My father is a fossil hunter. He used to take us on digs with him when we were kids. We’d wake up early on a Saturday morning. My mother was in college and I sometimes wonder if she even knew what we were out doing.
My dad would dress us in jeans and long sleeved shirts with hats. It always seemed counterproductive to me as a kid, putting on a bunch of hot clothes in the hot summer sun. I never realized he was protecting us from the sun. I always thought he was trying to torture us.
We’d go to these limestone pits on the Gulf of Mexico in Tampa Bay. My dad drove a 1983 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. The kind with wood paneling.
My dad used to drive us directly up/down into the pits. The car had basically no off road capability and it’s turn basis was like a tank. I don’t know how he never flipped us or cracked an axle. Though we nearly died in rock slides in that car more than once.
We would spend the entire day out there. The white limestone caused a sort of snow blindness in the summer heat. There was nothing but white as far as the eye could see. It was like being in the desert but with a gulf breeze.
The bay was somewhere nearby. Sometimes we’d go rinse the limestone dust off in it. The water was sort of brown and warm. Like dirty bathwater. It’s how I always imagine the Gulf now. Like a giant warm, dirty bath.
At the end of the day, we’d have a bucket of fossils. Mostly agatized coral, fossilized coral, and mica.
We’d be sweaty, miserable, tired, hungry. I always felt like I was working on a UTI from trying to hold my pee as long as possible to avoid the humiliation of having to just pick a spot somewhere and go.
And when I closed my eyes during the drive home; I saw nothing but white. I can’t help but think it may have caused permanent damage to my retinas. It’s probably why I needed glasses and am now almost legally blind.
But looking back; those are the fondest memories I have with my father.