Sunday, July 8, 2018

Petrified Wood Hunting

When my family started planning their first get-together in Nebraska, my husband, Rex, offered to take everyone on one of his favorite childhood hunts. He was to lead the pack on a hunt for petrified wood. Rex knew that petrified wood could be found not too far from the South Platte River.  

Petrified wood starts out as a tree or a tree like plant and eventually turns into a fossilized stone. This occurs when the wood becomes buried under sediment and is preserved by lack of oxygen when the organic wood is replaced with minerals and in time turns to stones of various colors. The colors are due to the elements in the sediment. This process can take millions of years. 

On a very hot Friday afternoon when the temperatures were soaring over 100 degrees, the family donned hats, grabbed water bottles and plastic bags in search of a likely place to search for petrified wood. Our car caravan pulled off the side of the road when this sand draw looked hopeful. 

One by one everyone took turns climbing through barbed wire in pursuit of  ancient fossil wood.  

Even my youngest granddaughter was ready to find her treasures. 

Once the first piece of petrified wood was spotted by my son-in-law, Gabe, the whole gang got into a competitive hunt looking for a bigger piece. Sometimes everyone stayed close together and other times they spread out trying to out-find the others. 

After searching for over an hour the kids decided they were pleased with their finds and wanted to head to the air-conditioned car. I was most happy to accompany them to a much cooler spot while the others kept their look-out for another 45 minutes. 

Abbi was delighted with her find. I did hear that the bigger piece "might" have been her Dad's find but Abbi was quick to claim it as her own. Everyone was hunting together so sharing is caring. 

Once back at our lodge, show and tell was a lively time. An old fashioned scale in the entryway  was brought back into service to weigh the fossil wood of the bigger pieces. The eye can be deceiving. From the day's efforts the all time winner of the largest piece was my son-in-law, Jeff. His petrified wood weighed 815 grams. His piece is the lower one on the picture below. The second place went to his daughter, my granddaughter, Maddie, with a weigh-in of 808 grams on the top of the photo below.  Maddie took the close call all in stride by declaring "it's only the difference of 7 paper clips".

To follow-up on this wonderful field trip, we all visited the Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogalalla, Nebraska. The museum displays petrified wood from all over the world including one case with petrified wood from the South Platte River which flows through Ogalalla. My husband, Rex, and his family know the twin brothers Howard and Harvey Kenfield who started their collection of petrified wood in the 1950's. In 2000 they donated it to be displayed in Ogalalla in this gallery.  Many art pieces are made from petrified wood. The Kenfield brothers have made 3 dimensional pictures of rustic cabins, barns and buildings. You can get a peek at a few of these on their Facebook photo page. I am happy to say we have one of their pieces which Rex's mother, Louise, had bought many years ago. I would love to include a picture of it here but it's currently crated in a special case for protection. When it's out again, I'll add a picture to this post.

The family gathered around the display case showing petrified wood from the local region at the gallery. It's a lovely museum not to miss if you're passing through Ogalalla on I-80.

Field trip anyone?

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