This is an extract from “The Caveman of Pottersville – The story of one family’s mission to preserve an Adirondack treasure“.
A brown, irregularly shaped hunk of fossilized dinosaur dung is circulating around the stone-floored rock shop.
The middle-school students, surrounded by shelves full of amethyst, pyrite, quartz crystals, and cracked open geodes, let their hands roam over the hunk and then pass it along. They don’t know that the mystery rock they’re scrutinizing is a chunk of prehistoric waste. Greg Beckler, owner of Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, will tell them eventually.
This game of pass the poop continues in a semi-circle as Beckler encourages the kids to really explore the fossil. Dip their fingers into its cracks and seams. Give the poop a deep, full inhale. “Just don’t taste it,” he clarifies. Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, a 1,000-acre geological wonder in Pottersville, New York, is all about exploring what can be found inside the earth. After most of the class has touched and taken a whiff of the dino-discharge, Beckler reveals the identity of this particular piece of history to a chorus of “ews.” Beckler is a tall, distinguished man, with a neat, white goatee. He’s outfitted in hiker’s garb – boots, shorts, and a t-shirt. He is engaging, easygoing, and welcoming, eager to impart a lifetime’s worth of scientific knowledge and family anecdotes to anyone within earshot. Today, he’s sharing his decades of insight with local students.
The kids who just discovered they were petting prehistoric poop wander out of the shop and on to their next activity. Another group crowds into the rock shop and Beckler begins his presentation from the beginning. He holds the fossilized toe of a duck-billed dinosaur high about his head and asks the students crowded around him if anyone can identify the bone.
“An elbow?” guesses a student from the crowd.
“No. I’ll tell you when you’re getting warmer,” says Beckler.
“Ear?” Beckler holds the bone out with a puzzled look.