17 March 2020

17 March 2020


 17 March 12020 is St. Patrick’s Day, noted for wearing green and watching parades. It’s also Alonzo Wesley Hancock’s birthday. Hancock (1884–1961) was a postal worker and amateur paleontologist, and his fossil discoveries in eastern Oregon revolutionized our understanding of the Cenozoic in that region. One of his projects, Camp Hancock, brought teenagers out to the field and encouraged them to understand the geology (and the biology) of the region—digging for fossils while keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes by day, and singing songs around the campfire (“Hi ho let’s away | Let’s go where the fossils abound | There’s opals and agates | And geodes galore | And nodules all over the ground”) at dusk. I attended Camp Hancock a couple of years too late to actually have met the man, but his presence still haunted the endeavor. It was rather as if he was around somewhere, but our paths just never happened to cross.

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