When my son married my daughter-in-law, I became a grandma to Elex who was eight years old at the time. I am the favorite aunt of 18, the favorite great-aunt to 22 and the favorite great-great aunt to one. So now I get to be the favorite Nana because I wanted Elex to have his grandma Robby to keep the grandma name. I wasn’t quite feeling the grandma role, but the Nana role seemed a bit cooler.
Now 14 years old, Elex is a smart young man. When I wanted to go to Fresno to see their new home, it seemed right to go since my son’s and Elex’s birthdays are a week apart. I had to find out: what do I get a 14-year-old boy today’s world? I knew just the place to go. I was in Wyoming and my friend owns a shop of unique fossils. So, he had some great ideas. I bought him an amazing book on fossils, which included stingrays, turtles, reptiles, birds, gars, amia, shrimp, paddlefish, crayfish, mammals and Eohiodons.
I got him a huge hermit crab shell, and a split Phareodus and a Priscacara from the
Ulrich fossil quarry in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where I grew up. Now those are all cool names for fish that are millions of years old. I wanted him to have something no other kid in California had and he loved them. He said, “Nana, these are so cool.” Of course, they are. I am cool a Nana.
Most people do not know that the Ulrich quarries where Elex’s fossils came from originated in 1947 as an avocation of Carl and Shirley Ulrich. The Ulrich family developed new techniques for the removal, cataloging, preparation, and preservation of the unique ancient life.
In 1972, the creation of Fossil Butte National Monument in Kemmerer, Wyoming, fulfilled the Ulrich’s hard-fought efforts to protect the unique sites within the Buttelands area. For over 70 years, Ulrich’s fossil gallery has served as the center of Carl J. Ulrich and his proteges’ meticulous hand-preparation process. Hours of patient, dexterous work are required to expose the fragile details of fossils from the Kemmerer area. Ulrich fossils are among the finest available and can be found on display in museums and galleries around the world, including the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. After World War II, President Eisenhower presented one of Mr. Ulrich’s prepared specimens to the emperor of Japan as a gift from the United States government to the people of Japan. Today, Ulrich’s fossil gallery continues its tradition of hand-excavating hand-preparing the finest specimens available from the Green River basin.
If you are ever in Wyoming, go to Kemmerer and you can dig for fossils. That is Elex’s and Nana’s next adventure.