Turned out the Army Corps drivers were as good as Pat's crew at handling a T. rex, though we did have some scary moments.
Walt maneuvered the loader right up a short, steep incline to the top of the quarry. I took it as a good sign that the loader said "Terex" on the side. Walt lowered the loading fork to hoist the heaviest blocks slightiy so Pat and the crew could put a pallet made from two-by-fours underneath, to support the blocks while they plastered the underside of the bones.
After the plaster dried, the loader's big yellow nylon straps were strung around the large bone packages on the pallets and cabled to the loader's bucket. The largest of the bundles, containing T. rex's pelvis, weighed sixty-five hundred pounds. The second, with the neck vertebrae, was nearly as hefty.
Though the loader was built to carry that much weight, it wasn't designed to hoist irregularly shaped bundles like our jacketed fossils. One jacket tipped, the platform creaked, and the loader's back wheels tipped off the ground as the bundle was lowered back in place. For a moment we all had waking nightmares of a smashed T. rex.
By backing the tiltbed truck behind the loader and refitting the straps on the bundle, we made the job a bit less frightening. Walt and Kermit slid a dozen bundles of various sizes onto the tiltbed. While we kept a careful watch, Kermit inched the truck out onto the two-lane gravel refuge road where Bill McKamey had parked his semi. Walt transferred the bundles with the front-end loader, then covered them with tarps.
The T. rex move, begun at noon at the quarry, was completed at sunset as a storm broke overhead. Pat could finally relax. We stood by the road and watched T. rex roar off again across Montana for the first time in 65 million years. In the background, thunder boomed and the sky flashed with kghtning. T. rexwas leaving its world, and coming into ours, but not without a big fanfare.
c HAPTER 3
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