Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fossils at Gray, Tennessee Discovered By Road Crew in 2000


Follow the Photographs to Learn Part of the
                                Gray Fossil Site Story.
It started in year 2000 when a crew was working to improve the road and came upon soil that seemed out of place. In the soil were found fragments of bones and plant remains. Fortunately, East Tennessee State University was nearby and with the fossil site confirmed, a new university department was developed and the laboratory was the Miocene fossil dig near the town of Gray. Students at the university now have hands-on experience in the recovery, identification and preservation of prehistoric remains. Like a dream come true, a new professor soon had his own department at the University, along with museum and on-site facilities.  This appears a win-win for paleontology (and associated sciences) as well as for the university, students, perhaps for a local farm and for those state government people assigned to promoting tourism in the state of Tennessee.
Shown under construction 1 year ago, the educational and visitor annex to the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum  is now open. Paleontology is fascinating to school children and the annex is provided with a classroom to accommodate 100.
The fossil site is a prime location for school field trips 
and is a hands-on laboratory for ETSU students.

For us other folks, the Gray Fossil Museum at the site is easy to get to off I-81 in Tennessee. Type “Gray Fossil Site, Suncrest Drive, Gray, TN” into an Internet map provider site such as Google Maps, get directions and visit if you are in the area. We did that in 2010 and totally enjoyed seeing the actual digging areas and the assembled critters on display.  Since it was late fall, student work was suspended until the coming spring.

The Miocene Epoch is said to cover time from 23.8 to 5.3 million years ago. The Gray Fossil Site is said to be from the late part of that epoch, only 7 to 5.3 million years ago. Yikes, that is recent!

Bones found are not turned to rock as commonly thought in fossils. These are actual bones and must be carefully preserved. Using what is apparently cold molding compounds, molds are made of the relics and then copies are cast in the molds. The original bones are much too fragile and valuable to be assembled into a mock-up of a prehistoric animal, therefore the castings are used for this purpose. Great care is required to make the fossil bone castings as close to the appearance of original bones as possible.

Links below tell much more about the find than I do here on the blog. There are no dinosaurs in the find because it is much too young in prehistoric years. The animals are types of ancient camels, rhinos, bears, tapirs, sloths, turtles, lizards and others. There are even prehistoric panda bones including the skull.

The original hole is in the rear with the unusual dark soil showing. At middle right is a test hole.

Shown full of water run-off, this is a productive pit. A prehistoric Rhinoceros was found here. When weather allows continued digging, who knows what prehistoric creature may be found.

Skull and jawbone of prehistoric Bristol Panda found at the Gray fossil site
with modern bones for comparison

This information below is quoted directly from the “Educator’s Guide” which may be downloaded from the Gray Fossil Site website at the link shown:  “The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) discovered the Gray Fossil Site in May 2000 during routine road construction. Workers uncovered a deposit of soft black clay that is not typically seen in our region. They found that the black clay was not suitable for road construction so they called in TDOT geologists for technical advice.
The geologists examined the black clay deposit and found a large number of animal bones and plant remains. They also discovered that the deposit was layered in the same manner as pond or lakebed sediments. These lacustrine (or lake formed) sediments accumulate in slack or still water from silt that sinks to the bottom of the body of water. Leaves and twigs also sink to the bottom adding to the organic ooze. This ooze provides an excellent environment for the preservation and fossilization of plant and animal remains….”

The man in the middle left is working on assembly of parts of a tortoise or turtle shell found broken and partially crushed.  Can you imagine the precise work needed to do this job and the patience required by the student worker?

This is a cast replica of a Rhino skull. You will see assembled skeleton forms of several types of animals at the museum. The white containers are safe storage for the many fossil remains  found in the black clay at the dig.


The photographs  in the blog post are from a visit in November 2010.  I wonder how the same places look now, one year later?

As we left, there in a field next to the Museum boundary was a home made sign. It said something like The Fulkerson Farm  Fossil Site. .
In September of 2011, a press announcement stated that acreage was purchased from the Fulkerson Farm by the Museum to allow fulfillment of coming development.
Link to the press article with photos:

This view is beside and looking beyond the fossil site toward farmland in the distance. Dirt first excavated for the road project was put here and all will eventually be sifted and examined for the tiniest fossil relics. The yellow bags in the left are full of soil awaiting further examination.

Thomas Haynes is a photographer working out of Clinton, Tennessee, a city just north of Knoxville. His photography is often of a fine arts direction but as in this post, his love of nature takes him again to the Clinch River Raptor Center, a rehabilitation and educational not-for-profit organization.. Visit Thomas and see more of his photography at  Facebook

 Contact Thomas to discuss photography you want done. 


Monday, October 24, 2011

Older Red-tailed Hawk, a true lady hawk

Mildred is an educational bird living at the Clinch River Raptor Center and has been previously featured on this blog.  This is posted only to show a new and fine photograph of her. She is affectionately called Millie. The eye color is that of an adult Red-tailed; in juveniles the iris is light colored as shown in an earlier post.

The watermark across the photo is unfortunately necessary to help prevent ripping of the image for uses not approved by the copyright owners. Educational  uses are generally approved for photos on this blog and can be provided in small file sizes without the watermark suitable for viewing on a computer screen. As always, prints may be purchased, printed without watermark, photo developed on archival Kodak or Fuji papers.  E-mail me if you have questions about the photographs or in general about something on the blog.

 She is getting older but doing well..a lovely Red-tailed Hawk.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Much Force Did It Take To Crack This Steel...9/11

This steel section is a permanent installation in front of a high school, a memorial and reminder from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center from 09-11-2001.
Twin Towers Broken Steel Beam
Click Photo to see the detail tail in this Steel from 9/11 
I was amazed looking at the cracks in the steel. The memory is still too fresh.
Nine eleven, 9/11, 911, however it is said... I was not  sure how to classify this photograph but decided on "historical".  The other choice was "horror".  We are hopefully stronger than that and were proven not to be crippled by the horror of the day.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Tennessee Farm and the Man Who Loved It ..tractors, trucks, kinfolks

The Strong Old Man Bought the Farm.

One of the barns and an out-building.  
Farm cats found the barns made a good home.

There is a dogwood tree planted in his memory. On the marker below the name and dates is this simple line:  “He Bought the Farm”.   For those who do not know, to buy the farm is like kicking the bucket, to bite the dust, to croak, to give up the ghost, to go to a better place and other colloquial expressions about death and dying. Each culture must have similar expressions.

I say this man bought the farm twice.  That is why the expression is on the memorial marker. His wife told me he would appreciate the message. He was a stern man at times, a real talker all the time, a thinking man and a man whom I dearly loved. My point of view of his personality was tempered differently than those of his several children.  He told me he was likely too hard on them, too much of a disciplinarian in their growing years.  He had softened in the later years when I knew him best.  We became good friends, years apart and many experiences apart yet good friends with a strong mutual respect for each other.

A bluebird house next to a storage shed, seen on a foggy morning

He wanted a small farm.  This would be a place to spend time working and thinking and taking in the peace of the land.  He bought that farm and spent much time using his extensive mechanical knowledge and skill to refurbish and fix-up.  There was always a garden too large to give proper care, hay fields to mow and a huge patch of blackberries ready for the picking in season.  With the blackberries came the occasional chigger bite but the berries were abundant and delicious.  There were also Mulberry trees, a strange tree for anyone who sees the fruit for the first time. Hanging from the tree are fruits that look like long blackberries, delicious, hard to get to on higher branches and proven to stain fingers a blood red.  Those berries appear hanging in the wrong place, on a tree instead of a bush.

An old Dodge truck, painted in John Deere colors
He spent his time redoing the farmhouse, fixing up here and there on out buildings, mowing the fields and watching wild turkeys and deer pass by. He loved the farm and it kept him going strong most of the time until he bought the farm the second time

You might want to imagine this as a simple country home or a place to go when you want to get away from the busy life. In imaginary places, you don’t have the daily chores or the weekend given to re-boarding the large porch around half the house, replacing worn electrical wires and repairing the well. In an imaginary country get away, you go and do what you want around the house and barns. You walk through the fields and into to woods, stirring up a few deer along the way or a fox, perhaps.  There is a good chance Brer Rabbit was in the blackberry patch.

Tree row in early morning fog:
A good time to see deer in the field nearby

In reality, this man went to the farm to get stuff done... he liked the work and fix’n up the old place. He got as much joy from that as anything else about his farm. He understood what makes a tractor work, how to tune the engine or fix a broken hitch and make the mower actually mow the fields.  In some years, he invited kids and their families out for fall cookouts and hayrides around the farm.

Smoked chicken for a July 4th feast, along with fried corn, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers and all the salad fix'ns and ice cream...typical for a get-together.  At this time, the old man was gone and the marker was at his dogwood tree.

As more years passed,  the hayride events stopped but he stayed active tinkering and fixing, always enjoying driving his tractor around the far field across the creek then back up around the barns. He liked to restore and improve the place and indeed he did that up to a week before his last day. I was out there and watched him drive the tractor up the field along the tree rows to the barn . 

Once in a while family and friends spend a day together at the farm.  There is still a garden an it is still almost too large to handle. He would likely have something to say about that.  He always did have something to say, up to the day he bought the farm the second time. 


Thomas Haynes is a photographer working out of Clinton, Tennessee, a city just north of Knoxville. His photography is often of a fine arts direction but as in this post, his love of nature takes him again to the Clinch River Raptor Center, a rehabilitation and educational not-for-profit organization.. Visit Thomas and see more of his photography at  Facebook

 Contact Thomas to discuss photography you want done. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Do Animals Have a Soul? Do pets and animals go to Heaven?

There is a discussion on the “Pet Friendly, Animal Lovers” group forum on LinkedIn asking this question: "Does everyone here believe that their pets have souls? I had a Minister once tell me they didn't….” You might need to log-in to read; I am not certain if log-in is needed. Here is a link. 

This is a tough one. The words in biblical passages of Judaism and Christianity are not clear in translation and same words are sometimes used in different context, from a spiritual entity to the essential "spirit of man", the living substance and the nature of living things. Yet, there is sufficient teaching of an afterlife for the spirits of mankind. The soul in that context is that part which transcends to afterlife which is the center focus of the question. So, the question is, "Do animals have a spirit which will be in an afterlife following earthly death?"
We are going to heaven but we want a home here first!
Note to Atheists: Atheists reading this blog post, please sit back and hear out what might be babbling to you or move on. I have no problem with your reading this and hope you do; I simply cannot believe that God does not exist and  does not work in my life.

I believe the God of my faith has great concern for His creation and has made provision of an afterlife for animals and what creatures suit his desires. I see the covenant to Noah after the great flood being given to the creatures, to the earth, not only to man. In some translations, as the covenant with “the rainbow memory jogger” is given, it is to the creatures first and then to mankind. And passages say the creation longs for a new existence beyond our cycle of birth and decay. The creation is clearly important to God and creatures actually must give some form of accounting of their actions according to their nature, something way beyond my ability to reason and state in any knowing manner beyond this sentence.
Fanciful Imagination of a Dove 
Flying a Spirit to Heaven
Gold in quartz gem, sterling silver and 18k gold
There is not a way to say no or yes. Those who demand the “People yes, animals no” answer have placed mankind in a rather arrogant position and have missed the place of the creation in the will of God. Those who demand YES are hopeful but proof is in believing, not in biblical evidences. We simply do not know the answer.

People have posted to the LinkedIn forum stating a belief in the souls of their pets and that those will be with them in heaven. The bible teaches than there will be no husband and wife relationships in heaven, the implication being we will not know who we were before in relation to other saved souls. The total inexplicable joy of heaven itself is so great there is no room or need for earthly thoughts. Will our pets be there? Again, I do not have an answer. Could be.. or it could be creatures are in a spiritual world made for them and not the heaven for saved human souls. We really have almost no answers to the questions of animals and souls.
This photo was taken in 2010 when a group of folks I know gave a substantial truck load of needed food and other items to a local animal shelter. The puppy was adopted that day.

 If you want to comment on this topic, please do. If you can in some way enlighten me, please do that, also.

Of course, my primary concern is for human souls, believing as a Christian that God does have a heaven afterlife for those who do His will.  Getting to heaven is not a check list completed, having membership in any particular brand-name church organization or simply believing He will save everyone.  Heaven is a biblical teaching and that same teaching source includes how God wants people to live and love to receive His graceful forgiveness and place in heaven.


THE FOLLOWING IS A CURIOSITY INCLUDED BECAUSE OF THE “No Soul” TEACHING.  It is quite possible to have a faith based on God and Bible and believe we have no soul.


A few years ago I was handed a leaflet from a group of religious folk who filled my small front porch. I did not discuss with them but took the leaflet. The question on the cover went something like this: How Do You Know You Are in the Right Church? I found the answer inside. Ready for this one?

The leaflet stated boldly “If your church teaches you have a soul you are in the wrong church.” This literature quite forcefully stepped on the toes of about any religion recognized in the Jewish/Christian realm. No Christian denomination of which I am aware was left with toes intact. All were quite violently pounded by this “truth”. Telling believers the foundation of their personal self which will go to heaven by the judgment of God…the soul…does not exist is the opposite of good marketing methods. 

In fairness to those on the doorstep, they believe not in "going to heaven" but in  a paradise on earth occupied by their members living in transformed bodies. Apparently that transformation requires no soul.   It will take research to find out if animals are included in the "paradise on earth" belief, research I will leave to someone with more free time. I will not be in "paradise" because membership is exclusive to their sect. A specified number of their group will actually go to heaven while the rest remain in the newly formed paradise.

This information is included to that show at least one well known "bible based" religious organization believes humans have no soul and is content with that belief.  They believe in afterlife for their members but not in "hell" for the others. Instead of hell and punishment, the unsaved apparently go poof into oblivion.
Surely, we must all remain open minded with hearts of love for others, spending more time in service for humankind and stewardship of this creation. I am less concerned on how God adapts the soul for eternal life than knowing He does make that promise to his children.