Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sad and Happy Good-byes

So hard to say goodbye!

Have you ever had one of those projects at work that when you first got it, you thought, "yeah, I got this....we'll have it done in a week!"  And then 2 weeks later you were still working on it and looking at what you had completed in comparison to what you still had to do...and then another 2 weeks later all you want to do is curl up and cry in a corner...anyone else have that happen?  Gosh I hope that isn't just me....

Here's how the last 4 weeks started....when I first started working in Havre, my boss handed us a large TOPO map of the Marias River west of Highway 87.  All of the BLM managed land was outlined, and then he went so far as to print off terrain maps of the areas for us.  And, just for good measure, he wrote down the acreage for each of the BLM lands.  He then left it up to us to decide where we wanted to start.  I thought that part was pretty sweet, as it gave us the freedom to chose how we wanted to approach over 2,000 acres of land......

At first we figured we start at the furthest points from Highway 87 and work our way toward the highway.  And then we started looking at roads and realized that the further we get from the highway, the fewer roads we can use.  So!  We decided we'd just start with the largest area by the highway and work our way out.  There technically isn't a minimum of area we need to get done, but we do want to try to get a sampling of what kinds of sites are located along the river.  Well, there I was, looking at the map thinking "660 acres.....1 square mile....yeah, we got this in a week...."  But no!  Here we are, 4 weeks later, still in the same 660 acres.

Pin flag quiver!!!!  And antlers.  
At some point last week I was becoming  a grumpy face about working out there.  I literally dreaded having to go.  Even my fun field pack wasn't making me happy.....after all the time I spent trying to figure out the best way to carry the pin flags, I finally realized I could make them sit in my bag like arrows in a quiver.  Then, when I found something, I could dramatically take a pin flag out.  I even made a swishy sound effect in my head....maybe sometimes out loud.  But, the terrain sucked, with eroding hillsides, super thick prairie grass, and so much sagebrush that walking through it was tricky (we have to not only step up and over the bushes while trying not to trip over them, but they are also prime snake habitat, so....yeah....a tad stressful). Not even my pin flag quiver was making me happy.

Archaeology is labor intensive, and physically exhausting.  I mean, yes, it is a fun adventure where you try to find something new.  But it involves walking (sometimes in unpleasant terrain), finding stuff (which takes a lot of concentration), and digging (except not really on this job).  All of that while carrying your field pack with you, which, depending on the location and job, could include:  enough water to last you all day, lunch, sunblock, bug spray, measuring tape, clip board, pin flags, camera, gps, maps, compass, Trimble, radio, phone, field notebook, pencils....i'm sure there's more.  My field pack on an all day trek in the heat probably weighs 25-30 pounds.  

So, I was exhausted from archaeology, and I was getting tired of going to the same area that never seemed to end.  I all but begged to go to the field on Monday, rather than sit in the office, just to get it over with.  And oh my gosh I am so happy I did, because we managed to knock out the last huge plateau in 2 days!  Of course, it was both because of our awesomeness and the complete lack of stuff in the area.  

I have never thought I'd be happy to NOT find anything....well....not nothing.  On one section of the plateau we found a lot of snake skins (try 6 or 7).  So, I officially dubbed that plateau "Snake Skin Plateau."  Now, anyone who goes there will know what to expect.  Then the other plateau became known as "The Plateau of Death," or maybe we should make it "The Plateau of the Dead."  Either would be appropriate as we found dozens of bones from a cow scattered all over the plateau, including ribs, tibias, femurs, knuckle bones......the skull....some with butcher marks others with gnaw markings.  Doesn't that make you feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy?  Then, I found two antlers.  I do like finding bones...animal bones, not human.  

Whole lot of's been sweet, but i'm out!
But yeah, though the whole lot of nothing was kind of annoying, it is just as useful in archaeological analysis as finding stuff.  Though we didn't find anything on the north end of the plateau we did find cairns along the southern section of it.  The only problem was, it wasn't on BLM lands, so technically we don't do anything with them.   But, when it comes time to write the report, we'll have to at least mention these cairns, especially since the cairns were in line with cairns we found several days ago, in our area.  As of right now, I have no idea what the hell is going on in this area, but I have a feeling that the cairns lined the southern and western sections because that is where the access point is.  Makes sense to put lookout points arounds the access area.  But, we also still need to see how the cairns we found here, line up with cairns and tipi rings found on the other plateaus.  Sometimes I prefer the analysis part of archaeology because you get to be all theoretical and smart and stuff.

On top of finally finishing the 660 acres, our horsey friends were back!  I love them!  And I thought they loved me too, but then they snuck behind the truck trying to follow it through the gate.  They don't love me, they were using me to escape.  Unfortunately for them, funny horsey faces nuzzling into my shirt is NOT enough to distract me.  I foiled their plans, gave them one last pat on their soft little noses and said good-bye.  I was a little sad....our horsey friends will not be seen again.....but then I remembered that we were getting a 3 hour early release today and proceeded to drive as fast as I dared in a government vehicle back to Havre.  :)

Funny horsey faces!!  Love him!
Caught trying to eat the truck!

It's like Where's Waldo....only with a 4-door 4x4 GMC truck.
Smartest Horse in the World loves my hair.  

Horse boogies.
I think the Black and White Paint horse tried to lick his way through the windshield........

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