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Submitted by Dave Free on 26 February 2007 - 9:36pm.

"I thought you might be up early this morning." Dad was sitting in his easy chair studying as he did every morning.

"I think I know what kind it is dad!" Jeremy was still in his pajamas. His straw-blond hair stood straight out where he had slept on it, but there was no sleep left in his eyes as he sprinted over to his dad. He had a large open book in his hands. "Doesn't that look like the snout?" he asked pointing to a picture in his book.

Dad pulled his reading glasses down from the top of his head and studied the picture. "I think you're right. That looks just like it. It's got the beak and the big eyeholes. What's it called?"

"Or-NI-thuh-MI-mus" Jeremy attempted to sound it out. "It says it was one of the fastest and smartest dinosaurs."

"Now how can they tell that?" dad asked.

"Well it has a large brain cavity," Jeremy replied, "and it's bones are hollow. Plus they say is has hips like a bird--like an ostrich and an ostrich can run fast."

"I could use a larger brain cavity myself right now," dad said with a sigh. "If I don't figure out how to get the water right in those tanks we're going to end up with a lot of shrimpy shrimp that no one wants to buy."

Jeremy wasn't listening. He was already back in his bedroom pulling on his jeans and a sweatshirt. His walls were covered with posters and pictures of lacrosse players, sharks and dinosaurs. The lacrosse players were his older brothers Jake, Nate & McKay. They had taught Jeremy to play the game when he was just five. He had been pretty good, but now the only time he got to play was when the boys came home from school on break.

Jeremy grabbed his backpack and stuffed the dinosaur book in along with his pocketknife and a flashlight, then he headed for the kitchen. He grabbed a couple of frozen water bottles from the freezer where his Mom kept them ready for desert adventures. He thought about sitting down for a bowl of cold cereal but decided to grab a banana and a granola bar instead and headed out the door.

"I'm going back to the dig!" he called to his Dad over his shoulder. If his dad heard him, there was no response. Jeremy headed for the shop. There were a few more things he needed this morning. The sun wasn't up yet but the sky was beginning to brighten in the east. Blue ambushed Jeremy as he came around the corner of the shed. He jumped up and put both front paws on Jeremy's chest demanding his attention.

"Hello there boy! Ready to go dig some bones?" Jeremy rubbed his ears for just an instant and then pushed him off. "C'mon, we got to get out there before the sun comes up."

In the shed Jeremy scrounged through boxes and drawers until he found a couple of old paint brushes. Then he found a hammer and a couple of screwdrivers. He added them to the growing collection in his backpack, tossed the backpack in the back of the Rhino, then found a shovel standing in the corner of the shed and tossed it in as well. As he pulled up the overhead door his sister Elena stood waiting for him.

"Mind if I come?" she asked as she walked in the shed and threw her backpack in the back of the Rhino.

"Fine with me," Jeremy replied, "less dirt I have to dig." He pulled his helmet on and climbed in the Rhino. Blue jumped up in the back and the three of them headed down the gravel road.

There was no wind yet this morning, the air was crisp but not too cold. In a matter of minutes they were circling the bowl and began following the wall north. They watched as the sun hit the top of the wall and slowly made its way down to where they were driving at its base. Jeremy was so excited he could hardly sit still to drive and the Rhino just couldn't go fast enough. He kept his eyes focused on the wall, looking for the white beak sticking out. He wasn't expecting the bump as the front wheels of the Rhino ran into a fresh pile of dirt and rocks. His seat belt held him in place, but he slammed on the brakes and grabbed hold of the steering wheel to steady himself. The Rhino came to a sudden stop perched on the top of a pile of loose dirt and rocks.

"What the--?" Jeremy exclaimed.

"Look!" Ellie was pointing at a cavern carved out of the side of the wall.

"What happened? This is where the bones were!" Jeremy ripped his seat belt off, climbed out of the Rhino and sprinted to the newly carved cavern. There were no bones visible anywhere! He ran into the cavern and scraped on the back wall desperately looking for something white to appear. There was nothing but more dirt. He dropped to his knees and sifted through the loose soil--nothing but rocks.

"Who could have done this?" he asked in anguish.

"Whoever it was, they had a sense of humor." Elena replied.

"What?" Jeremy looked back at his sister who was standing outside the cavern studying the ground.

"Come look at these prints." Elena replied. "It looks like they used the foot bones to make all kinds of prints out here."

Jeremy stood up and walked back out to where his sister was studying the ground. There were several distinct prints that looked exactly like the dinosaur footprints from his books. He ran to the Rhino and grabbed his backpack. It took him a few seconds to fish out his dinosaur book then he quickly flipped to the page he had been looking at earlier. "I knew it!" he exclaimed triumphantly.

"Knew what?" Elena asked still studying the footprints.

"It is an ornithomimus!"

"A what?"

"An ornithomimus!" Jeremy said again excitedly carrying the book over to where Elena was studying the footprints. "See! The ornithomimus had three toes. Look, the footprints match." Jeremy laid the book down on the ground next to one of the prints.

Elena looked over his shoulder and nodded in agreement. "I think you're right, it was an ornithomimus." She emphasized the word was. "The question now is, where is it and who dug it up overnight?" Elena's question brought Jeremy back to the reality of the loss of his greatest find. He picked the book up and walked it back to the Rhino. Elena continued with her questioning. "The only ones that knew about this were members of our family right?"

"I didn't tell anyone else." Jeremy sat down on the bumper of the Rhino and looked at the cavern. "Somebody would have had to use a front end loader or a back hoe or some kind of machine to dig that much overnight."

"It must have been Dad." Elena concluded.

"Huh?"

"Think about it Jeremy. He could have borrowed that backhoe he used to dig the ponds. Nobody else knew about it! This is exactly the kind of trick dad would play. I'll bet he and mom had a great time out here all night making dinosaur footprints and covering the tracks of the back hoe. They're probably hiding somewhere right now watching us and having a good laugh." Elena started waving in all directions and yelling, "Hi mom and dad! You can come out now! We know it was you!"

Jeremy looked around half expecting his mom and dad to come out from behind a large sagebrush yukking it up, but they never appeared. Jeremy tossed his backpack into the back of the Rhino. "Well, we might as well give them a show. Do those footprints go anywhere?"

Elena looked back at the ground. "I was just wondering the same thing." she replied. "Looks like they head back down the wall. Same direction we came."

"C'mon climb in. Let's follow them. Where's Blue?"

"I don't know. I saw him jump out of the Rhino when you did but I haven't seen him since."

"Blue, c'mon boy let's go home!" Jeremy whistled a few times but there was no response. He started the Rhino as Elena climbed in. "Blue knows the way home," he said as he turned the vehicle around and started back. He drove slower this time and stayed to the side of the trail so Elena could keep an eye on the footprints. "You still seeing them?" he’d ask every few seconds. "Yep." Elena would reply.

"Good grief! Mom and Dad must have been out here making foot prints all night!"

As they approached the bowl the sound of Blue barking could be heard. "What is that dog up to now?" Jeremy muttered.

"Oh, I hope he hasn't found another skunk!" Elena replied.

"Still seeing tracks?" Jeremy asked again slowing down even more.

"Yep."

"Do they turn at the bowl?" he asked.

"Can't tell yet." Elena replied. "Pull over for a minute and let's get out and look." Blue's barking continued and sounded like it was coming from the bowl. Jeremy and Elena studied the ground as they approached. The footprints never turned but went straight over the embankment and down into the bowl. Blue was in the bottom barking madly at the water.

"Blue!" Jeremy yelled. "Blue! Come here boy! Leave it alone!"

"What is it?" Elena asked.

"I don't know, but out here it either stinks or stings!" Jeremy yelled over his shoulder as he ran down the hill into the bowl. Then he added, "Get the Rhino and come pick us up!"

Jeremy's momentum was nearly more than he could keep up with. His legs cranked furiously and shortly he was up to his ankles in the grass that surrounded the spring. Breathing heavily he walked cautiously up beside Blue. "What are you barking at boy?" he asked. Jeremy looked around but couldn’t see anything. The dog appeared to be barking at the water.

Jeremy knelt beside Blue, wrapped his left arm around his neck and tried to calm him down. "It's okay boy. There's nothing there." He reached out with his right hand and splashed it in the water. "See? Nothing." The dog continued to bark. "C'mon boy, there's nothing there. Leave it!" Jeremy raised his voice but the dog paid no attention. Elena came up next to Jeremy. "What is it?" she asked.

"Nothing that I can see,” he stood up and walked past Elena shrugging his shoulders. "I think Blue's been stung by one too many scorpions out here. Did you see where the tracks go?"

Elena walked closer and looked down into the water. "Strange" she said and then turned her attention back to the footprints. "Where do they go?" she called to Jeremy who had walked back to the edge of the grass in the direction they had come.

"They come onto the grass right here." Jeremy said. "But I can't follow them on the grass."

"Well they have to leave the grass somewhere, right?" Elena replied walking to the opposite edge of the grass. "You start on that side and look for prints coming off the grass and I'll look over here."

When the two met up again at the halfway mark, neither of them had found any prints leading off the grass. The continued barking increased their irritation.

"I guess this is the end." Elena said, "They must have stopped here and then just covered their tracks from here back to the trail."

Jeremy nodded. "I just hope they didn't break any of the bones digging them out so fast. C'mon, let's go home and let them have their laugh."

"What should we do about Blue?" Elena asked.

"You drive. I'll pick him up and carry him on my lap." Jeremy replied.

Blue whimpered all the way home and tried to jump out a few times but Jeremy held him tight. When they got back to the house Jeremy locked him in his kennel. "Sorry boy, but I'm doing it for your own good. Whatever it was is gone now. Forget about it."

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