"Lesley, what is that white thing over there?" she asked, almost at a whisper and barely turning her head. Only her eyes gave the slightest indication of a direction to look for something white.
At the time, a group of us were looking for the second antler, the match of the one a co-oper found in the snow last month. We will always be looking for that second antler, I think. So as you can imagine when she asked about something white, we all jumped to attention, but there was something in her voice and her eyes. Like she didn't want to look directly at the something white. What she saw was a skull and she knew what it was. What she was asking for was a bit of comfort and some explanation. I pushed aside my excitement, I mean how many times had we crossed by this section of our Blue House site and missed this treasure?? I had to adjust for a moment. There was a something, a despair, some confusion, or wonder that this child was feeling. She could not look directly at the skull and see past the question, "Is that dead?" or "How did this die?" or something. She was thinking something. Whatever it was, it wasn't "Yay, I have found a skull!"
"Let's take a look. It's a skull, but we don't know of what animal."
And as children will, they immediately jumped in with the absolute knowledge that they had discovered a fossilized skull. "Let me see. I am going to be a paleontologist, so I should look at it first," stated one of the other girls.
"I am too! Let me see," shouted one of the boys.
Well, with all these experts on the scene, you could feel our discoverer's shoulders lift. Her face brightened. Of course, with all this interest and ease in picking up the thing and holding it. How could we be afraid??
So now all we had to do was figure out what it was. We studied it there, keeping an eye out for other clues in the area. Were there more bones, perhaps fur or feathers? One of the children voiced the question the discoverer wouldn't give voice to, "How did it die?"
There, that was out of the bag. So much discussion followed and it always starts with volcanoes and meteorites, doesn't it? I mean, with so many paleontologists on the scene, surely we would go straight to the great dinosaur die-off!!! One of the children wondered if it was shot dead with a gun. No way to tell, but probably not was the vote.
We took the skull back to school. The next day, I printed out multiple views of cat, raccoon, and fox skulls. The children set about comparing snouts, eye holes, and comparing and counting teeth. They came to conclusion that the skull belonged to a raccoon. Who knows how it died.
It was probably a volcano.