Wildlife personnel -don’t know how randomly dino tracks are scattered about the world, nor that in no other park in the world can footprints of the greatgrandaddies of the great giants be seen. Well, they’re not so far wrong at that; mostly, they can’t be seen. Only after the tourist season is over can one normally see the parks finest uncovered tracks; the Paluxy runs short of water only seasonally and usually off-season. In the good old summertime, normal times, the park guide must paint a pretty wordpicture of the Park’s attractions \(including the park’s longhorns, which are usually as aloof and hidden as the footprints Track-sweeping of a short, dependable group of carnivore tracks in shallow water, cleaning the mud out of a series of riverbank carnivore tracks, with, at present, one and one-half sauropod tracks included -that’s about it. The most impressive sauropod track was cast in concrete ten years ago by a lifelong friend of the late R. T. Bird. The cast can be seen at the edge of a nearby swimming pool; the battered remains of the original track still can be seen at the edge of a ledge along the Paluxy. Often, when Labor Day has come and gone and the tourists have followed suit, the Paluxy shows its bare bottom and . . . even now . . . after 50 and more years of destroying great portions of its most distinctive assets . . . reveals awesome stories in stone. That stone is made from the mud, generously mixed with wind-blown volcanic ash, of more than a hundred million years ago, when the present Dinosaur Valley Park was part of the Gulf of Mexico, a shallow offshore of verdant swamp and swampy plain whereon the great meat-eaters kept up constant patrol for what must have been great meat. \(Iguana-eaters and rattlesnake gourmets tell us there’s no substitute for properly prepared reptilian Certainly the most dramatiopart of the stone story removed by Bird in the thirties was a clear footprint record showing a set of great sauropod tracks as they abruptly bore to the right and stretched out stride. Paralleling ‘them were threetoed tracks of a carnivore, also stretching stride and bearing over against the sauropod tracks. A three-toed print turns up missing from the trail, and the print of a long carnivore toenail, is found deep in the next footprint of the sauropod. Clearly, the meat-eater had laid violent claws on the meat . . . and here the story disappeared under the overburden. Bird’s WPA funds had run too low to pursue the matter. In the low-water time of last summer 150 yards upstream, the Paluxy unveiled a repetition of the story with a cast slightly smaller in size. Again, the denouement was missing, carried away long ago by the Paluxy. The story line in what is now the park was laid down here in Lower Cretaceous time, early twilight for the dinosaurs, some thirty million years before the true giants of the line came onturf. The park’s place as part of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s problems dates from 1970. Following R. T. Bird’s work in the thirties, a series of Texans thought somebody ought to do something. Driven and harassed by the late Jack McCarty of the Glen RoSe Reporter, cajoled and pushed into it by unquellable `Pete’ May of the local trailer court, a group of local leaders took an option on a couple of farms that made up the heart of what was to be seen and of what was probably still hidden. It was a sizable gourmet who had anything but praise for the stuff. I have personally eaten roast iguana, and I’ll tell you what: I’ll swap you a 15-pound turkey for a five-pound iguana any day of the year, including the holidays. God did us out of all that fine meat for a favor? I braced to ask the man why God, caught up in one of His softhearted spells, hadn’t taken the yellow fever and malaria mosquitoes, and done us a big job of life-saving. But I studied the bland and empty face with care. Why waste good breath; we’d need it across the river. I resumed my role: “Now if you’d like . . . since you’re all sweated up anyway . . . follow me up the trail you see zigzagging up that cliff, and you can get a good overview of the park. You can even catch sight of part of the Comanche Park nuclear plant. With good luck, we may even get to see the park’s longhorns. We keep them on the high ground; the Paluxy has been hell for floods for a long while.” I am, as a matter of fact, truly grateful to all “scientific creationists,” even as I treasure the term as the finest oxymoron in a fine language. These people have infested the site of the best of the world’s four lonely displays of the footprints of sauropods . . . the great, flatfooted, brontosaur-type reptiles . . . since these tracks were first turned up by the Paluxy. And they’ll be back again next year. Had it not been for the “man-track” story, treated with total contempt by all scientific scientists, these tracks would not have lain here “undiscovered” for half a century and more beyond their proper time. Thus they would not have been here for R. T. Bird to unveil before the world of science. They made him a minor figure in the field of dinosauria, instead of only a good field hand in the field. And he was my buddy; that’s as important as I’ll ever get. My associate park-spieler, L. C. Mansfield, last summer had a ludicrous encounter with the oxymoronic breed. The “scientific creationist” at the edge of his party was also attentive. They are always polite and attentive; person to person, they are some of the nicest people I know. At the end of Mansfield’s spiel, the “scientific creationist” shook his head in puzzlement. “Except for leaving Man out,” he said, “you have a real good story. It’s just that I can’t go for those millions and millions of years.” Mansfield couldn’t help him over this hurdle. I couldn’t help Mansfield. Our personal Eternal God antedates the Hyksos kings by several millenia. Much as we’d like to, there is no way we could help this struggling mind to grasp the details of an Immensity so big he couldn’t count all the way to the far end of it. I repeat: Every one of these “scientific creationists” I have met has been a charming person. Likable. Lovable, even. Even the one who made me shudder. That one made me shudder because he holds a master’s degree from a reputable university. He has been with NASA from the first. When I ‘met him, he was using his vacation time to try to read, into a series of serried ripple marks, eroded man-sized footprints that would help him believe what he had already made up his mind to believe. In his working hours, he helped train men for the coming Space Shuttle. I shudder to think what may become of this good man’s faith when his graduates , come back from Out There to tell him they didn’t see a thing . . . no angel chorus . . . no harp music . . . nothing . . . time after time after time. . . . Near summer’s end I goose-pimpled all over on one occasion. I trailed attentively one of their groups under their leader. I was as moved as he as he stood in the middle of our best group of tracks. “Here,” he intoned, “is where the Flood struck! Here on this muddy flat the waters overtook sinful Man and the creatures over which he had been given dominion. And in that wild instant, here God miraculously froze these muddy footprints into solid rock, to leave us a record of His deeds and a sign of His Might!” V.T. S. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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