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Submitted by Dave Free on 26 February 2007 - 9:35pm.

"I want to go!" Madison said from the kitchen table where she was doing homework.

"Me too!" Elena said putting down the onion she was chopping for dinner and turning to the sink to wash her hands.

Jeremy and his Dad were in the mudroom, pulling on their helmets. Jeremy's dad stuck his head in the door of the kitchen, "Only if your mom says it’s okay."

In unison the two girls turned to their Mom who was browning hamburger in a skillet on the stove. "Please mom, can we?" they begged.

Mom looked back, thought a minute, then reached up and shut off the stove. "I'm not staying home alone. Let's all go see Jeremy's bones!"

The girls raced for the mudroom and squeezed through the door at the same time.

Mom took off her apron and followed them. "Maddie, you'll have to finish your math tonight. That packet has to go in the mail tomorrow." she said as she grabbed her helmet.

"I will Mom. I promise." Madison replied as she shot out the door. Jeremy and his sisters all "attended" an online school. Each week they got assignments from their teachers online. Throughout the week, with the help of mom and dad, they completed the assignments, or packets, and sent them to their teachers in the mail.

"Come on!" Jeremy yelled above the revving engine of his four-wheeler. He had been spinning "donuts" in the gravel while he waited for the rest of his family to get their gear. The sun was lowering quickly in the western sky and he was worried they wouldn't have enough time to see the bones before it got dark. Mom came out the door and yelled at him to “hold his horses.”

"But mom, it's getting dark!" Jeremy whined. "Hurry!"

"Oh, I forgot something!" his mom said pretending to go back in the house.

"Mom!" Jeremy wailed.

She turned back around with a mischievous grin on her face and laughed. "Just kidding!" she said and ran to the shed where they kept the four-wheelers.

Jeremy shook his head and smiled. His parents were crazy, but he had to admit it was a fun crazy. Elena and dad came out of the shed on their four-wheelers. A few minutes later Mom and Maddie came out in the "Rhino." The Rhino was a four-wheeler that looked more like a little Jeep than a four-wheeler. It had seats, seat belts and a steering wheel. Mom was driving, Maddie was strapped in the passenger seat and Blue was in the back with his tongue hanging out. They sped right past the others and yelled, "Who's holding us up now?" Chickens ran clucking in every direction. Jeremy, Elena and dad quickly followed.

By the time the road crossed the dry creek bed, Jeremy had managed to catch up with and pass his Mom. It wasn't easy. Mom was a maniac when she got behind the wheel, especially in the Rhino. Jeremy turned off the gravel road into the dry creek bed and stopped. The Rhino pulled up next to him while they waited for dad and Ellie.

"Is there a fire somewhere?" dad asked as he pulled up.

"Sorry," mom replied sheepishly. "We were worried the bones might move before we got there." She winked at Jeremy.

"Funny." Jeremy replied, "C'mon, it's only about a mile up the creek." He flipped the visor on his helmet down and started up the sandy bottom of the creek. The others followed. They called it a creek, but it was really more of a wash. The only time water ran in it was after a good rain and sometimes during the spring runoff if it suddenly got warm and the snow in the mountains melted all at once. Like most rivers, the dry creek bed wound its way back and forth between the small hills and bluffs of the desert making it difficult to go very fast.

It seemed to Jeremy to take forever, but it was just ten minutes later when they arrived at the "wall." The wall was a cliff that rose twenty to thirty feet from the floor of the desert and went both directions as far as the eye could see. The wall wasn't made of solid stone like many cliffs, but of compressed dirt and rocks. In fact, to Jeremy it looked like the side of a huge multi-layered cake. There were layers and layers of different kinds and colors of sediment that had been laid down over thousands of years. It looked like some giant had cut into the cake and lifted up a piece so that all the layers could be seen. Now Jeremy and his family were looking up at that great piece of raised cake stretching across the desert.

The piece of cake, or wall, had a massive scar in it where the creek fell over the edge like melted frosting off a hot cake. Jeremy had rushed here last spring when the creek was running to see the water tumble over the edge and crash into the great pool at the bottom before flowing down the creek to the road. All that was left of the great pool now was a puddle in the bottom of a large empty bowl carved out of the desert floor. The bowl was round in shape except for a small flat side where it butted up against the wall. It was against this flat side that the puddle remained. It was surrounded by lush green grass that grew in sharp contrast to the dusty browns and muted greens of the desert.

As Jeremy reached the bowl, he turned right and drove along the edge toward the base of the cliff. When he reached the cliff he turned right again, and followed the wall north. His family followed closely behind. The cliff provided some protection from the wind but also blocked the sun that was now low in the western sky. Jeremy shivered a little and flipped up the tinted visor of his helmet so he could see better in the shadows but he didn't slow down. His mom wasn’t the only maniac! He was anxious to get to the bones before the light was completely gone. A few minutes later he let up on the throttle and started studying the wall carefully. He didn’t want to miss what he had found earlier.

It should be close, he thought to himself. He looked over his shoulder, the rest of his family was right behind him. It's right here somewhere. There it is! He jammed his right foot down on the brake. The four-wheeler skidded to a stop in the desert sand. His family pulled their machines up next to his. Jeremy took his helmet off, hung it on the handle bar and ran toward the wall.

"There it is can you see?" he said excitedly.

His family was busy climbing off their machines and taking off their helmets. Elena was the first one next to Jeremy and looked closely where he was pointing. "Whoa, it looks kind of like a huge beak." she said.

"Exactly!" Jeremy replied. "It's like it got buried alive and the weather has worn away enough of the dirt so just his nose is sticking out!"

"Well, I'll be dipped!" Jeremy's Dad was standing over them. "It's certainly not a cow's head, is it Jee?"

"Nope!" Jeremy beamed. "I told you there had to be dinosaur bones around here somewhere."

"I can't see!" Maddie had pushed her way between the others but wasn't tall enough to see the top of the beak sticking out of the wall. Dad bent over and lifted her up. She ran her fingers over the bone and then tried to scrape away more dirt. A few big clods broke loose and fell to the ground revealing what looked like a rather long snout.

"Cool!" Jeremy said and began to scrape away more dirt himself. Jeremy's dad put Madison down and began to help. The girls pitched in as well. Jeremy was like an over-protective parent reminding them all to be very careful and not damage the bones. A few minutes later they had plenty of good clean dirt under their fingernails and the entire skull of a dinosaur stared at them from the hole they had scraped in the side of the wall.

"I wonder what kind it is." Jeremy said in quiet awe.

"I don't know," his mom replied, "but I'm sure one of those hundreds of dinosaur books you have in your room holds the answer."

"Jee, will you grab the water out of the Rhino for me?" dad asked as he attempted to blow the dust off the skeleton.

Jeremy grabbed the five-gallon water jug they kept in the back of the Rhino for emergencies and shook it. "Empty Dad. I think we forgot to fill it after we helped that family last week on the highway."

"Rats!" dad replied, "I wanted to wash some more of this dirt off."

Jeremy jumped in the driver's seat of the Rhino, fired it up and spun around. "There's still water at the bottom of the bowl. I'll run get some and be right back." Without waiting for a response, he spun the tires and headed back the direction they had come. The sun was setting and light was fading fast. Jeremy turned on the lights of the Rhino and sped toward the bowl. He didn't slow at all as he reached the edge and the front tires of the little machine came off the ground. It landed with a clank and sped down the side of the bowl. Jeremy kept the gas on until he reached the bottom and then pulled it to a stop in the green grass. He made sure the headlights were pointed at the base of the wall where the water was. Then he grabbed the jug from the back of the Rhino and ran to the water. Unscrewing the cap, he knelt down next to the water and pushed the jug down until water could run into the spout. As he waited for the jug to fill, he looked around.

Though he had seen it from above many times, he had never actually come down to the bottom of the bowl before. The puddle was bigger than he expected and had actually worn away part of the wall and seemed to go back in underneath the wall. In the darkness, Jeremy couldn't tell how far it actually went. Even in the darkness, he could see the water was crystal clear. He reached down and touched it cautiously. It felt just like a perfect bath--not too hot not too cold. " Another spring!" he said out loud. "This isn't a puddle at all." He made a mental note to come explore the next time he was bored. The jug was nearly full. He pulled it from the water, put the cap on it and ran back to the Rhino. Firing it up, he sped back up the side of the bowl to his family.

The dust from his wheels hadn't settled by the time Jeremy was out of the Rhino and running the jug of water to dad. "That came from spring number eighteen," he said triumphantly.

"Eighteen?" dad replied as he unscrewed the cap. "You found another?"

"Yeah, that puddle at the bottom of the bowl, isn't a puddle. It's a spring."

"Was it hot?" Ellie asked as dad began pouring the water over the exposed nose of the dinosaur.

"Perfect for taking a bath." Jeremy responded. "Cool! Look how white those bones are!"

The water washed the remaining dirt from the bones leaving them a stark bright white. Though the sunlight was long since gone, the lights of the Rhino illuminated the white bones in sharp contrast to the dark surrounding soil.

"It looks like he's sticking his head out the window to look at us!" Maddie giggled and the others laughed with her.

"We better get back home." Mom finally said looking up at the dark sky. "You can come back tomorrow Jee, as soon as the sun comes up!"

"Mom, I can't leave it out here!" Jeremy protested. "What if something happens to him while we're gone?"

"He's not going anywhere without you bud. I'm sure he'll be fine tonight." dad said as he put his arm around Jeremy's shoulder. "I've got to hand it to you bud. You really found something amazing. We should probably call somebody at the university in the morning to come take a look. Who knows, maybe we'll start ranching dinosaurs!"

"Before we go, let's snap a picture!" mom called as she pulled her always-present digital camera from her pocket. "Everybody line up by the dinosaur." Jeremy, his dad, and two sisters all gathered around the skeleton and the mom snapped a picture. "Wait, don't move!" she called, "Let's try it with a flash." She snapped another and the bright light blinded them.

Jeremy turned and ran his fingers from the top of the dinosaur skull down the long snout and over the tip of the beak. Maybe it was just the breeze and the water dripping from the skull, but he imagined he felt a warm breath on his palm as he pulled his hand away. "I'll be back in the morning." he whispered and then turned and walked to his four-wheeler.

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