Even I had no idea where the story would go when I asked Gail Bradshaw to do some “dinosaur research for a Texans United article.”
Of course, I knew that there were a few dinosaur tracks found at Lake Eanes. What kid who grew up in Comanche back in the Lake Eanes days didn’t know that? And of course, I knew that molds of a couple of those tracks are now on display in the city park. That’s why I asked Gail to bone up on the subject since we want to put up a sign in the park about those tracks.
What I did not know was the extent of the tracks found on what was city property once upon a time. And now that I do know, I’m not sure whether to shoot those powers that be who are long, long gone…or just shoot myself over what might have been!
Gail Bradshaw is the wife of Comanche Police Chief, Bruce Bradshaw. She has a Masters Degree in Earth Science, she’s a certified Master Naturalist, and she’s a bonified fossil nut!
“The two things that I really, really like are earth science and space science, but I did my undergrad work in biology so guess I just love it all,” she bubbled when she, Bruce, and I met at the local DQ to talk dinosaurs over our steak fingers.
And then, she dropped the bomb on me, first reading from the 1942 work of Charles C. Albritton, Jr., Southern Methodist University.
“One of the most remarkable displays of dinosaur tracks yet found in Texas was that which until recently could be seen three miles south of Comanche at Lake Eanes. This lake is an artificial one, formed by a dam which was built across Mercer Creek in May, 1925. Heavy rains which fell in October of the following year caused…a great volume of water to pass over a broad spillway…the spillway was floored with flatlying beds of Cretaceous clay. In the course of flooding, this clay was stripped away, and when the waters subsided, some hundred and fifty dinosaur tracks were visible…”
Yes, I realize it was 1926, and people didn’t understand the things we understand today, but what I wouldn’t give to have 150 dinosaur tracks fall into our lap today! Well, there’s no use crying over spilled milk OR lost tracks, I suppose. Instead we will just thank our lucky stars for Elbert Stewart, caretaker of the old lake.
Mr. Stewart was the first to find the tracks, and he did his best to guard them from those who came and tried to cart them away for souvenirs, ruining many. I find it hard to believe, but according to the Comanche Chief, it was not until the end of November of 1936 that Dr. Robert Thomas Hill, the Father of Geology in Texas and someone who had deep roots in the Comanche area, was contacted to inspect the tracks.
The geologist wrote, “I hope that Comanche will do everything it can to protect and preserve these fossil foot-prints, and if they are too fragile to be preserved, good photographs should be obtained of them…Such occurrences will prove a great attraction for tourists and visitors and will bring many people to the town.”
Truly amazing, isn’t it?
Gail Bradshaw went on to give me particulars from her research.
“ The tracks at Lake Eanes were made by dinosaurs that walked upright on their hind legs and which thus left no impressions of the forefeet…they show impressions of three toes, of which the middle is the longest…the dinosaurs supported their weight on mostly three toes and thus had feet that were functionally if not structurally tridactyl.”
Those of you who are much more educated on dinosaurs will understand that the above means that these dinosaurs were Theropods (meat eaters), with very large heads, strong jaws, and extremely sharp teeth. Their front feet were used for grasping their prey.
Bradshaw went on to explain that the average size track was 21 inches long and 15 inches wide, and most of the dinosaurs apparently had a stride of 4 to 5 feet; however, one set of tracks showed a dinosaur with a stride of over 10 feet. It was estimated that there were at least 30 different dinosaurs that made the tracks.
Albritton closed his writing by saying, “Of the various locations in Texas where the footprints of dinosaurs have been observed…the one at Lake Eanes has displayed the greatest number of tracks…”
The town of Comanche obviously did not heed Dr. Hill’s instructions to make the dinosaur prints a focal point in Comanche, thus creating ready-made tourist attraction. Today, we are left with but a few molds of what were some absolutely fabulous footprints and soon, volunteers from Revitalize Comanche will have a beautiful sign in the park celebrating this fascinating piece that is just one more square in the tapestry that makes up one of the most historical places in the state of Texas!