Dinosaur Tracks

"Hi Katie,” Rory said over the phone. “I'm leaving Flagstaff in a few minutes. I'll be there in an hour and a half. Where can I meet you?"

"At the dinosaur tracks. Do you remember seeing them?"

"Yeah, it's the place with the t-rex painted on the shed, right?"

"Yep right off the highway, you can't miss it. I'll be waiting with bells on."

"I'd rather have you with nothing on," he joked.

"Me too, soon baby," she promised. She was running around doing last minute rallying for the spay and neuter clinic happening tomorrow. Now she could arrange her last stop west of town at the tourist attraction and bring him home for lunch. That was her plan for her man.

Rory was on his way back to Navajo country to see Katie. They'd been apart for almost four weeks, and he spent the last few of them beating himself up for his lapse with Jen. The only good thing was the fact that in the few times he had seen Jen since she acted as if nothing ever happened. He appreciated her for that, opting to forget it and not get Katie involved. Besides that, he just stayed the night in Jen's Flagstaff condominium. She was gracious enough to allow him and Katie to use it if they needed. She even handed him the key and made him put it on his key ring.

There's nothing there for her to get upset over so I just won't tell her, he decided as he followed Katie's directions to the dinosaur tracks.

Katie stood waiting in the stiff breeze for Rory to join her. They had only been apart for a short while, but she missed him and was excited to see his face close to hers again. She turned and placed a hand over her eyes to shield them from the bright sun. The dinosaur tracks started only a short distance from the parking lot. There were dozens of three-toed footprints the size of dinner plates. Millions of years earlier prehistoric behemoths stepped in wet sand along a beach. Those prints had been preserved for millennia.

She held her hand out for Rory as he climbed out of his car and ran to her. They hugged each other and turned when a lanky Navajo fellow in his early twenties came out of the wooden gazebo next to the dinosaur sign. A small terrier mix dog with shiny black hair followed him closely.

“Hi, I’m James. Do you want the guided tour? For both of you that will be five dollars.”

“Do you want to see this Rory?” Katie asked.

“We might as well we're already here.” Rory nodded.

Katie turned to James. “Hi James, I’m Dr. Katie, I’m working with Dr. Holgate, and this is my boyfriend, Dr. Evans.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Rory said nodding. He was digging in his pocket for a five-dollar bill. He found it and gave it to his new friend.

“Thanks,” James said. Grabbing a water bottle, he turned back to them. “Ready?”

They nodded following him past the woodshed with the yellow dinosaur painted on it to the million-plus-year-old artifacts. They walked close to him so they could hear him over the wind. The small black dog followed them staying next to James.

“So how old are these tracks?”

“Two hundred million years. Something like twenty different dinosaurs from several different species, large and small, full-grown and young, two-legged, three-toed carnivores walked here crisscrossing each other’s paths in all directions. Next the prints were covered over with a protective silt that was finer than the sand.”

“What did the Native American ancestors think of the tracks James?” Rory asked.

“It fits right in with the creation story. Remember giant lizards inhabited the Fourth World? This place was Naasho’illbahitsho Biikee or Place of the Big Lizard Tracks. Monsters ruled the land, including terrible lizards.”

“But how does that fit into your creation story?” Rory wondered.

“The first human born in the Fourth World, Asdzaa Nadleehe, gave birth to twin boys, Naayééʼ Neizghání, Monster Slayer, and Tóbájíshchíní, Born For Water. They grew up to be the Twin Heroes. Battles between the Twins and the monsters took place all over the Navajo World. Each time the Twins prevailed. They buried the beasts in the ground and turned them to stone. Eventually, the Twins rid the world of monsters and people inherited the Earth.”

“This is limestone we are walking on,” James explained referring to the buff colored red rock that was all around them in this corner of the world. They were walking on a dried up lake bed, now just an expansive red rocky, windy plateau with fossils in it.

Footprints of animals of different sizes formed depressions in the red limestone. James bent down and squirted water into the ancient prints to better outline them.

“No one worries about foot traffic?” Rory asked as they walked over and on top of the two hundred-million-year-old exhibits.

“It's rock,” James said. “See this group here? This was a raptor family; father, mother and baby,” he said circling a group of large medium and tiny three-toed prints with a stream from his water bottle.

“How does he know they were all related?” Rory asked quietly.

“I told you there were discrepancies. Still, it’s really neat to see this,” Katie whispered back.

“Come this way.” James led them a hundred yards up a dry streambed where a twenty-foot circle was outlined by a rocky cairn. It appeared to be a fossilized gravesite with some of the bones of the deceased protruding from the red stone. “Here is the rear end of a raptor,” James said.

“It looks like a hip and two thigh bones,” Katie surmised.