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Columnist Sharon Nesbit could have been an archeologist, but instead she rocked a typewriter.

NESBITBeing locked up and unable to do even the most normal things — excepting the drive-thru at the DQ for a hot fudge Sunday with peanuts — I am pondering life as an archaeologist.

Feel free to scoff. I am too chubby, my knees don't work, nor do my hands when they get cold. The notion of clambering into a cave over rocks where snakes live is silly, but if journalism hadn't grabbed me in my grade school years, archaeology was next on the list.

I watched the other night on public television the story of Luther Cressman, who broke all the known rules about early men and women in North America by finding evidence of human life in a cave near Fort Rock. He proved, in a pair of shoes, that people were here on this continent much longer than anyone thought.

Oregon has the oldest shoes in the world — sage brush sandals — right there at the University of Oregon in Eugene in the archaeology department museum. They are among our state's singular artifacts. Among other things, they and other findings, including fossilized poop, ultimately proved that human life was here when mastodons were around.

Even before Cressman, Thomas Condon showed up in The Dalles, hired as a preacher in a local church. He began to wander the hills along the John Day River finding a zoo of fantastic creatures trapped in rock and clay.

Until this week, I did not know that Cressman also was once a minister. Interesting times when science trumped creation stories in the Bible and people fought about it. Though not all. Native Americans offered creation tales that jibe with what we know now.

Just as soon as I can break out of Pandemic Prison, I will take a jaunt through John Day, Fort Rock and to Eugene in the footsteps of Condon and Cressman.

I became a budding archaeologist as a kid at the old sand rock, which served as a play structure on our farm at Madras. The towers and layers of sandstone emerged on the hillside to the west of our farm. Even an idiot could figure out that they had once stood in or near water. It quickly became our place to play, cowboys and Indians (some days we had real Indians) and cops and robbers. We ambushed each other from the top of the sandy pinnacles, layering the ancient rocks with fanciful history.

But we all knew where the tusk had been found. A mastodon or mammoth tusk, no one knows for sure, was found there by the generation before us who had lived on the farm. Right there, poking from the sandy soil and flaking pieces of ivory. The way the story goes, someone called either Eugene or Corvallis, talked to college folks, and scientists came out to Madras and got it.

That part of the story was fuzzy, but the site where the tusk emerged was still there, still littered with layers of ivory which we picked up and put in our pockets. I still have a piece. That was when I decided to be an archaeologist.

And then someone gave me an old typewriter.

Sharon Nesbit can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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