Collecting Fossil Plants and Animals
in the Pennsylvanian Deposits of the Will County, Illinois Coal Measures
The Field Notes of George Langford, Sr. in the Years 1937-1960.
Prepared and organized by George Langford, Jr., 1973.
Copyright George Langford, III, 2010
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Work in the Strip Coal Mines during July 1939
Field Work

July 24, 1939: I went to the Pig Pen region, far to the west in Locality No. 17.  I did only fairly well, as I could not retain one out of the twenty nodules that I cracked open.  It was not a super-hot day but I had a fifty pound hand load and a fifteen pound left-shoulder load, and so much collecting and cracking had tired me considerably.  The walk back to my car was almost a mile.  Nearly half of this was up and down through the clay heaps; then marshy land with rough footing and vegetation nearly four feet high; and finally a marshy meadow with two-foot vegetation.  The jar of icy cool water awaiting me in the car spurred me on and got me over the last hundred yards.  I have never thrown any part of my load away, although I have been tempted to do so more than once.  I lay down to cool off and drink cold water.  Two quarts of it never hurt me after my work was over.  And then I caught sight of two printed notices tacked on the fence posts north and south of my car - a warning that hunting, fishing and trespassing would not be tolerated by the Outdoor Club and the Northern Illinois Coal Corporation.  Evidently, there would be a show-down sooner or later.

July 28, 1939: I drove past the coal-washing plant and west of Locality No. 28, where my best piece was a fine Lepidodendron in a very large nodule.  I walked west on the railroad tracks, then struck north and crossed the high hillls to east of the Dike.  It was rather cool, but the [getting] back over those unusually high heaps took all I had.  My total load was sixty pounds, and the descent was, as usual, much tougher than the climb.  But the best part was the jug of icy cold water awaiting me in my car.

July 26, 1939: This was one of our hottest days thus far.  I went down to the old workings of the Braidwood (formerly Wilmington) Coal Company on Route 66, on the northwest side.  I parked my car on the road from the breaker to the pit and worked in the depressions between the lines of clay hills.  The clefts were too hot under the blazing sun and breezeless humidity to sit down and crack nodules, and so I filled my pail and shoulder bag and carried my load up the sloping cleft and out to the road where I sat under the shade of a tree to crack nodules in the comparative coolness.  My car, standing on the road, was too hot to touch.  After each sixty to seventy pound load carried out, I was about boiled out, and the shade of the tree was heavenly.  My hot coffee, cold ice water, and bananas seemed to replenish each time, the moisture I had lost in my heavy work of collecting and transporting.  I had a thermometer with me, and here are the temperatures it recorded:
Temp. °F
In the shade of the tree.
Inside my automobile.
In the ravines in the hot sun.
In my office [McKenna Process Co. - GL,III] on my return.

Six trips with loads to the tree where I cracked them was about all I could stand, but when I got home and bathed and cooled off, I did not feel at all the worse for my labors.

July 31, 1939: I went to the same locality as the time before.  As I drove through the vegetation and pulled up in  the open south of the track, a truck stopped close behind me.  It held two men.  We all got out.  These men wanted to know what I had come there for.  They were J.C. Rettenmeyer and C.W. Samuels, officials of the Outdoor Club.  They looked mighty unfriendly at first but thawed rapidly when I told them I never hunted nor fished, and was there only to collect fossils.  It was difficult for them to understand that at first.  Hunting and fishing were what attracted all others they knew.  But they had heard that a "University of Chicago professor" had been making geological explorations in that region, and I was soon identified as that person, minus the "professor" part, as I explained.  So the encounter became a friendly one, and my two new-found friends invited me to have a look at their choicest fishing preserves.  I got in their truck, and [we] drove to the old "Pit No. 1" to which they had cut a road and were then in the midst of further road-making.  At the end of the so-called road we continued on foot up and down over the rough terrain which in time had produced considerable vegetation.  I saw several peach trees with nice-looking peaches.  This was a large ampitheater encircled by towering clay heaps.  The Outdoor Club of miners had fixed this up for themselves and largely for fishing and were determined to keep all others out.  However, they made an exception of me. 

My fossil-hunting was poor that day.  I collected much, cracked many, and kept only a few - thirty pounds.  I was so tired when I got back to my car that I could hardly stand.  But the two quarts of cold water worked wonders, and I soon got back to normal.  As not infrequently happened, it was a mighty hard day's work for the little I got.

[unsigned, but in the handwriting of] George Langford, Sr.