Kids like playing in the dirt.
It’s just a fact of life.
I’m not sure what the fascination is, nor I can remember why I enjoyed it so much, even into my teens.
I grew up on a family farm in northeastern Craven County, about 20 miles north of New Bern near the Beaufort County line — and just south of a large phosphate mine on the Pamlico River.
Most of the family lived on the same private, gravel road. To maintain the road, my granddad and uncle would have rejects hauled in from the mine to fill in the bumps and keep the ride as smooth as possible.
The reject piles, to me and my cousins, were like a mini-mountain range — about a dozen gravelly peaks rising about 6 feet or so from the ground.
We sometimes played King of the Mountain, or let our imaginations run wild and pretend to climb the mountains (or bring our action figures to the range) and we would run through and jump from peak to peak and slide down the slopes, filling our shoes with rocks.
One of our other activities was a little more serious, but no less fun: digging for fossils.
We would often find what appeared to be fossilized bone, seashells among the tiny rock fragments. But what we were really looking for were sharks’ teeth.
And we found quite a few.
They varied in size, most being about a half-inch long. Some were wide, others were long and pointy. Others were just a centimeter.
While we usually kept anything we found, we were always competing to find the largest.
One of my cousins found one at least two inches long, which would probably sell for at least $70, based on similar teeth on display during the Aurora Fossil Festival.
The piles are no longer there, with the last few loads having chunks of rock that could knock your car out of alignment.
If they were, I’d probably still go digging.
Who knows, I might find “the big one.”
William R. Toler is editor of the Richmond County Daily Journal. Reach him at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]