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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The Pig Pen Area
Late in November 1937 we switched to a new region where the old Will County Coal Company, long defunct, had begun the strip coal mining business.  Driving south on Route 59, we turned west on a dirt road two miles before the Highway 59-Highway 52 intersection, driving west one mile and then going south again about one-half mile to the spoil heaps on either side of the road.  Here was a farm house, and with the owner's permission we drove through the yard where a large ill-smelling and muddy area nearly stalled us.  When we dismounted and proceeded with our tin pails, we were surrounded by a conclave of squealing pigs which evidently associated our pails with food for them.  These animals had so permeated the earth and atmosphere with their personalities, and were so much in evidence all the time, that we got to know this as the "Pig Pen" region, and the road to it, as the "Pig Pen Road."  On the east side of this road and directly opposite the farm house, was a pond with chains of spoil heaps along the south side.  This was our Locality No. 3.

Our collecting began to improve.  We got bigger, finer, and more varied specimens, although there were many discards of blanks, very common and poorly conditioned material.  However, there was considerable finely engraved and sculpted material and more variety of stone color than we had been accustomed to.  Acanthotelson and Palaeocarcarius [spelling ? - GL,III] began to appear.  These were small shrimp-like creatures with segmented, shell-like covering.  They appeared roughly shrimp-like although this was merely a superficial resemblance.  George Jr. found a huge nodule bearing a chain of eight Annularia stellata, and we secured other large specimens, also smaller ones, some rare and not improved upon by later finds.  We found more crabs (Bellinurus) [Belinurus ? -  GL,III] and occasional so-called jelly-fish cases, Palaeoxyris.  Here was a "Neuropteris grove," meaning frequent occurrence of large leaves or pinnae of the finely veined Neuropteris scheuchzeri, perhaps better known as Neuropteris decipiens and Neuropteris hirsuta. 

Locality No. 3 was only a small area of short heaps running about north and south; high on the south and growing lower and smaller on the north to the water's edge.  It was an area of hills and gullies.  During seasons of heavy rains, the sides of the hills washed down into the gullies, exposing and often washing down nodules.  So we first looked closely through the gullies and then over the slopes and found much new and fine material.  We came upon much broken and discarded stuff where other collectors had been before us.  But we followed up the rains closely and got some good stuff.  This meant that we had to do much work in the cold and wet to get good things that other collectors would not look for except in warm and pleasant weather.  Watching for new wash-outs became a fixed part of our collecting practice.  It had also dawned upon me by this time that successful collecting was dependent very largely upon great production.  Of the nodules we gathered, not one in ten, and often not one in twenty, showed anything worth while when split open.  This meant that a day's work necessitated much collecting and splitting.  There was then the difficulty of transporting our catch up and down the hills to our automobile.  A five gallon pail of specimens was a mighty heavy load to carry over such rough and slippery ground.   George Jr. generally carried two loaded pails, while I carried a loaded pail and an army bag.  As time meant a good deal to me, we had to work hard and fast to insure the degree of production which we thought necessary.  We aimed to bring back two hundred or more acceptable specimens [each day - GL,III].  This meant a lot of collecting and splitting or transporting when bad weather prevented our doing the splitting in the field.  It also meant a lot of close watching and knowledge of what we were finding.  Many specimens were more or less shattered, and so their fragments were wrapped together for later mending.

On the west side of the road and Pig Pen were a succession of spoil-heap ranges extending to the northwest.  We first looked over Locality No. 5 nearest the Pig Pen and then Locality No. 6 farther west.  We did pretty well in both of these places, finding many good specimens among the vast quantities of unproductive claystone.  The weather was getting colder and more disagreeable but we got in several visits to each of these places.

Locality No. 7 was our next objective.  To reach it, we drove west over the swampy land directly west of Locality No. 4.  The ground was partly frozen, otherwise we would have stalled in the ordinarily soft ground.  We worked on the southern slopes including those of Locality No. 8 which was merely a continuation of Locality No. 7.  We worked only slightly on the north slopes down to the "Long Pond."  The latter is a very clean body of water less than 100 yards wide but which extends west and north for a long distance and touches many of our later collecting localities.  We worked Locality No. 7 and Locality No. 8 up to the cottonwood trees and found many good things, among them being some rather good tree bark patterns of Lepidodendron, Asolanus, and Lepidophloios.

A hunter came up to see me.  He had set a trap to catch a fox, but somehow the fox was always too sharp for him and managed to avoid the trap.  We saw no foxes but we came upon ducks on the Long Pond and often saw herons of several kinds above us.  There were plenty of crows and occasional big hawks too.  The Long Pond contained many fish, although we saw only little ones.  Locality No. 7 and Locality No. 8 had been gone over by other collectors, although not for some time, as the broken discards looked quite old.

Going into December 1937, we made a visit to Locality No. 4 on the east side of Pig Pen Road and directly opposite (north of) Locality No. 3.  We did only fairly well here as we found it difficult to work on the very high and slippery northern slopes.  We found little or nothing on the eastern and western portions of this range, the productive part being at and east of the central portion.  We were getting in about three field trips a week.  Then snow began to show up.  We had shifted over to Locality No. 3 on the south side of the pond, when a snow storm struck us and covered everything up.

Throughout December 1937 we got out again as soon as the snow melted, shifting our activities to Locality No. 1 and Locality No. 2.  Thawing brought out new material and we did pretty well, although we had to transport all of our nodules back to the office [That would have been the McKenna Process Company of which George Sr. was President and George Jr. the mechanical engineer; only that office remained when I visited the site in 2005 - GL,III] and crack them there.  January 1938 brought so much cold and snow that we were limited to three trips in the entire month.  However, this gave us an opportunity to do much sorting and mending of the material we had been collecting.  There were a lot of specimens, comprising over one hundred fifty forms of plants and animals.
[unsigned, but in the handwriting of] George Langford, Sr.

[Asides about  Indoor Work, Developing, and an invited lecture which consumed much of the Winter - GL,III, ed.]

George and I managed to get in quite a few field trips during the months of January and February 1938, although the cold and wet made the work rather strenuous, and most of the nodules collected had to be split open at our office instead of in the field.  We did find, however, that the snow and wet which deterred other collectors washed out and exposed new material so that we did not do badly at Locality No. 1, Locality No. 2, Locality No. 3, and Locality No. 4; and we had some success at Locality No. 30, a mile north of Locality No. 1 on the east  side of Route 59.  The spoil heaps across the road on  the west side were, strangely enough, absolutely barren.
[unsigned, but in the handwriting of] George Langford, Sr.