Yesterday, Marianne and I stopped by the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks in Tuba City, Arizona. The experience combined two of my favorite interest: paleontology and fraud. Here's how it went:
We drove up to the shabby little stands at the site, and were greeted by an old Navajo woman who offered to show us the tracks. There was a sign saying that tours were free but donations were accepted. She led us out on the rock, which had an impressive number of very real dinosaur tracks. I've seen enough to be sure of this. "These are three million years old," she said.
The woman carried a water bottle and squirted water into the tracks to make them stand out. "These are the tiniest tracks," she said. "I think it was a baby." Then, a ways further, "these are T. rex footprints."
The last dinosaur died 65 million years ago. And if you look up the site online, you'll find that the dried mud turned to rock long, long before the advent of the tyrannosaur. (They'll also tell you what dinosaurs "really" left the prints, but don't you believe them. In the absence of any dino tracks ending in a set of bones, no dinosaur tracks have been connected to their species. Those are just guesses.). From these facts, I gather that she had no real interest in dinosaurs other than as a source of income. Otherwise, she'd have learned more.
But now came the fun stuff. She showed us rocks she said were dinosaur bones. "These are the eyes," she said, squirting water into erosions, "and the nose here. We didn't know this until a few years ago a man came and told us about them." She showed us round stoned embedded in the rock. "These are the eggs." Then some rounded rocks. "Dino poo."
My heart went out to this woman. She was working hard. She had no idea how little of what she said I believed. She was doing no harm at all. At the end of the tour, she brought us back to the stand and told us she had made all the jewelry for sale there herself.
It's possible I gave her too large a tip. But that combination of rascality and innocence is all too rare in this world. Also, I wanted to do my little bit to impress upon their self-appointed guardians that the fossils were valuable.
As a source of income, if nothing else.
And remember . . .
MileHiCon is this weekend. It's going to be fun! The Foglios will be there! I'm going to electrify a pickle!
Be there or be square. If you can, of course.