By Russell Ferrell
In the 1880s, during America's first Gilded Age, two eccentric and aristocratic scientists, Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, engaged in an anomalous, competitive trek to outdo each other in a paleontological contest of numbers - a bone war. This war, fought in the vast panorama of the American West, was an invidious contest of egos and wills to decide who could recover, identify, and document the most prehistoric fossils from an unrecorded past. This competition spurred the greatest spree of fossil discoveries in history, at least until America entered a second Guided Age one-hundred years later in the 1980s, as new technologies and finances propelled another round of bounteous fossil discoveries. During this second American Gilded Period, an improbable bone war in provincial southeastern Oklahoma was fought over ownership rights to one of the single greatest fossil discoveries of the century, indeed, of all history. This war was fought between two local naturalists against entrenched paragons of institutional dominance - a giant corporation, two major universities and cloistered academics, the state legislature, and a wealthy fossil tycoon. Cephis Hall, an Arkansas hillbilly, and Sid Love, a Choctaw Indian, dug their prize from a corporate waste-holding pit near the edge of the Mountain Fork River. The discovery set in motion a chain of events that would alter their lives forever as they embarked upon an epic journey and conflict against mighty foes in a David versus Goliath scenario. Cephis Hall and Sid Love faced a whirlwind of controversy as they found themselves at the crossroads of science, politics, and religion. Powerful people and institutions wanted to confiscate their treasure. A tale of mystery, adventure, and nature - Indiana Jones southern style. Buried treasure, dinosaurs, greed, corruption, moonshine, pot fields, quartz crystals, and an unauthorized version of the American Dream. This amazing true story is stranger than fiction.
In 1983, Cephus Hall and Sid Love uncover dinosaur bones in lower Oklahoma. It takes them three years to painstakingly unearth what becomes one of the greatest dinosaur specimens in paleontological history. What ensues will be several years of legal wrangling to retain ownership of the skeleton.
The beginning of the book concentrates on the peoples and industry of the region. I enjoyed learning how the terms “hillbilly” and “okie” came to be. I could relate to the laid-back, country feel of the people. The author then goes on to explain how bones become fossils. I was amazed to find out that only a small fraction of creatures that ever lived become fossilized. I had always thought it to be a far greater percent.
The story pulled me in the further I read. It was so engrossing and at times suspenseful, and I found myself not wanting to put the book down. The writing style of the author was to draw you in with the ongoing story, but then take off in another direction with meticulous details that explain something or someone that was mentioned. This became aggravating to me because it was always in the middle of an interesting turn of events. I was ready to find out how Cephus and Sid’s story ended. I was fascinated throughout it all.
**The above opinions are 100% my own, whether I purchased the book or it was given to me to review.
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