The T-Rex of Tsegi Canyon 1

January 28, 2016  |  Fantasy  |  Share

Leland Coe discovered he was nervous as he downed his second cup of coffee at the little café south of Kayenta. It’d been five years since he last walked in Tsegi Canyon. He’d spent the bulk of those years back east, occupying his first post-doctoral teaching position. He liked the work, but he’d missed northern Arizona badly. Taking a vacation to the place he thought as his spiritual “home” wasn’t an option; he needed every penny he could save for the research expedition he planned. Any time off was spent campaigning for financial support, in a world where money was less plentiful than in his father’s day.

Leland was a chip off the old block. Dr. Robert “Bob” Coe earned a reputation as one of the country’s foremost paleontologists. A colorful man in a worn Stetson, he, like several others, had been the model for Indiana Jones in the movies series. Bob’s whole life was paleontology, something his long-suffering wife and son had learned at first hand. Dr. Coe had made significant discoveries north of Tsegi Canyon in Utah and Wyoming, real dinosaur country. He’d unearthed one of the giant saurians, known back then as a brontosaurus, at a now famous site near Grand Junction, almost at the border of Colorado and Utah.

The Coe family was nominally based in Salt Lake City, but young Leland had gone to schools all around the country. His father had worked for a variety of institutions, from the Smithsonian to Harvard. As soon as young Leland could walk upright, Bob had placed a trowel in his hand and taught him to dig scientifically. No playground sandboxes for him. By the age of five, Leland could pronounce all the complicated names for creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. At ten, he was arguing the Big Bang theory and its effect on the dinosaurs. He played football after school, but only as a means of deploying excess energy. His fellow male students laughed at him affectionately, and the nickname “Professor” stuck to Leland for the rest of his life.

The waitress at the Anasazi Inn restaurant, Lily, walked over and offered him another cup of coffee. She spoke in Navajo and he replied in the same tongue, startling the Anglo family eating cheeseburgers at the table behind him. Leland and Lily shared a grin as she poured more liquid into his cup.
“Are you camping out there?” she asked, still speaking Navajo.

“Yeah. Got all my gear in the Explorer outside.”

“I hope you’re not planning on staying at the campground? I hear it’s real full this week.”

“No, I got a spot near there, but not in sight. You know me, too many tourists…”

Lily giggled and walked over to another table. Leland savored his coffee. Once he got into his work, he would be too busy most days to brew a pot.

(continued next week)


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