fancy for fossils
Gabhart subject of July forum
(July 2005) Jim Gabhart has a thing for rocks.
The self-described rock hound started out collecting interesting
stones as a youngster. Gabhart, a remodeling contractor, previously
taught building trades and served as a bailiff in circuit court.
by Levi King
Gabhart will display
his fossils at an event
this month in Madison.
His collection now contains crystals and local fossils
such as horned coral, trilobites and brachiopods. He also has more exotic
North American specimens that he bought at rock shops around the country.
Some of these include petrified fish and turtles and oreodont skulls,
which Gabhart described as a prehistoric critter kind of like
Bob Wolfschlag, owner of Wolfschlag Construction, became interested
in fossils when he worked for Gabhart many years ago. Wolfschlag, 61,
has since gone on to amass his own collection of rocks, including 50-pound
crystals and dinosaur bones. Some of his prized fossils include a prehistoric
goat head, complete fish skeletons, duckbilled dinosaur ribs and ancient
Gabhart and Wolfschlag will be presenting their collections at the Jefferson
County Historical Societys monthly docents meeting at 11 a.m.
Wednesday, July 13, at the Heritage Center. The program, simply titled
Fossils, is open to the public and admission is $2.
The presenters plan to exhibit native fossils as well as stones and
bones from around the world. Most people get bored with the details,
so we let them get a good look and ask questions, said Wolfschlag.
Joe Carr, the historical society director, said that the fossil display
will shift the subject of the monthly programs from history to prehistory.
We usually focus on human history, but were excited to have
Bob and Jim presenting. It should be interesting, he said.
Gabhart has been doing fossil presentations at schools and service clubs
for years. He thinks his hobby has a special appeal for children. He
recalls one visit to a 4-H meeting several years ago, where the kids
were rowdy and inattentive as the leader introduced the meeting. When
Gabhart began his presentation, the kids became enthralled. You
could hear a pin drop, he said.
Gabhart cant remember exactly how or when he got into fossils.
About all I can tell you is that my mother used to complain a
lot about finding rocks in the washing machine, he said. Gabhart
has no formal training, just the knowledge hes been collecting
along with his rocks. Ive learned a little here and a little
there, from books or festivals, he said.
The veteran has some advice for kids interested in rocks. Get
yourself a little fossil book so you know what youre looking at
when you pick something up, Gabhart said.
He recommends visiting the Falls of the Ohio State Park Interpretive
Center in Clarksville, Ind., to learn more about the areas geological
The center displays and explains items found in the sites exposed
fossil beds. Gabhart also suggests a day trip to nearby Big Bone Lick
State Park in Boone County, Ky. During the last Ice Age, giant mastodons,
wooly mammoths and ground sloths came to the site to drink from the
still-active warm salt springs. Many of these animals became mired in
the marsh, and paleontologists have been uncovering their fossilized
remains since 1739. Visitors can view a variety of these prehistoric
creatures at the parks museum.
Wolfschlag advises youngsters to look around them. You couldnt
ask for better area for fossils, he said. Kids can find plenty
of prehistoric shells and creatures in creek beds or along the roads
cut through hillsides. You get an eye for it, said Wolfschlag.
The public is invited to attend the fossil presentation at
the Heritage Center, 615 W. First St., Madison. Call (812) 265-2335.
Back to July 2005 Articles.