Member Musings: Iris Shur

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member.


A Hunting We Will Go


Iris Shur

Iris Shur

Finding interesting things to do with your visiting family is sometimes a challenge. This time I said, “You make the plans.” So my son told me we were going fossil hunting.

Huh? “What is that and where?”

He explained that we would drive about two hours to the middle of Florida, where we would meet our guide at a Walmart at 9 a.m.

There in the Walmart parking lot was our guide with canoes on top of his truck. “Canoes? No one ever told me we had to go in a canoe.”

We followed him in our car to a creek a few miles away, and unloaded the canoes. I know how to canoe. I went to camp, didn’t I? Getting into the canoe was not much of a problem from the low bank, and it was fun paddling down the stream. Gently down the stream. In about twenty minutes we arrived at the spot our guide said was an ideal fossil hunting location. Mind you, I still didn’t know what you did to fossil hunt, so for me it was a mystery trip.

We hopped out of our canoes into almost waist deep water. For my grandchildren, it was at least waist deep. The water and the air were warm.  It was an ideal day for this activity. I kept thinking that if the water had been freezing or a cold wind had been blowing or it was raining, I would have found it intolerable. Then that Walmart would have looked mighty good.

First our guide gave each of us a short shop apron with a pocket in front to hold all the fossils we would discover. Then he clipped a large, square, wood-framed sieve to our apron and handed us shovels. The mud beneath my beach shoes was sticky and I didn’t want to move, fearful I would fall into the water. But the guide explained that to extricate ourselves we should lift our heels first. It worked.

Then we were told to shovel gravel into our “strainers,” shake out the sand and look through the gravel that was left for fossils. Problem was—I didn’t know a fossil from a rock. But the guide was a veritable wealth of fossil lore and information. He knew what everything was or, I suspect, if he didn’t, he made it up. How would I know?

My first shark tooth find was a cause for celebration. But four hours and fifty shark teeth later I was wishing I was out shopping. The grandchildren lasted about two hours, but their parents had become serious fossil hunters looking in vain for that giant and very valuable megalodon tooth they hoped to find.

When it was time to leave the prehistoric era, we encountered a slight glitch. How do you clamber into a canoe from several feet of water without it tipping over?

Picture this: Water almost up to my waist on one side of the canoe, on the other side, a bank going straight up. Everyone else scurried up the bank and hopped into the canoes. They didn’t have two artificial hips and an artificial knee.  It took three men to pull me up the bank and gently dump me into the canoe as I screamed, “I can’t do this.”

Finally, it was time to head back to our cars. The water had developed a strong current, almost like a rapids, but I was in the canoe with the guide so no worries. On the way back, one of the canoes overturned. I had visions of having to swim home because, should my canoe tip over, there was no way I was going to climb back into the canoe from the water. With the skillful paddling of our guide, we made it safely to shore, the car and civilization.

So here I am with fifty shark teeth. What the heck do you do with them?

No, no shark tooth necklace for me.

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