good hand I found the biggest trilobite just fifteen minutes before leaving. I found it in an untouched piece of rock I pulled out of the cliff. It was maybe two inches long, but also wedged in a giant rock. It had both negative and positive sides, but how could I drag this huge heavy rock home? I asked the boy if they ever cut rocks down, he called up his grandfather, the old man, and he came up and chipped the rock away until it was a manageable specimen showing the 2ish inch trilobite I’d found. Unfortunately the imprint couldn’t be saved, though he tried. I left with a bucket full of rocks.. I don’t know how many specimens, some great, others not so much. It was a lot of fun.
After U-dig I drove out of there and past a strange quasi-ghost town. It had a main street much like any little town does, filled with shops, and all the essential places a small population needs. It was somewhat recent structures but they were all boarded up or abandoned. Windows were missing, the buildings were cracking, and one shop really creeped me out. It was a framery or something and whoever owned it appeared to have just left one day, leaving all the frames still on the walls… They were decayed by time and age but otherwise were sitting there as eerie little testaments of a town that once was. Around the outskirts of main street you could see dilapidated houses reading, “for sale” and “prime property!” I saw one soul there, a teenage boy with his two dogs, the female trotted out into the street with huge milk-filled teats. I nearly hit her. The kid seemed to take no notice. It was all very strange… I was happy to be out of there.
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