When I was a child, I begged my parents to take our family on vacation to Fossil. This was largely due to my humongous obsession with dinosaurs, which was going strong from the age of three to nine.
There are many reasons why Fossil is one of the most exciting places in Oregon, but for the wee Jenny, it was all about the fossils. You can dig them up behind the high school. You can follow trails of them at the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Park. You can buy them. The whole place is just flithy with fossils. That said, there aren’t any real dinosaur fossils. And that fact made me a little sad about our vacation. It was the kind of sad from occurs when reality hits an eight-year-old. And, that kind of sad is deep. Way deep.
So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to visit Fossil as an adult, I was intrigued but cautious. I vaguely remembered the high school and how different it was from the awesome scenes of dinosaur digs in the Gobi I had seen on NOVA specials (big disappointment). What little I did remember of the town was not all that special (probably, because my soul was crushed by the lack of stegosaurus remains).
In the twenty years since my first visit, Fossil has apparently not changed much. A fact I find noteworthy. And refreshing.
The fossil beds behind the high school still bring in tourists. The Hancock Field Station near the Clarno Unit still hosts students in the OMSI summer camps. Rattlesnakes still pose a threat to unsuspecting individuals not watching their step or digging under their decks. And, the hardware store remains the only purveyor of hard liquor as part of the rural holy trinity of propane, antiques and booze.