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THE PALEO BREED (Poem)



 I was cleaning up my office at home recently and came across this poem I
wrote about fieldwork experiences for the now defunct Tyrrell Museum monthly
staff newletter "Dinowire", October, 1989 issue. Anyone who has done
fieldwork can relate to most or all of this poem. I think it catches the
essence, romance and spirit of fieldwork quite nicely. This is largely what
camp life was like in Dinosaur Provincial Park in the late 1970's to the
early-mid 1980's. We were much younger and crazier then, now that we've
grown up, gotten married/have families/are cash strapped, and have more
responsible job responsibilities at Tyrrell those days are long gone. This
was my first effort at a poem as an adult, thought I'd share it with all of
you caught in the "winter doldrums" like me:

 THE PALEO BREED

Hey there reader, I'm talking to you,
it's time to give the bonediggers their due.
So sit down reader and take heed,
I've got stories to tell about "THE PALEO BREED".

They're up so early the Owl still hoots,
their wakeup reminder a pair of ice cold boots.
Then off to breakfast as the skies are dawning,
eyes full of sleep and mouths a'yawning.

Enter the kitchen trailer of volunteers many,
Bob, Fran, Gerald, Steve, John and Penny.
Most still half asleep and some wide awake,
but all in a couple hours in the sun will bake.

Some field helpers arrive cocky and bold,
they simply don't fit the paleo mould.
Once we've had enough of their jive,
we send them packing or eat them alive.

Then into the truck for a dusty drive,
up to thirty miles before you arrive.
Drive right to the site (if you're lucky),
or walk five miles, it'll make you plucky.

Fifty pound packs to and from the site,
supplies by morning and bones by night.
Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week,
the Grande Prairie schedule- not for the meek. [PACHYRHINOSAURUS BB with
Hans Larsson]

Jackhammer work is real backbreaking,
your arms falling off and body shaking.
Takes sixty pulls to get the damn thing to start,
and when it runs, it shakes you fingers apart.

Hack at the rock maybe find a bone,
if not you'll find ironstone.
One thing you'll find more and more,
are biting insects by the score.

Mosquitoes buzzing in your ear,
flies drowning in your days end beer.
Ticks, Horse and Deer Flies like to bite,
and cause this writer undo fright.

The broiling sun it cooks your head,
stay out too long and you'll be dead.
Five hours is the average for most,
survivors of more we nickname "Toast".

In the sun your skin does burn,
the price you pay for the bones you yearn.
Hair tied in knots by gale force winds,
in the evening a pair of scissors will rescind.

High noon you find shade and have your lunch,
peanuts, Granola bars, liquified sandwich you do munch.
Sweat rolls down our filthy faces,
but never would we consider trading places.

If it's not too hot, it will really pour,
(finally) a sleep-in day; a time to snore.
But as you try to sleep some more,
bored tourists arrive in camp by the score.

Tourist questions are a real drag,
want to know what's in your specimen bag.
And as you chip away at the stone,
they always ask "Is that a REAL dinosaur bone?" [My least favorite tourist
query].

Some paleos find tourists easy to hate,
their dumb questions continually frustrate.
But I treat tourists with the knowledge,
they pay my bills and one day will pay for college.

Smash your thumb and make it hurt,
all this pain for a measly hadrosaur vert.
But one day you'll be rewarded for the overburden you hull,
when you discover that small theropod skull.

Back at camp you have a shower,
and emerge man of the hour.
Now you don your Sunday best,
'cause you're gonna put your libido to the test.

At the bar you order a double,
touch the local girls and there'll be trouble.
So make moves on a volunteer that appeals to you,
and maybe arrange a midnight rendevous.

Sometimes we're drunk or foolish and take a chance,
flirt with and ask the local girls for a dance.
Then end up at the Steveville bridge in the morning dew,
after successfully escaping the local lynch mob crew. [This did not happen
to me ;)]

Or after having a beer or many more,
prove to the locals we're rotten to the core.
Toasting dinosaur families and loudly relating the days bones,
and hollering to the C&W band to "PLAY SOME ROLLING STONES!"

Thin ATCO trailer walls don't hide the fact,
that field assistant Lisa is with volunteer Jack.
Knowing this as you spin with the booze in your brain,
you've got to get up in four hours and do it all again.

Back at the museum its the same old story,
office politics, rumour mills and personal glory.
And flashbulbs popping in our faces,
from everyone else of the human races. [People taking our pictures in the
prep lab]

So you might think after reading this poem,
we'd quit, pack our bags and go on home.
But reader I've got one last thing to say,
this bonedigger will never quit- NO WAY!"     

 
 So do I have an alternative career as a poet, or should I just put my pen
down, pick up a shovel and keep diggin?

 
Darren Tanke
Technician I, Dinosaur Research Program
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Box 7500
Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. T0J 0Y0
             and
Senior Editor on the:
Annotated Bibliography of Paleopathology, Dento-Osteopathy and Related Topics
11,162 citations as of February 8, 1997.
Visit our bibliography homepage at: http://dns.magtech.ab.ca/dtanke
Can you help with this ongoing project? Email me at: dtanke@dns.magtech.ab.ca