The Dinosaur Hunter

Status: 1st Draft

The Dinosaur Hunter

Status: 1st Draft

The Dinosaur Hunter

Book by: Miranda J Taylor

Details

Genre: Young Adult

Content Summary


Four young friends are captivated by the discovery of dinosaur bones in their small town. Years later, when the bones are sold to a museum, they spend their school holidays on a search of their
own. When they make a discovery, they decide to keep it secret until they excavate the entire skeleton, but life and their parents get in the way and they soon abandon the dig. When the town is
faced with a crisis with seemingly no solution, the four friends come back together to finish what they started, in a bid to save their town.

 

 

Content Summary


Four young friends are captivated by the discovery of dinosaur bones in their small town. Years later, when the bones are sold to a museum, they spend their school holidays on a search of their
own. When they make a discovery, they decide to keep it secret until they excavate the entire skeleton, but life and their parents get in the way and they soon abandon the dig. When the town is
faced with a crisis with seemingly no solution, the four friends come back together to finish what they started, in a bid to save their town.

Author Chapter Note


Please provide feedback on whether this chapter would prompt you to read on. I am happy to reciprocate when asked.

Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: February 10, 2020

Comments: 9

In-Line Reviews: 6

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Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: February 10, 2020

Comments: 9

In-Line Reviews: 6

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The Dig

Chapter 1: Keeping Out of trouble

I don’t know why I kept going to the dig sites. It was hard work digging through the sticky clay and even harder when we struck tree roots; we had to dig around them or try to chop through them with an axe. The winters were damned cold, muddy, and miserable, but we couldn’t dig in dry weather when the hot sun would turn the earth to concrete. It certainly wasn’t for fortune and glory.

That’s what we called our little group of diggers: The Fortune and Glory Diggers. We didn’t really expect to find anything but that didn’t stop me dreaming. I’d be on the cover of National Geographic with my spade in one hand and the femur of a dinosaur in my other. Or maybe I’d find the bone from a big dinosaur and I’d kneel behind it, like a slain lion.

I daydreamed about that day as I dragged the spade along the road leaving a trail in the dirt. I turned onto one of the few sealed roads in the town and swung the spade onto my shoulder. I passed by the local mechanic’s workshop, the owner was inside the huge open shed. “Good luck with your digging today, Willy,” called Mr Dimitrius, looking from under the bonnet of a yellow sedan. I waved and smiled politely.

The townspeople knew what we did during winter school holidays. We were the butt of their jokes when we first started a few years ago. Now they seemed to think it’s good that we've found something to “keep us out of trouble,” as though we’d turn to a life of petty crime if we ever became bored.

A car honked and my friend, Stan, jumped onto the footpath. He ran towards me and nearly caught the side of my head with his spade.

“Hey, watch it!” I said.

“I had a dream last night that today was the day we’d find bones. What do you think about that?” He swung his spade to his shoulder to mirror me.

“I don’t know; just because you dream about something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”

“But it could."

“Here." I handed him a small white bag. “It’s your favourite.”

Dad always let me give Stan a treat from the bakery. He plunged his hand into the bag and pulled out the chocolate covered lamington.

“Your dad makes the best stuff." He took a huge bite. “If my dad owned a bakery, I’d have ten of these every day. He spat small chunks from his mouth as he talked. “Hey, where’s your sister? Is she coming later?”

“No, Dawn’s got a cold and Dad made her stay at home.”

“Ahhh, that’s a shame.”

“Why?"

“’Cause Dawn's a good digger," his chubby cheeks turned bright red, “and she’s nice to talk to.”

“I’ll tell her you said that”.

“No, don’t tell her. I just meant it’s good to have a girl along, for, well, you know, to make things more interesting.”

“Arrr,” said a voice from behind us as a hand landed on Stan’s shoulder.

“Crikey, Jarrah,” Stan said as he swung around. “Don’t sneak up on us like that. You scared the hell out of me.”

Jarrah laughed. “You should always be aware of your surroundings and never turn your ears off.” He ran his knuckles back and forth over the top of Stan’s head.

“Cut it out,” whined Stan fending him off.

“Why, are you afraid you won’t look good for Dawn.” He laughed again.

“She’s not coming today,” I said.

“Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it Stanny.”

At age thirteen and only a year older than us, Jarrah is much taller. He likes to use his height to his advantage by putting Stan in head locks or messing up his hair when he catches him gazing at Dawn. Jarrah is the life of our little group. He is an indigenous Australian and sometimes on our dig when we tire of the work, he’ll entertain us by showing us how to do traditional dances, or which plants to use to treat all sorts of things like a bee sting or even a headache.

When we reached the dig site about half a mile out of town at a large clearing, we set to work. We would each dig a hole about five feet by five feet and knee deep. When the hole was dug, we’d all have a bit of a poke around, and if we found nothing, that person would move on to digging another hole. When we thought we had covered an area well, which usually meant we’d dug about two or three holes each, we’d scout around for another location.

We didn’t have any scientific method of finding a place; we just dug wherever it took our fancy and preferably away from trees and their roots. We also stayed off private land and away from national parks because we didn’t want to get into trouble. We’d found some pretty cool stuff during our digs like some old bottles, fossils of leaves embedded in bits of rock and last year Jarrah found something really special.

“Hey, look at this,” he yelled on that day from the bottom.

“I’m not getting out unless it’s something worth looking at,” Stan replied.

“It’s something wrapped in a blanket.”

Stan and I clambered out of our holes and jumped in beside Jarrah. There on the bottom of the hole lay a tattered grey blanket wrapped around a long slender object.

“Do you think it could be a body?” Stan asked.

“It’s a little small for a body, don’t you think?” I said.

“It could be a kid or even a baby,” Stan said.

Jarrah squatted beside the blanket. “Only one way to find out." He brushed away the dirt until each end of the blanket was clear and then, grabbing a handful at either end he carefully lifted it from the dirt. “It’s not very heavy."

Stan stepped away. “I don’t think we should unwrap it.”

“Nah, I’m too curious to leave it."

Jarrah held a corner of the blanket in each hand and slowly lifted it. The contents turned over and over as it unravelled. When he was holding the edge of the blanket almost to head height, the last bit unravelled to reveal its contents.

“It looks like it was put there only yesterday,” I said as I crouched down for a closer look.

Jarrah ran his fingers gently along its barrel and down to the stock. “It’s a 303 rifle. They were used during the world wars. My dad had one of these years ago, but he sold it.”

“Why do you think someone buried it?” I asked.

“It could have been used in a murder,” Stan blurted. “Remember the search parties that came out here a few years ago looking for those missing bushwalkers? They never found their bodies." He lowered his voice to a whisper. “What if they were murdered around here and their bodies are in the ground somewhere?”

“Nah, this gun is way old,” Jarrah said. “I reckon it belonged to the bushranger my grandfather told me stories about; his name was Ronald ‘Redback’ Johnson, so named because it was said that he kept the deadly redback spiders as pets. He used to hold up the gold escorts along Prospectors Road. He was the last of his kind around here, and when the police sent the black trackers after him, he tried to disappear.

“What are black trackers?” Stan asked.

“People like me: black and fearsome. The police sent them to find criminals hiding in bushland. Redback feared those trackers. He built a bark hut over those mountains.” He pointed into the distance behind us and we turned our heads. “They snuck up on him during the night,” continued Jarrah, his raised voice startling us both. “Right on dawn, one of the trackers spooked his horse to make it cry out and bring Redback out to investigate. Then the police shot him dead!" He raised the old rifle and peered down the barrel. “Grandfather said they shot him so many times they nearly cut him in half.”

We each made up the wildest stories about the gun as we dug; the crazier the story the more we laughed. We all made a pact to go to the other side of the mountain range one day and find that bark hut. Jarrah wrapped the rifle back up in the blanket and he decided to leave it where it lay. We all helped fill in the hole.

Today was our last day at this dig site. We’d dig one more hole each then move to a new location. The winter sun shone brightly that morning, but by midday the sun’s rays were struggling to penetrate thick grey cloud.

We were so intent on getting the last of the holes dug we ignored the warning signs of the approaching storm. It wasn’t until thunderclaps echoed over the mountains that we stopped to look at the sky. The tree tops were clearly visible against the black backdrop and prongs of lighting reached down to the earth like giant claws.

We scrambled quickly out of our holes to watch the storm with shovels in hand. Then a bolt of lightning, like fireworks exploding, hit one of the enormous old eucalyptus trees on the edge of the clearing. The tree lit up in a brilliant flash of white light, before a branch as thick as a telephone pole fell to the ground and splintered into pieces.

 We gaped at each other, dropped our shovels and scrambled up a steep slope to the shelter of trees to watch the storm roll in.

When the rain came it fell with full force. Heavily laden drops penetrated the canopy drenching our clothing. We searched for better shelter and huddled together at the base of the biggest eucalyptus, but it wasn’t any drier there.

“I hate it when it rains like this,” I said. "We may as well call it a day and go home.”

“I’m not going anywhere in this storm,” Stan said. “I don’t want to be turned into a piece of toast by a bolt of lightning. But if you want to risk it, go right ahead.”

“I like the rain,” Jarrah said. “It cleanses the earth.”

Jarrah smiled as he turned his dark eyes to the sky and let the heavy drops fall onto his face and run in rivulets down his neck. Just looking at him made me shiver and I pulled the collar of my coat tight around my neck. Jarrah wore nothing more than a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. His feet were bare. Even when there was frost on the ground, or the fierce summer sun had baked the earth underfoot, Jarrah was always bare foot.

“Bare feet keep me in contact with nature’s creation. I can feel what is around me through the earth; it’s more important to me than sight,” he once explained.

“How long is this going to go on for?” Stan whined.

“The rain is about to cease,” Jarrah said, as the heavy drops continued to fall.

“No, it’s not." Stan rose to his feet as a thin ray of sunlight penetrated through the tree branches and illuminated the ground. He stretched out his arms and turned his palms to the sky. “How could you know that?” He looked down on Jarrah squatting in the mud.

“Didn’t you feel the earth stop shaking when the rain stopped falling?” 

Stan looked down and shook his head.

“You see and hear, but you do not feel."

My attention was drawn to the water droplets glistening like diamonds on the leaves as the bright sunshine enveloped us, drying our clothes and warming our spirits.

“Let’s get going before the second wave hits." Stan eased himself down the slope by carefully placing his feet sideways in the dirt. Jarrah and I followed. I stretched out my hand to grip the same sapling as Stan clutched just below me, when the roots lifted out of the sodden soil.

“Woah,” yelled Stan as he and the tree hit the ground. Stan landed on his stomach and slid like a sled to the bottom of the slope. I slipped and fell in the mud as I quickly joined him.

“Are you all right?” I crouched beside him and he lifted his face. It was black with dripping mud and he had a red smear on his forehead. He groaned.

I heard laughter and looked back towards the slope.

“That was great Stan. Can you do it again?” Jarrah laughed.

I grasped Stan by the arm and helped him up.

“Just look at me,” he whimpered. “My mum is going to do her block. My clothes are covered in mud. She has a really bad temper when it comes to dirt. When our dog left his footprints in the kitchen yesterday, judging from her carry on, you’d think that he’d left one of his turds in there.”

“You should have watched where you were stepping, Stan my man.” Jarrah placed his hand on his stomach and laughed again.

“Shut up Jarrah, or I’ll send you on the same trip.”

“Just try it Stan. Come on, come up here and try.”

“No, you come down here.”

“All righty,” he said and began making his way down the slippery slope. “I’m coming to get ya.” Halfway down he let out a painful cry.

Stan and I looked at each other and shrugged.

“Just another one of his tricks." Stan wiped his hands on the back of his trousers.

“Bloody hell! Something’s got me by the leg!” Jarrah yelled.

We scrambled up the slope and stood beside him.

“I can’t move my leg. Something’s got me,” he moaned.

We peered down into a knee-deep pit. The tree Stan had grabbed had given way and the roots had pulled from the ground creating a hole, but it wasn’t the hole that had Jarrah stuck, but something completely unexpected.

“Your leg is caught between two tree roots,” reported Stan.

“No,” I said. “They’re not tree roots.”

“What the hell has got me stuck then? Get me out!”

It was difficult to see what held him until I crouched beside him. A series of long protruding objects were spaced evenly apart on either side of his leg. I unclipped my water bottle from my belt and tipped it up next to Jarrah’s leg. With my hand I swept the mud away to reveal a thick curved piece of brown bone.

“Jarrah, I don’t believe it!”

“What? What is it?” 

“You’re stuck inside the belly of an animal.”

“What the hell are you on about?”

Stan squatted next to me and gasped.

“I see it too. He’s right. Your leg is wedged between two rib bones.”

Jarrah wiggled and tugged until he pulled himself free.

“Gee, thanks guys, thanks for helping me."

 I couldn’t speak and pointed to where he had just been standing. Jarrah turned around to see the row of ribs protruding from the ground. They were too big to be that of a cow or a horse, of that I was certain. He took a few steps along the row of ribs then dropped.

“Look at this.” He motioned with his hand for us to join him. “I just found part of its skull.”

Lying flat against the sodden earth was part of the animal’s jawbone. The teeth were as long as my hand, as thick and round as my arm and they tapered at the ends to sharp points. Jarrah carefully ran his fingers across the point of one of the teeth. Every second tooth was longer than the one before and even though this animal was long dead, it sent a shiver down my spine.

“I’ve never seen teeth like these on any animal,” I said.

“So, what do we think then? ” Jarrah rose to his feet. “Have we found what we were looking for? Is this it? Is this a dinosaur skeleton?”

We stared at each other but nobody spoke, until finally I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I brought our dreams to life.

“Yeah. Hell, yeah. We’ve found one!” I jumped into the air, lost my footing and nearly slid back down the slope. Jarrah grabbed me by the arm and we came together and hugged like a group of football players after scoring a goal. Then we rested our hands on each other’s shoulders and danced around in a circle hollering and whooping, until Stan started chanting “we’re gonna be rich and famous.” Me and Jarrah joined in until we became dizzy and breathless.

“After all that digging,” Jarrah said breathlessly, all we had to do was to send Stan here down a mud slide. If only we’d known.”

I clapped Stan on the back so hard he let out a yelp.

“Hey, take it easy. What’s our next step? I mean, what’s our plan to get this out? Should we call one of those pale … palentolo... you know what I mean.”

“You mean a palaeontologist. No,” I said. “We tell no one. This is our dig. We found him and we’re going to dig him up. Agreed?”

“I agree,” Jarrah said. “We don’t want no one telling us what to do with our dinosaur.”

“All right,” Stan agreed, “but what about Dawn? Shouldn’t we tell her?”

 I turned to Jarrah.

“Okay,” he said. “It’s only fair; she’s been with us all the way so far. But no one else.” He waved a finger at both of us and we nodded. “Well, let’s get our shovels and start digging.”

“Wait,” I said. “If we just start digging, we could damage it. We must be careful. We have to do this right.”

“I agree,” Stan said.

“Why don’t we all go home, scrounge up some tools and meet at the site in the morning to take a better look at what we’ve got? What do you think?” I asked.

Jarrah grasped his chin in his fingers. “Sounds like a plan. I know my Mum has heaps of small tools she uses in her vegie patch – I could borrow some of those.”

“Yeah, I reckon I could find something too,” Stan said.

We picked our way back down the slope, retrieved our shovels and walked home, gleefully swinging them like golf clubs at small rocks along the way to see who could hit one the furthest. When I arrived, Mum was still at the home of Mr Bevan, her business partner, and Dad was working in the bakery, pretending that he didn't care.


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