The “Original” Folsom Point

I have another quick post here based on our visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This little exhibit as you can see, has a wonderful Bison antiquus skull and the tan block of excavated matrix in the case, shown in the shot below.

This block of matrix was excavated by Jesse Figgins of the Museum (then called the Colorado Museum of Natural History) at the Folsom type site in New Mexico in 1927.

One of the greatest questions in American archaeology has always been the timing and method of the peopling of the New World. Back in the 1920s, a strong and vocal faction, led by Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution, held that the Indians hadn’t entered this hemisphere until a very late date, perhaps 3,000 years ago. When I was in graduate school, I remember seeing a cartoon of Hrdlicka standing at the Bering Strait with his hands up, trying to keep those future Siberian Americans from crossing over.

Another faction (Jesse Figgins among them) believed that humans had come here much earlier, sometime in the Pleistocene. In those days, before the invention of radiocarbon dating, the only method of proving this would be to find artifacts deposited in association with extinct Pleistocene fauna.

In a well-written piece from Natural History in 1997, Douglas Preston tells the story of how Figgins was alerted to the Folsom site, started work there, and what he did when he found what he was looking for:

“On August 29, 1927, Carl Schwachheim {one of Figgins’ crew} found, one of the distinctive Folsom points embedded in matrix between the ribs of a bison {B. antiquus} skeleton. Still smarting from Hrdlicka’s criticism, Figgins ordered the find covered up and the next day fired off telegrams to various colleagues around the country. Three preeminent scientists made the arduous trip to the site. They were Barnum Brown, the great paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History; Frank H. H. Roberts, Jr., a brilliant archeologist from the Smithsonian Institution; and Alfred Vincent Kidder, who had established the entire cultural sequence of the Anasazi Indians. The covering was removed, and Brown carefully cleared the matrix from one side of the point without dislodging it. It was a fluted point just like the others. Here, finally, was convincing evidence that human beings had been in the New World for at least 10,000 years. These early bison hunters were named the Folsom people, after the nearby town.”

This block of matrix in the picture above proved to be a turning point in the history of North American archaeology. Vitually every textbook on North American prehistory or the history of American archaeology has a photograph of this Folsom point stuck in those bison ribs.

Unfortunately, none of this scientific drama is reflected in the exhibit anywhere. It was quite disappointing. This is arguably the most important scientific breakthrough this Museum has accomplished. Don’t they understand this is a Big Deal? Don’t they want to toot their own horn?

Maybe I’ll write them a letter.

Going and Gone

Over the weekend Connie and I took a trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the first visit we have made there since moving back. This museum holds a special place in my heart: it is the first place I ever saw dinosaur and large fossil mammal mounts when we visited on a trip from Arkansas when I was seven. It thrilled me no end.

The Museum is justly famed for its wildlife dioramas, and on our visit I was particularly intrigued by a set on rare birds originally done in the early 1920s. I believe these are the oldest exhibits still on display there. The Museum has thoughtfully left the original signs in place, with modern signs added.

At the top you can see a picture of the California condor diorama. It’s set in Ventura County (I assume the Sespe Mountains) and the original sign says that these three specimens were collected by the Museum in the ‘teens of the century. Please click on any of these pictures for an enlarged view.

This diorama of whooping cranes is set at Aransas Pass, Texas. The original sign says these specimens were also collected by a Museum expedition in the ‘teens. The passenger pigeon diorama is set in central Iowa. The skins were collected by a farmer in Iowa in the 1880s. I have been so totally conditioned to think of this species as lost that my first irrational thought on seeing this was, “Where did they get all of these?”
I apologize for the quality of this shot, but the reflections on the glass were more than I could overcome. These Carolina parakeets are in a diorama set in Avery Island, Louisiana. This beautiful pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers was also in the Avery Island diorama. There is another female on the other side of the case. The original sign says these mounts were all done from a collection of “old skins” but doesn’t say anything about their provenance.These dioramas were all done in 1921 – 1923. The condor and whooping crane populations were obviously in trouble at that time, and it appears that the mindset was that you’d better go out a bag a few of these birds while they’re still around. The ivory-billed woodpeckers were in the same situation – they weren’t considered extinct until a good 35 – 40 years later. Of course, Steve’s friend Tim Gallagher and his colleagues recently rediscovered some in Arkansas.The original signs for the passenger pigeons and Carolina parakeets don’t refer to them as extinct. We now know (or at least think we do!) that the last passenger pigeon died in 1914 and the last Carolina parakeet died in 1918, both at the Cincinnati Zoo. It surprised me that this wasn’t reflected in signs done a few years later, but all I can assume is that at the time there were still phantom sightings of both species and some hope wild populations existed.

Spring transition


We’ve had three snowstorms hit in the last week here in Wyoming, shutting down thousands of miles of roads. These spring storms mean that we have slick, snow-covered roads with no visibility one minute, and within a few hours, the roads will be dry again.

Yesterday, we had to haul hay from a farm in Farson, about 40 minutes from our ranch. It was dry and clear, so we drove down, had a nice visit with the farmer/beekeeper and headed for home. The storm hit when we were within 20 miles of the ranch, and by the time we were 10 miles from home, the road was so slick I pulled off the highway and dropped the trailer inside an allotment fence, so we could travel safely home (without being pushed down Blue Rim by several tons of hay).

We fixed lunch and had a short nap. By then, the storm had passed and we drove back down the highway to retrieve the hay trailer. That’s the flurry of spring.

Today’s photos are two of the residents of the stackyard. I love the brindle marks on the jack, which was pretending to be a rock, sitting in the shade of a feed trough.

The ground squirrels were racing around at high rates of speed, fighting and chasing each other. It looks like this guy had a chunk taken out of his cheek. My understanding is that the Wyoming ground squirrel is one of the least gregarious of the ground squirrels, so territorial disputes can be rather nasty.

Neighborhood Secession

“…Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit.”

-Abraham Lincoln

A recent 2Blowhards post wondering whether secession will become one of this year’s political themes got me thinking: How hard could it be?

As usual, the comments on that post were many, diverse, verbose and interesting. I had to chime in with my Wendell Berry inspired take on the concept of economic secession: It should be easy, in principle, to “secede” from significant government and corporate oversight just by refusing to buy in.

“…Much of our supposed oppression is self-imposed. We buy too much and make or grow too little. We drive too often and walk or bike too seldom. We borrow too much and save too little. We spend too much money on cures and not enough thought or effort on prevention. We watch too much TV and read too few books. We add needless cost to our lives by our government-supported over-acquisitiveness…”By taking care of our own business and our own spouses, families, jobs, cupboards and neighbors, we essentially opt-out of most of what’s ailing us.”

Of course we have to then pick up these responsibilities and carry them ourselves, and that’s not easy. Nor would it be easy to secede in the wholesale libertarian sense of circling the wagons and raising a new flag. As everyone’s rotating crop of politicians suggests, the governance of a state-level entity is extremely difficult—or surely must be, considering how badly we do it. One shudders at the possibility our political system is already the best around.

So maybe raising a flag and drawing the borders of your new country is the wrong approach. (Although maybe Texas could pull it off.)

I’m more inclined to hide my plan in plain sight: the Neighborhood Secessionist Movement.

The tenets of the movement are simple. First: Find some neighbors and share your stuff with them. Decide what goods and entertainments you can provide for yourselves and for each other (with minimal commercial input from outside the neighborhood), and then do some of that. Do more as you get better at it.

The Neighborhood Secessionist Movement as practiced on my street is not motivated by High Principle of any kind; neither altruism, nor patriotism, collectivism, religious charity nor militant Idaho stovepipism. It runs on good humor, good eats, elementary school children, and shared free time and red wine.

In a post below, Steve mentions H.R. 875 (Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009), which may or may not infringe on the food sovereignty of Louisiana citizens. (I think people’s kitchens may be exempt from registering as Food Establishments, but it’s hard to say for sure. Looks like local deer processors and CSAs probably should be concerned.)

Assuming we will still be able to hunt, raise, grow, cook and share our own food without being subject to federal penalties, I think these good things ought to be encouraged. And in lieu of higher profile sources of encouragement, allow me to encourage you all with the following snapshots of this summer’s Neighborhood Secessionists’ Gross Domestic Product.

Matt’s expanded beds: tomatoes, leaf lettuce, peppers, herbs, wild blackberries.



Tyler’s new mixed veggie plot:


Monique’s new tomatoes:

Tonya’s new veggie garden and sanctuary:


Eat well, Revolutionaries!

Pups grow…

The first one is of Lashyn when she squirmed into a too small crate with them and almost squashed them. The neurotic old girl had NEVER gone voluntarily into a crate. We got them out by unscrewing one side but she stayed in long enough to snap a photo

The rest are self explanatory– at 6 and 7 weeks. Silver brindle is “Irbis”, the word for Snow leopard and a Kazakh beer; we’re keeping him. Cream male is Shunkar, who stays in Magdalena with Daniela. Grizzle boy Jhengiz and red girl Kyra are off to California.


AR, PC, and all that

(They’re always out there).

From Dr. Gale Goodman: PETA killed 95% of the animals they received last year. And they dare compare chicken farms to Auswitzch?

David Zincavage reports on Thought Crime in Central Connecticut (which may be in a race with California and Maryland to be the most PC state):

“On October 3, 2008, Wahlberg and two other classmates prepared to give an oral presentation for a Communication 140 class that was required to discuss a “relevant issue in the media”. Wahlberg and his group chose to discuss school violence due to recent events such as the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred in 2007.

“Shortly after his professor, Paula Anderson, filed a complaint with the CCSU Police against her student. During the presentation Wahlberg made the point that if students were permitted to conceal carry guns on campus, the violence could have been stopped earlier in many of these cases. He also touched on the controversial idea of free gun zones on college campuses.

“That night at work, Wahlberg received a message stating that the campus police “requested his presence”. Upon entering the police station, the officers began to list off firearms that were registered under his name, and questioned him about where he kept them.

“They told Wahlberg that they had received a complaint from his professor that his presentation was making students feel “scared and uncomfortable”. …”

Words fail..

Here is a long, thoughtful, and not at all ranty discussion of how “theory” dessicates literature and does a disservice especially to the student, who is bereft of such things as sympathy for characters and their struggles.

A few paragraphs, a couple going to the heart of the matter to show that even old- fashioned revolutionaries valued high culture, the other to point at a pet peeve of mine.

“Some of its defenders genuinely seem to believe that there is something radical or progressive about the present system. But it is worth stressing how wrong this is. The radical tradition in British politics, as on the continent, was overwhelmingly committed to education as a powerful means of personal empowerment and social improvement, and this attitude persisted well into the sixties. The motivation for replacing grammar schools with comprehensives was not to water down what was taught at the grammars, but on the contrary to ensure, in Hugh Gaitskell’s phrase, ‘a grammar school education for all.’

“Even among revolutionaries, similar views prevailed and, despite a positively post-modern penchant for indoctrination, the Soviet Communist Party accepted the centrality of high culture within the school curriculum. While some Bolsheviks sought to replace ‘bourgeois culture’ with a new ‘Prolecult’, Lenin himself defended the importance of pupils studying ‘the material that was bequeathed to us by the old society.’ (!!)

And: “Some schools go to extraordinary lengths to suppress the instinct for knowledge. Frankie — a pupil in a large inner-city comprehensive — told me the following story. His school has the sort of discipline and truancy problems familiar enough to many British schools, but in one respect the place is remarkably well organized: every book in the library is colour-coded according to the age of the children who are permitted to read it, and nobody is allowed to take out any book of the ‘wrong’ colour. So it happened that the school authorities, grappling with the daunting problems of managing a big inner-city comprehensive, took the time and trouble to track down and punish Frankie for taking out of the library a book on how the mind works, which they considered him too young to read. “

I may scan some photos soon to show exactly what I (and my parents) thought of that attitude…

The most important thing any animal person or freedom lover who reads this blog should do: write, email,and call your Representative and tell him or her to vote against HB 875, the so- called “Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009”. This insidious piece of legislation would likely put an end to all small- scale gardening, urban farming, and local markets. It has been nicknamed “The Monsanto Bill”. The woman in this video can seem a little drifty, but her points on CHOICE and heirloom seeds are well taken.

The easiest way to do this is go to www.house.gov/writerep : all you have to do is put in your zip and it will give you your congresscritter and how to get in touch with them. When you call their office someone will answer the phone, just tell them (politely) that you are calling to express your views on HR 875. Tell them your views, they’ll take your name and address and pass your comments along to the congressperson.

And soon we will have to deal with NAIS as well.

A (Hilarious ) Rant…

Annie Hocker sent me this rant from a park ranger. Couldn’t make the link work (bug in my Mac I think) but it is so funny I’ll print it all. Annie, maybe you could put the link in “Comments”?

“To all “Happy Campers”
Date: 2006-09-05, 12:00PM MDT

Folks, yesterday ended the regular summer season. I am in the West roughly between the Wasatch and the Tetons. I went home and drank a martini. I made it a double. Yes, there will still be more happy campers. But for the most part, Labor Day signals an end to the onslaught of humanity. Yes, we’ll still have to put up with rude French Canadians for a little while but for the most part, we’ve made it through the storm.

It used to be that camping meant pitching a tent and hiking. Or maybe bringing the horses and doing some trail riding. But lately it seems like people are bringing their homes with them. The generators I can live with so long as they are quiet and used within reason. It’s the late night music and drinking that kept us running this summer. I saw more domestics, more of what we classify as “disorderly conduct” offenses, and generally more people being rude and obnoxious to neighboring campers than in years past. And what’s with the big screen TV’s out in the forest? Can’t you cut the umbilical cord with your TV for just three or four days? I went through one campground last night and felt like I was at the freaking drive in.

Listen folks, most people go camping to get away from it all. Who wants to here you screaming at your kids or berating your wife? No one wants to hear your stereo with the Bass cranked up to where my windows are vibrating before I even arrive. No one wants to here your drunken tirades and fights.

Saturday I handled 4 public urination (for the record, I don’t care if your taking a leak behind a bush but what’s up with you idiots that don’t even try to conceal yourself?) 6 disorderly conduct, 2 domestics, 7 loud music complaints, and one possession (meth) arrest. Holy shit people! This is supposed to be camping, not the hood. Your Lincoln Navigator might have a premium sound system with a CD changer but does that mean we all have to enjoy your music? The answer is no. And to you people that cannot understand why the posted speed limit is 15 MPH,,,,it’s because a lot of people bring little kids camping with them and these kids tend to run around. To the chick in the Dodge Neon with the Raiders Sticker, yes, you do get a ticket for going 50 in a 15 and no, I don’t care that you called my supervisor (neither does my supervisor, she said you talk like a 12 year old that didn’t get the prize you wanted from the dentist)

Being a park ranger used to mean a lot of PR, giving directions, occasional search and rescue, first aid, and a periodic encounter with some idiot who drank too much. But now it means responding to the same calls any department handles in an urban area. Instead of smiling at people and letting kids turn our overhead lights on, or petting our horse or sitting on our ATV and handing out junior ranger badges, we have to be on guard all the time looking for tweekers and gun totting survivalists who hate the government or want to use the wilderness as a place to stash shit for the Armageddon. And since when did it become popular to use the great outdoors to kill yourself? What happened to committing suicide in town? Now we have people coming out looking for the “natural way” to commit suicide and frankly, some of the places you are choosing make body recovery an all day ordeal. To the moron from Salt Lake that just had to take the 500 foot high dive, do you have any idea what it takes to stage a deep canyon body recovery when our only access is the river? I had plans that weekend!

Here are some of my summer favorites from this year

To the peckerhead from Denver standing out the side of the road skinning out a dead Coyote. I understand that it was road kill and that you didn’t shoot it. My problem is your lack of common sense. Everyone driving by sees you standing there with your buck knife gutting this damn thing. Do you think they know it was road kill? Every widow from Cheyenne to San Francisco that drove by and saw you standing there with your prize had there cell phones in hand faster than Wyatt Earp could pull a six iron.

And to the Californian who stopped to help the deer that had been hit. You’re mad at me because I wouldn’t call a vet? Are you nuts lady? This is the wilderness not The Bon Macy’s. We do not call veterinarians for road kill.

To the kid that pointed the airsoft M-16 out of your car window at me as we passed on the highway,,, I’m sorry I made your dad wet his pants when I pulled you all from the car at gunpoint but hey, your the one who took the orange top off of your toy and don’t you think that you being 16 means your old enough to know better? Hell, I damn near had my own private heart attack because of you. What am I supposed to think when I see a Cadillac with California plates and a big black gun barrel pointed at me?

To the Hispanic guy who tossed the empty Bush Lite beer case out the window,,how is me pulling you over racial profiling? I would have pulled you over no matter what color you are. You ought to get an ass kicking just for being a lazy pig. You paid how much for those rims and yet you drink the cheapest beer on the shelf and you can’t afford a littering ticket? I don’t think so. I hate writing tickets but you’re the kind that makes it fun.

To the guy taking a crap on the side of the road, do you think that just because your on the passengers side of your RV doesn’t mean we can’t see you squatting there on the asphalt? There’s a whole forest ten feet away! When I came around the corner and saw that I almost crashed into a friggin tree!

To the guy doing the horizontal rumba with your girlfriend on top of the picnic table. Yes, I’m sure it was cool and yes, she is hot but can’t you at least wait until its dark???? Not everyone is a voyeur. Someone must not have enjoyed seeing your naked ass pile driving some tart from town or they wouldn’t have bothered to call it in.

To the guy who stole one of our ATV’s. Don’t you think you should have painted it a different color or did something to change its appearance before you start riding it around the same area you stole it from?

To the rest of you real outdoorsmen and women who respect the land, pack out what you pack in, and enjoy the outdoors for what it is, more power to you. But I’ll never contact you unless we are passing on the trail and then it’s only a mutual hello or maybe answering your questions about weather or terrain.

To the weekend warriors who bring your hate and discontent with you, stay home.

Realistically, 90% of the people who visit the outdoors are great. You make the job fun. It’s the 10% who seek to work overtime to put everyone else out that makes it bad.

The summer is over! Now I can concentrate on a little work around the house and maybe some fishing. Winter will be here soon and life will be good.

Until next summer!”

Raptor News, Good and Bad

Spain is worried about its vultures and wants to help them by allowing carcasses to be left out for them. Good for them. I’ll buy it all but “killing cows”– Golden eagles will kill calves, but Griffon vultures on cows?? HT Reid.

Meanwhile, a few American Indians continue to slaughter Eagles for feathers and profit, and, worse, try to justify it. It is particularly hard for falconers, who obviously love the birds, to hear– we are more tightly regulated on this species than on any other. HT Annie Hocker.

A Few Quotes

From John Updike in 1992 describing writing book reviews:
“Knitting and purling at these reviews seems to be harder work for me than it used to be; we feel like field mice painstakingly weaving our little nests while the shadows of the hawks swirl all around us.” HT Richard Francis.

“If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.”(Anonymous as far as I know).

In perhaps the same vein: “Blaming Darwin for evolution is like blaming Einstein for gravity.” — Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen.

Back However Briefly!

Very busy with puppies and projects (and the flu) but the world keeps coming up with new stuff to annoy or enlighten. I’d rather take a break but eventually the pressure builds…

Enlightenment and fun before the bad stuff! Darren Naish has been doing so many good posts I can hardly keep up. Here , he goes against our perceptions and notes that 400 new species of mammals have been discovered since 1990! And they aren’t all little things like insectivores either.

Here, he postulates that there may be more pinnipeds to be found, and takes a serious look at the cryptozoological reports as well. Could the “sea serpent’ be some kind of radical pinniped?

Via Terrie Miller, some good pictures of Kyrgizstan, including birds and dogs, albeit with the usual misinformation (the falcon is of course a goshawk).

Our fearless friend Lauren has anew blog, Aquiling, on eagle-ry and other matters. Go for the delight– she may be the youngest Berkutchi, and the only female, but she knows more than many better- known eagle fanciers. (And here is a photo of her with puppy Shunkar; more about pups later).

Rachel Dickinson has a new book, Falconer on the Edge, coming out this summmer– I have read it, it’s good, and I will review it properly a bit later. She has also started a blog of the same name.

Pluvi (or as I suppose we now acknowledge, Helen Macdonald!) is blogging again. She just put up a remarkably odd piece of art- a watercolor of a starling painted in peregrine plumage. She has also illustrated Corvus: a life with Birds, by Esther Woolfson. It’s on my list.

LabRat at Atomic Nerds has a sane manifesto for a free life, one that as she says has no ideology, only guidelines. The two essays above this, one by her on guns and gender and one by Stingray on cigars, are also well worth reading.

Last, one I don’t know is good or not but one that makes me uneasy: Christina Nealson sent a link to this article about how the University on Michigan is going all digital. What do YOU think?