Crocodiles and Aliens

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Man studying 180 million year old fossils in the Petrified Forest finds something astounding, a visit by someone or something.

Submitted: June 14, 2012

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Submitted: June 14, 2012

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Crocodiles and Aliens   by Rolf Luetcke

 

 

The desert could be brutal.  You could freeze at night and burn up during the day.  There had been over forty degrees of difference between the day and night temperature here in Northern Arizona.

I was wearing a sweatshirt and long pants as I hiked to the spot where I had been working the fossil footprints.Most of the strata in the Petrified Forest were close to a hundred eighty million years old and contained tracks and fossils of some major predators.  The sun had just risen and it was good to work early, before it got too hot.  I had set up a small tarp on poles to provide a bit of shade later in the day.  It worked well if the wind didn’t pick up.  The afternoons could be quite windy and the tarp had to come down then.

I had tried to get a couple of students to help me with the dig but none had time to come out to Arizona for a few weeks.  I decided to come out alone.  I had taken some time off my teaching to write a book on my work in Egypt and link it to the ancient crocodiles that roamed the Western United States a hundred million years of more ago.  The find in the Petrified Forest could add to my knowledge of the various species that were here at that time.

I had been researching crocodilians for nearly twenty years and was the leading expert in the field.

This region had been a swamp with rivers running through it.  The crocodiles lived on the mud banks of the river’s edge.There were ancient trees further inland.  The mud was also what was perfect for leaving a fossil record.  Much of the Petrified Forest was made up of the fossil remains of this ancient forest.Occasionally there were animal fossils and some great crocodile fossils had been found.  The visitor center had several of the ancient crock skulls on display.

What had preserved this area had been a volcanic ash fall several feet thick far upstream from this spot.  Then heavy rains where the ash had fallen and a flood had washed over the area and covered all the tracks in ash.  The fossil animals had been preserved because the ash was very acidic which kept bacteria from consuming the animal and plant remains.  Huge numbers of the big trees had washed down the rivers and piled up in low swamps to form the basis for the fossils we found today.

Where I was working was not near any of the trails of the park and had been found by rangers patrolling the wilder parts of the park.  The ranger had seen some tracks after a severe thunder storm had washed out the dirt covering the area I was now working.  The reports had filtered down to me and when I had made a visit to the park, the superintendant had asked if there was someone who could expose more of the tracks.  I was on leave so I had the time.

Two weeks ago I had come to the place where the twenty footers had roamed.  Good tracks were not common and the ranger had been lucky to run into an ancient river edge, where the monsters had crawled up and basked.

It was a three-mile hike to the site and even though the country was flat enough to drive over, I was on National Park land and had to stay on established roads.  I had parked my University truck at the nearest pullout and walked the rest of the way.

I had the permits to excavate but only to study the site.  Nothing could be removed.

I had discussed the find with the park superintendent.I thought it was important enough to consider a tourist loop to the spot. 

I spotted my flag and headed toward my diggings.  The land was so flat you didn’t have landmarks to work by.  I used a compass to plot my direction. My flag was an old aluminum TV antenna pole, with a red bandana on top.

Shovels, rakes and brooms were scattered around.It looked like they had been thrown around but each marked a spot where the tracks were visible on the surface.

I was starting to piece together a story about what had happened here so long ago.  Two monster crocks had met and battled, one had lost.

  The tracks were very similar to what I had seen on the banks of the Nile.  When crocks fight, they roll and the marks they leave are distinctive.  So far I had only a small portion of the tracks exposed and I hoped that I would be able to expose much more and then it could tell an interesting story of how the crocks lived at that time.

 This same scenario had happened here millions of years ago.  To have the whole picture I needed to remove cap rock for another twenty feet in opposite directions, maybe more.  The cap rock was about six inches thick and I could only use hand tools to remove the rock.I had carried a large steel pry bar and heavy duty pickax to remove the rock.It had been working well and pieces about four square feet had been breaking off.  I could break them with a sledge hammer to make them small enough to carry.I had used a wheelbarrow to move them to a spot the rangers had said was slated for the pullout if they decided to make this a loop drive.

I put on my straw hat and got my pick.  What I had removed so far showed two crocks converging at one spot on the mud bank and then battling over territory.  You could see the toes of the crocks and their tail marks as they had walked to this spot.  When they reached this spot a fight had broken out and I had just opened up the spot of the fight yesterday when the daylight started to fade and I had to quit.  Today I hoped to expose the whole fight area and possibly see what had become of the crocks after that.

I wedged it under the cap rock and set to work.  The sheet of rock that broke was big and I wasn’t sure I could remove it in one piece.  I pried up one corner and placed a chunk of rock under the slab.  One whack with the sledge split the slab in two.

I moved one piece and was about to pick up the other one when I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.  I bent down and brushed the dirt off the track.  I just stared.

It couldn’t be!  It just couldn’t be!

I lifted the second chunk off and there was another one. 

I sat in thought for a long time.

All the possibilities ran around in my head.

I had definitely moved the slab for the first time since it had been laid down one hundred and eighty million years ago.  There was no trick I could think of that could have been pulled on me.  Some of the people I worked with would pull a trick like this but none were here in Arizona.

Someone had walked here but it just couldn’t be.  The prints were clear and there was no other explanation.

They were boot prints as plain as the nose on my face, modern boot prints.There was the rounded front of the boot, the gap and then the heel.I stood in one of the tracks and although it was the same shape as my foot, it was about 4 inches larger all around.

 

I worked frantically for the next four hours to uncover the trail of the boot prints in the hundred eighty million year old strata.

Whoever had walked here had left evidence as plain as the croc tracks I had been uncovering.

I stepped back and took an overview of the whole scene.

Where the crocs had fought, and where I had come to study the tracks, so had someone else!I found where he, or she, or- - -, had kneeled and touched the mud. 

I saw where the tracks emerged form the edge of the area I had cleared and then returned to that spot. The tracks were made by one individual and they went in one direction then turned back.The tracks going away from the crock fight scene were deeper than those coming.  It has carried something away!

Was one of the croc carcasses still there when this someone had walked here?  Had the visitor carried a piece of the crocodile away?

 

The next couple of days I spent removing more cap rock from the boot prints.Suddenly they stopped.

I cleared away ten feet of rock and no more tracks.

What in the - - - -!

Then I saw it, over by the edge of one slab, a deep, round depression.

I worked all that day to clear more rock and the hunger of two forgotten meals forced me to stop.

I swept the whole area after I had eaten and again stood to take an overview.

It all became clear to me and the evidence I had found would rock the world.  There had been some sort of craft sitting here, the three round depressions were deep and indicated something of serious weight had sat here.  The distance between the depressions was about thirty feet.

I was wondering if people would believe what was clearly written in the footprints in the ancient mud.  Would they think I had somehow made these tracks?  I knew that the impressions had been made ages ago but would everyone else?

Someone had walked here so very long ago but it couldn’t have been human.

A visitor had come here but from where?

The questions my discovery raised were to shake the whole foundation of what we believed about mans place in the universe.

Man was not alone!

 

 

 

Copyright Rolf Luetcke


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