|Allosaurus and Stegosaurus at DMNS. Click for photo credit.|
I wanted to tell her what I had just read on the plaque in front of the display: that the dinosaur she was so impressed by had been discovered by a young girl. But I thought her parents might look askance at a stranger talking to their little girl, so I just smiled and moved along. Maybe I should have showed the plaque to them.
When I got back home, I looked up the story of the girl and the Allosaurus. In 1979, a thirteen-year-old girl named India Wood was visiting a family ranch in the plateau country of western Colorado, near Dinosaur National Monument. She had been finding fossils there since she was 8 years old, but this time she found a dinosaur bone sticking out of a hillside.
Naturally, she started digging it out. And she kept digging over the next three summers; stashing the bones under her bed back in Colorado Springs. In 1982 her mother convinced her to contact the museum in Denver. The curator, Don Lindsey, drove down to Colorado Springs, and was amazed when the 17-year-old started pulling gorgeously preserved dinosaur bones out from under her bed. Knowing talent when he saw it, he hired India as a field assistant to help him dig out the rest of the great beast's bones. They were stored in a back room for several years, but in the early '90's the Allosaurus was mounted next to its old foe Stegosaurus, which had been found decades before in Canon City, Colorado.
In a People article from 1984, India said she wanted to go into paleontology. Later on, she became more interested in other fields, so she went to Dartmouth and studied English Literature. She went on to get an MBA from MIT, and today she owns a business research firm in Boulder. I don't know if she ever wishes she had become a paleontologist, but I'm guessing she would have been continued to be great at it.
As for the little girl at the museum, I hope somebody tells her India Wood's story. Who knows, maybe it will inspire her to go out and find her own dinosaur.
India Wood Makes No Bones About It: Her Colorado Dinosaur Find is a Real Monster
Allosaur Find, Nearly Thirty Years Later
Paleontology: Discovering the Ancient History of the American West