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The Perils of Fossil Collecting
An Indiana Disaster

When fossil collecting, road cuts can hold many treasures for fossil hunters. But fossil hunters BEWARE! Those cuts hold something more: varmints that will hang on to your skin long after you’ve taken your fossil treasures home.

We’re new at this fossil-hunting thing. Oh, we found our share of relics when we were kids and young adults, but as bona fide rock hounds, we are novices. We learned the varmint lesson the hard way this summer.

On a tip from a friend on a great place to find crinoids, we excitedly scrambled over a road cut in southern Indiana, paying no heed to the telltale signs that should have made us take care. In the excitement of fossil collecting, we ignored the water that was seeping from the cut...never thinking that the plants were anything more than a mild impediment to our rock hounding.

By the next morning, our armpits and waists were dotted with quarter-inch red bumps. Surprisingly, the chiggers hadn’t cared much for our ankles! My husband, who grew up in the west, had never experienced the intense itching of those little critters. Days after we arrived home and still itching, he scoured the internet for preventions and cures.

I should have known better. I grew up in southern Ohio; chiggers were part of everyday summer life. I also should have thought about the poison ivy that was lurking there. Be the third day after we arrived home, my entire face was swollen and red…and the itching was nearly unbearable. The poison seemed to spread for weeks. It was a full 2 months before the last of the nasty red patches were gone.

So when fossil collecting take heed! Cover your body COMPLETELY when you go out in the field. Along with your rock hammer, carry some powdered sulphur to rub around your ankles, waist, wrists and armpits. My mother never went out to the garden without first dowsing herself in that natural chigger-repellent.

Make sure you have access to a hot shower and use special cleansers for removing the urushiol (poison ivy sap or oil) that causes the watery blisters.

A little consciousness about the plants and animals that shared the road cut would have made our excursion…or the return from it, a whole lot more enjoyable!

We did find lots of crinoid fossils, but they were not what we remember most about this fossil collecting trip!

More fossil collecting adventures

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