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Stories from Bernie's current trip - a mule voyage from Canada to Mexico

Shark Tooth on Main Street (or Why it's now the Lost Sea Expedition...)
March 19, 2006

So I drove my mule team from Oriental to Aurora and smack on the corner of Fourth and Main I found a shark tooth.

For real.

Ok, let me back up the plot a little. First let me explain how downtown Aurora is laid out.

Main Street runs down the middle of it. On one side of Main Street is the Aurora Fossil Musuem. On the other is what they call the fossil heap.


Debbie Richardson and Richard Olsen of the Aurora Fossil Museum – (Aurora, NC)

The fossil heap is just a pile of tailings the PCS phosphate mining company drops off from time to time across the street from the museum. After visitors tour the museum, they can dig through the heap for fossils of their own.

Which is exactly what I did after I toured the museum’s extensive collection of fossilized sharks’ teeth.

But before I ever reached the sandy looking pile, right by the sign post on the corner of Fourth and Main, a triangular jag on the sidewalk snagged my eye.

No, it couldn’t be!

Still, I stooped for it and came up with a perfectly preserved shark’s tooth. I collected a few more teeth from the fossil heap and then went back to the museum. They identified my first find as a Snaggletooth shark and it was millions of years old.


Snaggletooth Shark tooth

As I was leaving the museum, something else caught my eye, something even weirder than the shark tooth on Main Street. It was a map of the United States with a blue sea running up between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.



What was that all about? There’s no ocean out there. I’ve personally walked across it and water, if anything, was scarce.

But it seems I was wrong. During the Cretaceous Period, about a hundred million years ago, a warm sea covered most of what is now the Great Plains.

And then it hit me. The route I was following on my upcoming North to South journey ran right down the middle of the extinct ocean called the Western Interior Seaway.


North Dakata, South Dakota, Nebraska…flooded (and I thought it was going to be a dry run…)

Suddenly the name to my next trip fell perfectly into place.

It wasn’t “Captain Bernie’s DRY DOCK Expedition” at all. What I was about to set out on was really “Captain Bernie’s LOST SEA Expedition”.

Ok, so I showed up a few million years after the last tide went out. But so what! Here I was, in the perfect position to be the first sea captain to explore the long forgotten sea bed on a nigh extinct form of transportation, the mule powered “Ship of Mules”.

And then I learned about the fifteen foot turtle that swam in the tropical waters that once covered South Dakota. It was called the Archelon, boasted flippers six feet long and sported a tremendous overbite.


Mr. Archelon

But we’ll get into him later.

For now my head just spins at the thought of entering the Lost Sea by mule wagon.

And it’s all thanks to that shark tooth I found on Main Street.

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

(Thanks Debbie and Richard of the Aurora Fossil Museum for steering me in the right direction. For those of you who’d like to learn more about Aurora and the fantastic Fossil Museum, it’s http://www.aurorafossilmuseum.com/ Bernie)

Posted Sunday March 19, 2006 by Bernie
Mule Hair Raku - Bayboro, NC
March 4, 2006

“Where do we sleep tonight?”

That’s Question Number One every time I strike out on a mule or a boat.

From Oriental Jack and Bill and I struck off toward Bayboro. 22,696 steps later we pulled up in front of a massive anchor on the Bayboro waterfront.


Bill: “I don’t have another step in me.”
Jack: “I know. Feels like we’ve done our twenty-thousand for the day. Let’s anchor here tonight…” – Bayboro, NC

Norm Czuchra and Candace Young of Bay River Pottery lived just down the street and put us up for the night. And so the question of lodging was answered…

For almost thirty years now, Norm and Candace have produced their pottery along the banks of the Bay River. Norm showed me the new kiln he was building and the next morning Candace asked if I wanted to make a contribution to her pottery.

“Do you want to leave me with some mule hair?” she asked.

“Mule hair?” I wondered. “What in God’s little green earth would mule locks be good for?”

‘turns out Candace used it for her raku pottery. In raku, horse hair, or any other hair for that matter, was used during the firing process to create intricate patterns on the pottery.


Candace posing with Bill, her next mule hair donor


Mule tail and raku: before and after.

Candace brought me a roll of duct tape, wrapped a strand of it around Bill’s tail as a label, and cut the strands.


Snip…

I had to leave before Norm and Candace had a chance to fire their next batch of mule hair raku. But I sure look forward to the result.


Candace applying horse hair to her latest batch of raku pottery.


The end result

Thanks Candace and Norm!

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

(For anyone interested in great pottery (and learning more about Norm’s Bayboro Folly, visit)
bayriverpottery.com)

Posted Saturday March 4, 2006 by Bernie
I BE DR. DOCK EDIT - Oriental, NC
March 3, 2006

I’ve always maintained there comes a time when you just hit the road with what you’ve got.

This week I did just that. I showed up in Oriental with a wagon whose sign some folks might have wished I’d spent a bit more time on…

Now when I originally set out to name my trip, I came up with “CAPTAIN BERNIE’S DRY DOCK EXPEDITION”.

The CAPTAIN BERNIE bit? Well, I really am a licensed captain. ‘seems I documented enough days afloat (360) to qualify for my US Coast Guard 50 Ton Master’s ticket.

And the DRY DOCK bit? Remember, I want to run my mule wagon down the Great Plains, which used to be ocean. About 250,000,000 years ago.

So right before I left for Oriental, I painted CAPTAIN BERNIE’S DRY DOCK EXPEDITION on the passenger side of my wagon. I figured I’d practise on the side away from traffic.


Jack closing a blind eye to what’s written on the other side… (Bayboro Pottery, Bayboro, NC)

Then it started raining. And then it got cold. The night before I left for Oriental, I tried to write the “D” in EXPEDITION on the other side.

But I messed it up. So I just wrote a few more words to fill up the blank side before it got dark.

I came up with this…


Here comes DR. DOCK EDIT (Bayboro, NC)

I don’t know why I chose those words. I just reckon I was overcome by the same sign painter’s urge that hit Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove fame when he wrote my favorite sign of all time…

“… We Don’t Rent Pigs ….Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit”

“I God Woodrow!” I could hear folks saying from behind their windows. “What n’the devil’s that mean?”

But it didn’t matter.

I had my wagon and two mules on the road.

Oh, and I brought my pedometer with me.

Anyone know how many mules steps it is from Oriental, NC to Aurora and back?

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

(Thanks Norm, Candace and Claudia for your photos! Bernie)

Posted Friday March 3, 2006 by Bernie


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