Dinosaur Bones in the Living Room
Free Press Reporters Visit One of Madison’s Best (but little known) Museums
by Pallav Regmi, age 14
Recently, fellow reporters Rosalinda, Patricia, Alexis, Aarushi, Claire and I visited a museum rich in ancient fossils and animal artifacts. Unlike other museums, this one was located cozily between the kitchen and living room of David Wandel’s house.
David Wandel, an active member of the Madison community, has an adventurous spirit. He has a collection of many ancient fossils and dinosaur bones that he collected on his own.
“Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?” he asked us, rhetorically. As we sat around his kitchen table, munching on snacks his wife had graciously prepared for us, we carefully listened to the story of Wandel’s Paleontology hobby. This is one fascinating guy.
One day while driving in Chicago, he saw a logo on the side of a truck displaying a triceratops head with the words, “Paleo Prospectors” above it. Underneath, there was a phone number. Curious, Wandel called the number right away. He found out that Paleo Prospectors was a company that took ordinary people to a place in the northern Great Plains to hunt dinosaur bones. Excited about hunting bones, he decided to sign up.
Soon, Wandel and his kids were excavating bones in South Dakota.
“You leave with a bag full of water bottles and if you’re lucky, you return with a bag of bones,” Wandel said.
The water bottles were very important because the land they were excavating was very dry. The temperature reached up to 110 degrees on a normal summer day and everyone bunked in the only motel in a small town near Buffalo , South Dakota.
Wandel explained that excavation can be very hard work. The work consists of a lot of bending over and digging here and there. The hot weather also added to the hard work and the motel wasn’t very luxurious either.
Because of Paleo Prospectors, M. Wandel has a big collection of dinosaur bones. Wandel even has a rib of a triceratops that he and his kids excavated. He also found the femur of a triceratops, which was very heavy and a lot bigger than that of a human.
His most memorable find was when he found an articulated animal. Typically one finds fossils of single bones, usually from different animals. But when someone finds a fossil that is connected to other bones of the same skeleton, they know they have uncovered an articulated animal.
And if you do find an articulated animal, well, that is a big deal. Wandel explained that when this happens, you immediately stop digging and call a chaperone from the company on a radio. All the members of the dig then arrive at the site as swiftly as possible. If experts determine the fossil is an articulated animal, digging at the site is halted. Certified archaeologists further investigate the site later. In Wandel’s case, the articulated animal he discovered was a triceratops.
Listening to Wandel’s stories about his excavations was really interesting and fun. We also learned a lot about fossils and dinosaur bones and how archaeologists dig and preserve bones without damaging them. Even after we finished talking about fossils and bones, we were still very interested in Wandel’s other hobbies. He has a collection of paintings and woodcarvings from all around the world and some that he constructed himself. A very adventurous and curious collecter, Wandel built a fascinating museum from scratch.
On the way back to our newsroom we talked a lot about how to write this story. Our editors often tell us to use words that are descriptive so readers get a good feel for what we’re talking about. We decided that the best word to describe Mr. Wandel is curious. And that’s why the museum he has put together is absolutely fascinating.