Working alone in the lab on the morning I passed through was a cheerfully grizzled-looking fellow in a blue work shirt whom I recognized as Mike Voorhies from a BBC television documentary in which he featured. They don't get a huge number of visitors to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park—it's slightly in the middle of nowhere—and Voorhies seemed pleased to show me around. He took me to the spot atop a twenty-foot ravine where he had made his find.
It was a dumb place to look for bones, he said happily. "But I wasn't looking for bones. I was thinking of making a geological map of eastern Nebraska at the time, and really just kind of poking around. If I hadn't gone up this ravine or the rains hadn't just washed out that skull, I'd have walked on by and this would never have been found." He indicated a roofed enclosure nearby, which had become the main excavation site. Some two hundred animals had been found lying together in a jumble.
I asked him in what way it was a dumb place to hunt for bones. "Well, if you're looking for bones, you really need exposed rock. That's why most paleontology is done in hot, dry places. It's not that there are more bones there. It's just that you have some chance of spotting them. In a setting like this"—he made a sweeping gesture across the vast and unvarying prairie— "you wouldn't know where to begin. There could be really magnificent stuff out there, but there's no surface clues to show you where to start looking."
At first they thought the animals were buried alive, and Voorhies stated as much in a National Geographic article in 1981.