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 September 1939
Field Work
September 2, 1939: I went down the Tipple Road and went over the high hills between the Dike and Mr. McClucki's No. 1 site.  I did not do much; came back and crossed the valley southwestward to the hills on the northwestern end of Outdoor Pond.

September 5, 1939: I went again to the high hill southeast of the dike.  It was a hot day with little breeze.  I recorded the following temperatures:

Temp. °F Location
In my car at home.
In my car at home.
In the valley in the shade near my car.
In the sun at the top of the clay heap in a fair breeze.
In a shallow gully, high up, in the shade.
In a deep gully in the shade.
In the same gully, but out in the sun.
On top of the hill in the sun.
Same as above, but in the shade.
Back of the car, in the shade; but no breeze.
In the car, back home.

Heat and thirst drove me back to my car about 1:30PM, where I revelled in cold drinking water.  I then returned across the mine railroad track to the near face of the chain of hills.  I did not get much, and the hot sun discouraged hard work.

September 7, 1939: The thermometer stood at about 82°F in the shade when I left at 8:45AM for a survey of the shale piles in Pit No. 6.  All three cranes were at work, but there was no loading of coal.  I descended about sixty feet to the coal in the pit but found very little plant-bearing shale and very few nodules.  At noon I went to Locality No. 4, doing a little collecting there, as well as on the west end of Locality No. 3.  A strange hot wind came from the southwest.  It felt like air from a fire, but it was very dry.  I was surprised to find my thermometer at 100°F+ in the shade about 2:30PM.  In one gully, out of the wind and in the sun, my thermometer went to its limit of 125°F and would have gone higher if it could.  I did quite a lot of work in this intense heat but experienced no distress of any kind.  The lack of humidity was very noticable, but the hot breeze almost burned me.  My cold drinking water was most delightful.  When I got home about 3:15PM, I found it 100°F outside in the shade and 82°F in the house.  The radio annonced a record-breaking heat of 100°F in Chicago, in the shade.

September 9, 1939:  [I went to] Locality No. 4 on the east side of Pig Pen Road and north of the pond.  The hills run west to east, and I worked only the south slopes.  I did surprisingly well and brought home one-and-one-quarter pails or nearly seventy-five pounds [of nodules].

September 11, 1939:   [I had] the first cool night (50°F) and cool morning (62°F).  [I went to] Locality No. 4 again.  I worked the north slopes this time and also the extreme eastern end of the south slope.  I did fairly well; [and the] quality [was] good.  I had to put the furnace on.  A few white herons were left in the pond on Route 59 near the overhead (Santa Fe) crossing.

September 13, 1939:  [I went to] Locality No. 4 again on the east end of the south slopes.  This day was a sizzler, 102°F in the shade at noon and 125°F in the sun.  My thermometer reads to only 125°F.  By noon I was half-cooked and had [to resort] to a water-soaked rag on top of my head.  When I got back to my car I sat in the sun to cool off, while my thermometer, in the grass and shaded, registered 102°F.  It was with a sense of most delightful relief that I reclined in the grass and in the sun, relaxing and sipping ice-water.  After lunch of two bananas and hot coffee, I worked the west end of Locality No. 3 on the north side, but the weather got hotter and I gave it up about 2:00PM.  Everything is very dusty and in need of rain.  My office was 84°F when I returned about 3:00PM and the house about the same.  At home, our outside thermometer showed about 97°F at 3:30PM.

September 14, 1939:  Thursday is also very hot.  My office, closed, is 84°F, and my thermometer put outside in the sun, is over the top (125°F+). 

September 15, 1939: Friday was also as bad, [with the] thermometer about 100°F in the shade.

September 16, 1939: Saturday is hot; 84°F in the office at 11:00AM.  Have kept away from the clay heaps since Wednesday.  It seems wise to forego working alone in such sizzling temperatures.

September 18 & 20, 1939: The weather is cooler.  I took the long trek to Locality No. 7, keeping to the peaks, and did pretty well.  On the second visit I went farther west almost to Locality No. 8, still keeping to the peaks.  I found a fine spider and fine worm, among other nice things. 

September 21-23, 1939: Mrs. Langford and I spent these three days on an auto trip to St. Paul - about 465 miles each way.  We had good weather and a fine time.

September 25, 1939:  I went to the Outdoor Club's haven near Locality No. 27 searching for new fields to the northwest.  I collected and cracked many nodules but got poor stuff.  Most of the fossils were common and their condition, very poor.  That night the thermometer sank to 45°F.

September 27, 1939:  [It was] an ideal day, warm but not too much so.  I chose the long hike into the western Pig Pen area to Locality No. 8, keeping to the peaks and the south side of the range.  This small sector has given us good things with good stone quality.  I did a lot of climbing and crawling around, and got some nice things, although nothing marvellous.  My day's work was a pretty fair sample of what I consider a good day.  I guess that I looked at about five thousand nodules, of which I selected and cracked about six hundred fifty.  Of these, I kept fifty, weighing thirty-five pounds.  With my left shoulder load, I had about fifty pounds to carry.  This was fairly light going, but I had a nine-hundred-twenty yard walk across clay heaps, through dry marsh grass, and over weeded meadow before I reached my car.  The footing was mighty bad all the way, and as usual I was hot, tired and thirsty when I reached my car parked on Pig Pen Road.  Next day I sorted the material:
Number Description
Specimens, 1st selection, to be "developed."
Specimens, 1st selection, to be mended, then "developed."
Specimens, 2nd selection.
Specimens, 2nd selection, to be mended.
Specimens, 3rd selection.
Specimens, 4tth selection.
Total number of nodules.

This is the area I covered on September 27th.  Locality No. 3, Locality No. 4, Locality No. 7 and Locality No. 8 have done pretty well by me.

Map diagram of the Pig Pen area and Localities 3, 4, 7 and 8

September 28, 1939: I went over to the Braidwood Coal Company's mine in Custer Township, and rain stopped me at noon.  I was not getting much of consequence.

September 30, 1939:  [I went] back to Locality No. 3 again.  I got two pails of specimens, although [there was] nothing of great note.

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