The Cook, The Janitor and Head Tour Guide
An interview with Kris
Our Crazy Paleo World
1) How long has the ranch been here? The ranch was homesteaded by my great grandparents, Charles and Helen Zerbst in the late 1800's.
2) How long have you lived on the ranch? I have lived here basically all my life. I went away for college and then came back when Dad got sick. I have been here ever since.
3) Where did you go to school? I went to a country school that my grandpa help build a few miles from the ranch. My Dad went to school there and I was one of the few that was there when they closed it down. Once they closed it down the school district brought in a double wide trailer which became our new school. I finished 8th grade there and then moved to Newcastle to live with my Grandparents through high school. After high school I headed to college.
4) You mentioned that you went to college. Did you go to school for paleontology? HA... No, everyone always asks me that. I graduated with a Speech and English degree. Everything I know about dino's was from years of hanging out with Paleos with my head to the ground.
5) When was the first dinosaur taken off the ranch?
As the story goes in 1908 Charles Sternberg collected some bones here. We are in the heart of the Lance Formation, which is rich in late Cretaceous bones. Since then, we have had a lot of people come out to prospect for bones.
6) What kind of dinosaurs have you found at the ranch? Our dinosaurs were at the very end of dinosaur time, so we have a lot of the dinosaurs that people would recognize. Triceratops, T-Rex, Edmontosaurus, Struthiomimus, Pachycephalosaurus, Nanotyrannus and a whole handful of fish, crocodile, turtle etc are found all over the ranch.
7) Is there a certain layer that you find the dinosaurs in? Well, yes and no. Some will tell you to look for shale and shale only. Although, I have pulled Triceratops horns out of sagebrush before. Do I get excited to see a shale hill? Absolutely. Finding a dinosaur bone while out prospecting takes a whole lotta of... luck...
8) How many dinosaur bones have you taken off the ranch? Honestly, that would be hard to count. We have had lots of dinosaur bones taken off the ranch. Some of our bones are in Germany, Italy, China, England, Washington, Long Island, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Texas, and Indiana to just name a few. In the past 25 years we have had two pretty complete Triceratops taken from here. The first Triceratops, Kelcey, was taken out in 1998. She now resides at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. The second Triceratops, Lane, was taken out in 2001. Lane was pretty cool as he had skin impressions. We know what a Triceratops looked like now, and I promise you, it isn't what you thought. Lane now resides in Houston TX at the Museum of Natural History. We had a T-Rex ribcage taken out that headed to Chicago, a Triceratops ribcage with Nano teeth stuck in its ribs that packed up and moved to Long Island and a few other Triceratops that headed to different college museums.
9) You mentioned two dinosaurs by name, Kelsey and lane. Why do they have names? Mom and Dad decided a long time ago that they were going to find a whole dinosaur for each of their grandkids. Kelsey was the first, so when they found their triceratops, they promptly nicknamed it Kelsey and the second one was named after lane. Sadly, Dad got sick and everything spiraled. We are still looking for the last two, Wyatt and Jaden. Jaden and Wyatt both will tell you though, that if they find a T-Rex it will have Dad's name on it and not theirs, cause in the end Dad was the king of the ranch.
10) Paleo was your parents dream right? Correct, Mom and Dad wanted to build a lodge of sorts where they could house all their dinosaur finds and house guests that would want to come out. It would also house our deer hunters in the fall. In 1999 Dad started putting together plans to build the lodge. We have a room of bunk beds that could sleep 15 or so people, two full bathrooms, a full kitchen and an open living and dining area. All of our finds are housed here along with over 20 years of memories. Dad wasn't able to see the finished product though. He passed away before it was finished. We were able to start our first tours a month after he passed in 2000. Dad loved to see the look on kids' faces when they would hold a dinosaur bone for the first time. It is a look and feeling that never really gets old. We have had people come and go through the years from all over the world and they all say one common thing, they all fell in love with the ranch. Whether it was the dinosaurs, the star filled sky, the history, the absolute peace or the wide-open skies, the ranch speaks to everyone young and old. An old neighbor once told me that we live in a mansion upon a kingdom and to never forget it. Having Paleo makes me happy that I can share that with other people.
11) What is the coolest dinosaur bone you have ever found? Hmm... that is a hard question. I have found a ton of cool stuff over the years. I brought home 2 Pachycephalosaurus skull's, those were pretty cool. I found a jawbone of a mammal one time while driving a four-wheeler. I went back to look for it and it was so small I had to put it on the inside of my fingernail to see the teeth. I like the little stuff, teeth especially. The teeth have the pretty shine to them that is unmistakable. I think maybe the coolest thing we have is something I didn't find; the trackway is pretty amazing. It is amazing to touch their footprint and to think about all these crazy dinosaurs living together in a perfect world. The Zerbsti track is of course near and dear to my heart being named after our family, plus, it was a pretty cool dinosaur in itself.
12) You say you are the cook, the janitor and the head tour guide, why? Well, because basically I am. My Mom used to have a catering business that I helped with, so I was taught how to feed a crowd at a young age. I have to admit, my potato salad is pretty tasty. With Paleo Park I do a lot of the cooking for guests when they stay. The janitor is obvious, someone needs to clean the lodge and tend to things. That is usually me unless I can get the kids to help out. The tour guide is something I have done since I was about 8. Wyatt and Jaden are basically the tour guides now when they are around. I get to sneak out on tours with them every once in a while and always jump in on the weekend tours. We have taken many people out and about on the ranch prospecting. Having Paleo has definitely made it easier to have people out. It is fun to come in at night and tell stories of days past. I had someone ask me once how I knew so much about the ranch. I just smiled and said it is easy to talk about something you love.
13) What is your favorite story? Oh I don't have one favorite story. Every story makes me smile as it usually stirs up a memory that I hold dear, so honestly, I guess they are all my favorite since they all help build me. But, you want to hear some funny stories? Come for a visit, there will be stories all along, cause as my Dad would say, "that is why I sent you to college." But, that is another story.
14) You talk about your Dad a lot. What was he like? My Dad was the best. During the Kelsey dig he was interviewed. So take it from the man, the myth and the legend.. The one who taught me about the ranch and gave me the love for it. My Daddio...