Fossil hunting reveals the creative artistry of God
Editor’s Note: The following is part of the special “Retirement and Senior Living” coverage in the May 6, 2018 SKC.
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
I’ve always had a fascination with fossils, and my dad, being a retired geophysicist, has a keen interest in them as well — and far more knowledge. So, when my mom and dad came to visit my wife and me in Spearville several years ago, I decided to take Dad on a fossil hunt.
But where can we find them? I was still pretty new to Kansas.
We went to the Dodge City Visitor’s Center, where an attendant put in a call to Marshall Allen Bailey, whom she mistakenly told we were looking for “arrowheads”.
“No!” I whispered to her, imagining what Marshall Bailey’s response would be to us digging up indigenous artifacts. I was too late. She gave us a mischievous look and said into the phone, “I’m not going to tell them that.”
When we finally got it straight, my dad and I were directed to some land where the owner graciously allowed us to scour around. Within an hour or so, we found a rock the size of a beach ball covered in shell fossils. I lugged it back to the car, praying that I wouldn’t get a hernia, and for the next several years it sat near my parents’ front porch in Colorado, Dad often telling people about our discovery on the Kansas prairie.
For me, fossils are like God’s stocking-stuffers. They are little gifts God gives us to decipher the past. We thought we knew the mind of God — that the earth was the center of the universe — until the day that we discovered that the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around.
And that mass of bone-shaped sediment? It actually forms into a behemoth creature that lived not thousands, but millions of years ago.
As noted scientist Jorge Mario Bergoglio (AKA Pope Francis) would attest, fossils don’t challenge the belief in a loving God, they enhance it! What a creative artist our God is!
Several months after my dad and I walked the Kansas countryside looking for fossils, I decided to do some yard work. (Normally, I don’t decide such things. It’s decided for me.) My job was to prepare a flower garden, and to line it with stones I found in the yard.
I turned over a narrow piece of stone and noticed a shell fossil! And then another! And later, we would go for walks and I would see fossils on stones on other yards! Having grown up in Colorado where fossil hunting meant a trip deep into the mountains, who could have guessed I’d find fossils right in my front yard!
As many of you already know, shell fossils are abundant due to the prevalence of sandstone in the area. This makes sense. Where do you find shells? On the beach! What are beaches made of? Sand!
Most of these fossils are around 330 million years old, which would be the late Paleozoic era. This was before the advent of the dinosaurs. It was the time that much of the carbon was created that became the coal deposits of today. (“Shell Oil”, anyone?)
It also indicates that if we were to suddenly go back 330 million years, we’d all better be wearing flippers and a snorkel. This area would have been a tropical marine environment, comparable to the Bahamas or the Great Barrier Reef.
All sorts of cool fossils are waiting to be discovered in Kansas, and not just shells, bugs, plants and things. Plesiosaurs have been discovered, as have mosasaurs, 50-foot long marine reptiles. Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth teeth have been found in Kansas.
Personally, I think God smiles when we find clues to His creative past! Whether they are found by a scientist out in the field, a son and his father walking the plains of Kansas, or a grandparent leading his or her grandchild through a front yard nature walk.
God’s pallet is filled with wonders waiting to be discovered.