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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 4:
The Field Trip

The time machine landed in the dirt 10 feet behind the bear. The boys scrambled around the bear to get to the machine, one on each side of the grizzly. This apparently confused the bear, which swiped wildly in Charlie's direction and scratched him through his jeans. Charlie felt a searing pain in his leg, but didn't even look down - he had to get to the time machine quickly. The boys both lunged at the time machine, hitting the red button simultaneously. George's room reappeared around them.

The first thing they did when they returned was to look around the room and make sure that the bear didn't come back with them. Charlie then looked at his leg - there was a small straight wound about 2 inches long on his thigh. The boys sat there without talking for a minute or so, catching their breath and trying not to think about what could have happened to them.

George finally said, "We can probably figure out some really cool things to do with your time machine."

"I think so," answered Charlie, "but we're going to have to avoid grizzlies."

George's mother poked her head into George's room and said sternly, "Where have you boys been? Charlie, your mother called 10 minutes ago. You're late for dinner."

"Sorry," Charlie said, "we lost track of the time."

"Boy, did we ever," added George, smiling slyly.

"And what happened to your clothes?" she asked, "you look like something the cat dragged in."

"More like something the bear almost dragged away," Charlie said after she left.

Charlie went home, bandaged his leg, ate dinner without mentioning his time machine, and went right to bed. He hadn't been this tired in a long time.

When Charlie woke up the next morning, his time adventures seemed like a dream. Maybe they had been, Charlie wasn't so sure anymore. Then he felt the gash on his leg - it had all been real.

Charlie got dressed and packed for the dinosaur field trip. He paused for a moment, and then he put his new computer in his backpack, just in case.

Soon after getting to school that morning, the kids in his class were herded into school busses, and were driven to the badlands near the Montana - South Dakota border. The trip to the fossil dig took almost an hour, and most of it was on bumpy, dusty dirt roads.

When they finally got to the dig, they were in a flat, dry area surrounded by rocky cliffs - and even though it was early in the morning, it was already starting to get hot. There were hardly any plants or trees around, just a lot of rocks and boulders. There were about 150 kids and about a dozen teachers and paleontologists.

One of the paleontologists lectured the kids and teachers about not getting lost, not climbing the cliffs, how to tell a fossil from a rock, and how not to dig up a fossil, but to call an adult and not try to remove it from the ground. She said that the students should scatter around the area in pairs, look for fossils, eat lunch, and return to the busses at 2:00 PM sharp. The students would be assigned partners and each pair would get a compass, a fossil field guide sheet, and 5-page handout with questions to answer.

With his usual bad luck, Charlie got paired with Alice, and not with George. Alice usually ignored him and he didn't like her at all. Charlie didn't even like the way she dressed; she always wore the latest fashions and was far too concerned about her clothes and jewelry. Charlie and Alice were both annoyed that they had to be partners. This was going to be a long, hot day.

Alice started reading out loud from the handout, "The sedimentary rock in this area dates from the late Cretaceous period roughly 70 million years ago. In this immediate area, no major fossils have been found - yet. Many fossil teeth have been found nearby, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops horridus. During today's field trip, you will each answer a series of questions about dinosaurs and other animals from the Cretaceous period that lived in this area." This was about all Charlie could take of Alice, but she liked reading out loud and loved having an audience.

She decided that the two of them should walk to a strange looking cliff that she saw, so that's where they went. Charlie knew that there was no point in arguing with her, she always got her way. In a few minutes, they were far away from the rest of the class and close to Alice's cliff.

Charlie and Alice looked for fossils all morning. They looked and looked and looked some more. After two incredibly dull hours, they had found nothing but rocks, dirt, and more rocks. Charlie also found a long, crooked stick that he used to poke at the rocks. He was very disappointed - he had hoped and expected to find something a lot more interesting than a stick. He had hoped that he would at least find a dinosaur tooth.

The badlands were turning into a giant oven as noon approached. There wasn't much shade at all, except right by the cliff, so that's where Alice and Charlie decided to eat lunch. This was the first time they had agreed on anything.

While they were eating, Alice was answering the questions they had been assigned. Charlie took out his computer and just stared at it. He wasn't sure what to do with it. He thought that in addition to being a time machine, it might have a lot of information stored in it somewhere, or Internet access, or games, but figuring out how to get to them was not going to be easy without a manual.

Alice said, "I can't do question number 8. - In your own words, describe what this area looked like 70 million years ago." She said, "I need your computer. Is that a search engine you've got running?" She grabbed the computer out of his hands and started typing. He yelled at her to stop, but she just kept typing.

Charlie grabbed the time machine back from her, but at that instant, mist started swirling around the two of them. As it cleared, Charlie nervously asked her what she had typed. She looked confused and annoyed, but said, "I typed 70 million years ago."

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Related Pages and Activities:

What is a Fossil?

Read about fossils and paleontology.

The Cretaceous Period

Read about the geologic time period during which the dinosaurs were at their peak.

Cretaceous Period Animals

This period saw the height of the dinosaurs and the first flowering plants. It ended with a huge mass extinction.

Geologic Time Chart

A chart of the major geologic division on Earth and the major events during each.

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