In the Laramie
For many years my life work ply,
And many museums supply
With the rich store from Nature's book.
On many wondrous scenes I look.
I've often wanted to explore
The graveyard of the Dinosaur,
And when the British Museum said
They'd like to own a mighty head,
The largest of the saurians dread,
Triceratops (Marsh gave the name),
To Converse County then I came.
In Wyoming's range for sheep
Are many canyons carved quite deep,
In the grey sands and beds of clay;
While haystack buttes on every side,
That often crown some high divide.
The creeks spread out in fanlike shape,
That everywhere the surface break
Into ravines, with edges steep;
While here the dead for ages sleep.
For weeks we worked the Laramie,
Those beds of sand from fossils free.
Night after night my boys come in,
And not a single fossil win.
We search out Hatcher's chosen field,
That not a single skull will yield.
At last we reach the Cheyenne brakes,
Each one a rugged canyon takes
And follows it to cedar crest.
I work on steadily with the rest.
At last one day we moved our tent;
Across the roughest ground I went,
I came to a denuded space;
O'er it my weary footsteps trace;
I stumble on a weathered horn.
I'd weeks of disappointment borne.
It is too good, I greatly fear,
To find a huge skull buried here.
We mark the place, return next day,
Remove with care the crumbling clay:
A mighty skull before us lay.
What joy to a discouraged mind
To know a skull at last we find!
But good luck does not come alone-
George has found a pelvic bone.
Charlie and I make the long trip
To Lusk, where we our fossil ship.
When five days later we return,
I hear such new my heart strings burn-
A story that George has to tell.
My pride runs high, my bosom swell-
He's found a splendid Trachodon,
And he the prize has surely won.
'He lies now in the quarry there,
Let's quickly to the place repair.'
'No,' says George, 'unload your duds.
For three long days we've lived on spuds,
We've worked at least twelve hours a day,
And quarried out the sandstone grey
Full fifteen feet at least in height,
Twelve feet across, from left to right.
The floor is over ten feet deep,
In center lies, as if asleep,
The carcass of our Trachodon.
And so, you see, the prize I've won.'
'That's not all,' cries the eager boy,
'I know your heart will break for joy,
The glory of this specimen-
He lies there as he floated in
With bloated body on the wave.
The gas escapes he found his grave,
As he sinks to his long rest,
Skin clinging fast to bone and breast.
A long and lingering death he'd died,
His flesh had all been atrophied.
He surely has been starved to death,
His skin to all the bones is pressed,
And within abdominal walls,
Like a great curtain there it falls.
While carcass rides upon the tide,
The head is pressed to the left side;
As in the sands his body's laid,
His arms stretch out imploring aid.'
I scarce can wait until with ease
The boys their hunger can appease.
With haste our eager footsteps take
To bed of the old Laramie lake,
To where the mighty carcass lay,
As if he'd died but yesterday.
I raise a high exultant sound,
The crags and canyons echo round.
'Thank God, thank God, I'm paid at last
For days of toil, for dangers past!'
Now, Science had a mighty store
Found by collectors long before,
Of this great reptile Trachodon.
'What has this great discovery done
To advance science?' you will ask.
To tell you it will be my task.
It was supposed they lived on land,
On pillars strong he used to stand,
With short front limbs, and hands to grasp,
He held the swinging branches fast;
While duck-bill nipped the foliage green
That passed along his jaws between,
Where full two thousand teeth are seen
Arranged in perpendicular line,
Diagonally, too, one at a time.
Alternate teeth could wear quite thin
While other teeth were coming in.
A monstrous tail- one would suppose,
With hind limbs, like a tripod rose.
Of course attention must be lent
To the huge beast's environment;
And tyrant of the Laramie
Who preyed on reptiles such as he.
His body was in armour clad.
I must confess it made me glad
To learn from this my trophy grand,
HE LIVED IN WATER, not on land.
His feet were webbed, and his thin skin
Was blotched with scales, both small and thin.
His mighty body shines and pales,
Lined by rosettes and little scales.
His mighty tail of fifteen feet,
Like the propellers of a fleet.
A length of thirty feet he spanned-
A wondrous creature, and so grand.
His duck-billed head three feet in length.
His neck shows well his sinewy strength,
No carapace on dorsal spines,
But osseous tendons pack the lines
In muscles dense, on either side;
Like straddle-boards on roof they ride.
His hind limbs, full eight feet in length,
Are strongly built, of mighty strength.
With ease he stems the rising tide,
And swims to pastures on the side
Of shallow streams, whose waters glide
Through the green rush and shining reed.
And here our reptile stops to feed.
He plants hind feet in sand below,
While rushing by the waters flow.
In solemn grandeur there he stood
And gathered armsful of rich food.
Then chops it off with duck-bill strong,
While muscles pass it fast along
Where teeth like scissors shred the mass,
That into a great stomach pass.
A half a ton, I'd say, or more,
Has passed in through that open door
Before his appetite appease.
He's finished breakfast, if you please.
Now watch him as his way he'll take
To the smooth surface of the lake.
His limbs in unison, they beat
The gurgling waters 'neath his feet.
The tail, in undulations strong,
Urges the heavy mass along.
He's gaining speed. Oh, see how fast
The foam is rising on the blast!
His body now is hid from sight
Beneath the foaming waters white.
He's gaining distance: see arise
A great white column to the skies,
Like smoke in fighting ship's broad wake;
The foam marks out the course he'll take.
But now to work; I'll dream no more.
Our work lies in the old lake's floor.
How will we get our saurian safe,
Is the great problem we must face.
The mighty fossil it will prove
A trying task for us to move.
We first take off the arms and head;
They're heavy, and they weigh like lead.
The body now we cut in two,
Cover with starch and paper too;
While yards of cloth the parts enfold,
Which, dipped in plaster, forms a mold
That soon becomes as hard as stone.
It well protects the brittle bone.
Two thousand pounds each section weigh,
Like chunks of iron there they lay.
We're only four, my sons and I.
To move these masses we will try.
But first of all, strong boxes make;
Then each his sharpened shovel take
And cut some grass to pack around
This specimen that we have found.
We build a platform for the skull,
And to it now our wagons pull.
A section then we get around,
With levers lift it from the ground.
We build beneath with rocky blocks,
And get it in the box at last,
Which we roll in the wagon,too;-
Repeat the process till we're through.
Now you might think our labor done:
Dear friends, it's only just begun.
We hitch four horses- 'Please don't talk.'
Half up the hill those horses balk;
They back the wagon in a ditch;
They will not pull. So we unhitch.
Then to the nearest ranch I go-
Full twenty miles from camp, I know.
What if a rain should flood the ditch
And in the Cheyenne River pitch
This load to me worth more than gold?
'The ranchman's busy,' so I'm told.
He would not stop his work one day
For all the bones on earth, they say.
I find a man who owns a team
Who'd gladly go, so it would seem,
To help me in my direst need.
So off they go with all their speed,
For Levi had come on with me,
And went to show the road, you see.
In passing I might simply say
He only charged three dollars a day.
'We're out the woods; now I can talk'-
Alas! he knew his team would balk.
So full three days all squandered they.
The man got his three dollars a day.
At last George finds a man and team
Who'd do their duty, so 'twould seem.
And so we reach the platform floor
Beside the railroad station door.
The Permian Beds of Texas
In Texas, where the Wichita
Enrodes a gash, both deep and raw,
Formed by a fault in this old earth,
Before humanity had birth,
Here Permian clays of Indian red,
And sandstones interlacing beds.
Time himself has bared the graves
Of Permian life, where mesquite waves
Its feathery leaflets in the air;
While short grass, with flowers so rare,
Carpets the red soil with its green,
Or rootlets, with their mesh, are seen
To circle bones in their embrace.
Or here and there an open space
Where grinning skull, or bones so white,
Lie helpless there, so sad their plight:
All that remains of giants who
In old lagoon or bayou grew,
Who once ruled over land and sea,
Leave speaking bones for you and me;
Who tell the story of the past,
Of victories won, at rest at last.
So God engraves in mouldering land
The works of His almighty hand.
Not Moses' tablets graved by God
Seem more wondrous than the word
He left recorded in the earth,
When rocky strata had their birth.
Yes! distant was the Permian time,
As man keeps record, line on line,
But through Jehovah's mighty reign,
Today and yesterday the same.
A day in His almighty sight
Is like a vision of the night,
Or like a shadow on the lake,
Or ruffled flood, in steamer's wake;
To man, who measures three score ten,
How few his years, how short his ken!
He ever feels the God within
Would be more God-like but for sin.
God gave us minds to see the past
Or on the future visions cast;
So with that God-like power He's given
That's less of earth and more of heaven.
I sail down on the Tide of Time,
My oar-boats keeping gentle rhyme;
I enter lakes with wooded shore,
And hear the trumpet sound once more,
As when, in childhood's happy day,
I went to see the circus play.
There in a lovely sheltered glade
A trunkéd throng stand in the shade;
While horses gallop on the sand,
And herds of swine root up the land.
Here birds of every color shine-
Make melody almost divine.
Their music flits on passing breeze
As graceful forms dart through the trees,
For beauty here is not a sin.
Their feathers are not used to trim
The headgear of a barbarous sex
With borrowed plumes, or some pretext,
They hope to rival sisters fair,
While pluméd heads toss in the air:
Man's will is not the master here,
No rifled guns have they to fear.
I pass great herds of buffalo,
No Winchester to lay them low;
The duck leads out upon the lake
With brood of ducklings in her wake.
The wild goat climbs the steepest hill,
The wolf laps water from the rill.
Full half the forms that grace our land
Here live in peace on every hand,
Save for the fight that all must wage
For daily bread, their arts engage.
But man's destructive power's not known,
None 'wade through blood to reach a throne.'
And now fresh scenes break on my sight,
That fill my soul with fresh delight:
Flora and fauna now are new,
And quickly break on eager view,
As through the jungled rush and reed
My faithful boat is gaining speed.
The Mastodon, with tusks below,
Tear lily pads, where dense they grow;
Rhinoceroses plow the mire,
While three-toed horses never tire
Of testing moss beneath their feet.
There is no need of limbs to fleet;
If they can reach the swampy brink
Or some deep pool, they'll safely drink,
Saber toothed tiger stands at bay
And fears to try the watery way.
From glades or parks as I ride past,
The timid llama's glance is cast;
They gaze in wonder as I float
Before them in my birch-bark boat.
The trees and flowers I notice, too,
Are not like those that Kansas grew
When last I saw her shining shore
And bent my sinews to the oar.
I'm in the middle dawn, I see,
Of mammals and of greenwood tree,
Called Miocene by savant grave.
The palm and fig trees gently wave
Their crowning branches in the air.
Ah, see that serpent hanging there!
His glistening coils let me beware.
This is the age when mammals reign,
They fill the land and salty main;
As bats they fly from darkened tree;
Great whales are spouting out at sea;
While dolphins, seals and walrus fierce,
And Norwal, with drawn sword to pierce
His enemies who dare to brave
In mortal combat on the wave.
All the rich life of this rich age
Is graven on the rocky page.
And still my boat glides swiftly down
To early dawn, where mammals crown
The thickening ranks of life that's past:
We've reached the Eocene at last.
And now strange forms come into view,
None living like them now, 'tis true.
Great, lumbering beasts on every hand,
Five mighty toes are pressed to land.
They're plantigrade, like bear or man;
At least a foot their footsteps span;
And when your tale of horns is done,
I'll point out Loxolophodon.
Watch him there, at any rate,
And see those horns that are so great.
Three pairs adorn his mighty head,
On the great meadows he is fed;
His well fed body fat and sleek;
His re-curved tusks are quite unique.
I saw the type in Cope's old home,
When from Montana I had come.
Now lemurs swing among the trees,
Their fur is ruffled by the breeze;
While others stem the rising flood
That winds among the neighboring wood.
They catch the fish that swim around,
While crocodiles bask on the ground
Along the shore, on either side,
With open jaws extended wide.
Countless turtles now appear
On every side; they have no fear.
How beautiful their sculptured shell,
Grooved there, or pitted, marked so well
With patterns rare of many a form!
Some look like beads so often worn
To ornament a lovely throat.
Watch them dive beside the boat.
But see, out in that open part,
A Phaenocodus swiftly dart!
He drags a lengthening tail behind,
And flies as on the wings of wind.
I wonder what has made him run.
I see- a huge Corophodon.
But ere they come to mortal fight,
My boat takes me far out of sight.
Most all the beasts I see on shore
Have five toes, behind, before.
But now comes one that walks on three,
Though rudimental ones I see,
Like dew-claws on a recent dog,
My bark-glides in the rising fog,
And when the flood and plain are clear,
I've left the mammals in the rear.
I cross the wondrous border line,
The greatest landmark left by Time,
Between the age of Mammals and
The one where Reptiles ruled the land:
They swam and floated in the air.
The puny mammals that were there
Were small and primitive, indeed;
To notice them there'll be no need.
I'm floating in a bayou wide,
With palmettos on either side,
While here and there a fig tree full
Of luscious fruit;- toward one I pull
And load my boat, whose gunwales sink
Quite closely to the water's brink.
But see that mass of foam so white!
A swimming Reptile heaves in sight,
While two strong arms the waters churn.
A duck-billed head, whose eyeballs burn,
A great, broad body like a boat,
In which air chambers help to float;
While mighty limbs, eight feet in length,
And fifteen feet of tail, show strength;
Vibrating like a mighty screw,
As through the waves our saurian flew.
On shore a troop comes down to drink,
On solid sand that reached the brink;
Their faces armed with three great horns,
Far larger than the unicorn's;
While monstrous head, seven feet in length,
Is a sure symbol of their strength.
On pillared limbs their weight is borne,
Deep footprints in the earth are worn.
But on we glide, while reptiles strange
On every side our thoughts engage.
While from this old Cretaceous shore
The Jura stretches out before.
Great plesiosaurs, of mighty limb,
Out in the ocean safely swim;
While ammonites, with painted sail,
Are wafted by the passing gale.
I've left fresh water in my wake,
My course through deep blue waters take.
But ere I leave the jungled shore,
I hear the earth resound once more
'Neath tread of thunder-lizard dread.
But on my boat has swiftly sped,
The flora changes on the land
And tree ferns lift their pillars grand.
Lepidodendrons' bushy crests
Wave back and forth, together pressed;
While sponge-moss hangs in festoons gay
Across the thickly planted way,
Or covers ground with carpets rare,
On which I trace my steps with care.
Yes! a landing I have made
Beside a lovely Permian glade.
A score of million years are fled
Since my imagination led
To go into my birch-bark boat,
And on Time's Tide to gently float
Far down the stream to Permian day,
And cast my anchor in the bay.
The Angiosperms have not appeared,
But rush and reed great trunks have reared;
Conifers, that are growing here,
Bring back my thoughts to recent year.
The reptiles are of lowly mien,
While salamanders large are seen,
And Cope himself gave one name:
Eryops now is known to fame.
He drags his form through mossy clay,
And toward the water makes his way,
For he can live in watery home
Or through the heated jungle roam;
For gills and lungs his heritage,
On water, land, his battles wage.
Amphibians, monarchs of the earth
They reigned, ere higher life had birth.
One leaves a deep trail in his wake,
Then plunges in the nearby lake.
See waters part, and a strange band
Now leave the flood to come on land;
Their heads shaped like a quarter moon,
While two great horns provide the room;
For while on shore their course they take,
A pathway through the moss they break
With their strong horns of solid bone,
Re-curving from their heads have grown.
Their eyes lie far down in the face-
A character of all their race;
While condyles placed behind,
With two on atlas, you will find.
See now along this mossy bank
Are hundreds of another rank.
A foot they span in length, or more;
I've seen these creatures oft before.
Their little heads could enter in
A woman's silver thimble's rim.
Their snake-like forms seem free of feet,
So slender, and so lithe and neat.
The time has come, so they will make
A nest in which to hibernate.
'Neath the bright moss in softest clay,
Slow and sure they cut their way,
And after much incessant toil,
In their small homes they quickly coil.
Alas! they never more will race
Along the shore's steep, mossy face;
I'll dig their bones in nodules round
Near Coffee Creak, in the red ground.
Batrachians, or Amphibians, strange
Have here attained their highest range.
I see these creatures everywhere,
And not to step on them use care.
In recent years they shun the light
And hide in caves or wells from sight.
But here, in densely wooded land,
Along the bayou's shining strand,
Or mossy swamps that spread around,
Or sullen streams that here abound,
These ancient forms rule everywhere:
A race now helpless, then would dare
To battle e'en with reptiles rare,
Who then began their great career,
And later on would know no fear.
I need not here in covert lie,
For no beast fears the human eye.
Through the bright wood's flowery face
A form breaks through- one of this race.
Now a strange reptile I will con,
It is Cope's great Dimetrodon.
His spines abnormally rise high
In crescent form- I wonder why.
In center they're three feet or more-
Have any seen such spines before?
He moves along with agile grace,
As he's engaged upon the chase
Of Labidosaurus;- what a race!
And though this reptile small may be,
He is a running mystery.
Broad archéd bones project behind,
And rounder eyes midway are found,
While muzzle pinched to narrowest space
Presents a most peculiar face.
Four shining teeth in front, so trim,
Give to the face a constant grin.
While jaws below, armed just the same,
Pass like two knives held in a frame,
And shear his food to finest shred,
When on rich mosses he has fed.
Alas! these scenes are fading fast.
I have returned to camp at last.
My tent is pitched at Willow Spring,
And here my labors will begin.
Some years ago, in ninety-two,
When Coffee Creak came into view,
Along the Vernon county road
Some cheerful farmers then abode.
Galyean, if I remember right,
With pleasant home and children bright,
Was settled just south of the bridge,
(While other homes were on the ridge.)
A little store before their door,
And post-office, brought all once more
In closer touch with the great world
Where stars and stripes lie all unfurled.
A schoolhouse, where the children, too,
Learned how to read, like me or you.
And where my humble tents now stand
Were the McBrides, another band
Who came to dress and till the land.
Through these farms the Chisolm trail
Gave echoes of the awful tale,
When countless feet of every age
Performed their fearful Pilgrimage.
This trail to them then had no end,
While further north their footsteps bend.
From furthest south to northern line,
From the great gulf's broad, watery brine,
From the warm air and sunny day,
Where rifted snow-bank coldly lay:
Shall I forget, on Kansas plain,
This trail baptized with blood and pain!
A mighty drove- I see it still;
No water since the Smoky Hill
Was crossed, some twenty miles behind.
A cloud of dust raised by the wind
And tread of countless weary feet.
Their ponies' sides the cowboys beat,
To reach the water on ahead
Before the cattle rile its bed.
With hats in hand, they hope to dip
Some water for their parching lip.
Too late! for the stampeded band
Force out the cowboys on the land,
And they, ere coveted drink can gain,
Forced out by others, just the same;
Last of the herd's sore-footed crew,
'Round precious stream their ranks they drew.
Along that trail I saw next day
Full forty calves that dying lay
From the hot sun or lack of food-
An awful death! Thy pity, Lord!
To man, dominion has been given
O'er all the beasts beneath Thy heaven;
Yet how unworthy of the trust!
They're sacrificed for money's lust.
And man is treated just the same:
When last to Permian brakes I came,
The farm McBride grubbed out with care
Shows not his labors anywhere,
Save, where his pleasant home had stood,
Foundation stones and rotting wood;
And where full twenty homes, or more,
Paid tribute to the little store,
Not one is left of all the score.
One cattleman has power to wield
O'er thousand sections in one field,
While Texas' countless farmless men
Give up their homes for cattle pen.
Hundreds of fossil forms I've found
In this rich field of Permian ground-
The ones I showed you in my dream,
While many others I have seen.
In 'Munich all thy banners wave'
Above the old red Permian grave;
On this side the Atlantic shore,
In 'Cope's Collection,' what a store!
American Museum's stately pile
These wondrous records keeps on file.