Years ago, Waldo [Wilcox] found an eroding Fremont skeleton sticking skull-first out of the earth. To protect it, he picked up a nearby metate – or “corn grinder,” as he calls the stone basin the ancients used to pulverize their maize – and laid it over the skull.
Four years ago, Waldo directed a pair of archaeology students to the site. They came back from the all-day hike exhausted but exhilarated. “They told me, ‘We’ve discovered that the Fremont buried their dead with corn grinders covering their heads,’” Waldo recounted. “I said, yep, and I bet I can tell you right where that was, too.’”
From « Guardian of a Ghost World» by David Roberts in the August 2006 issue of National Geographic which recounts how rancher Waldo Wilcox protected Fremont artifacts and rock art on his massive Utah ranch for over fifty years – without letting on to anyone that they were there. His father protected them before that.
Wilcox recently sold his ranch, Range Creek, to the Trust for Public Lands (his wife had had enough, and wanted to move closer to civilization) – a decision that has left archaeologists overwhelmed and excited by one of the richest repositories of Fremont artifacts in North America – but which, perhaps, he regrets, concerned that the Trust won’t look after the land the way his family did all those years.
David Roberts writes:
One May evening, Waldo and I sat on the lawn in front of the cinder-block house. Far above us to the north, a butte where Waldo had discovered a ruin caught the orange glow of sunset. The old man seemed in a pensive mood.
“What does it fell like to come back?” I asked.
Waldo paused. “It hurts,” he finally said. “I should’ve had my ass kicked for sellin’ it. There’s only one Range Creek in the world, and I let it slip through my fingers.”
But then a certain gleam lit his gaze. “There’s one other place I know of with as much Indian stuff in it as you got here,” he said. “And if they ruin Range Creek, that secret’s going’ with me to the grave.”
Range Creek is remarkable not only because there is an abundance of artifacts, but because Wilcox and his family left just about everything – with the exception of a few arrowheads – in situ.