The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 23, 2022 1:00 am

Bill proposes mastodon as state fossil

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

The mastodon is getting its due.

House Bill 1013 would designate the mastodon as the state fossil. It passed committee and is set for a full vote this week.

Other state symbols include the peony as the flower, the firefly as the insect, popcorn as the state snack and the cardinal as state bird. You get the picture. 

The legislation says the remains of about 300 mammoths and mastodons have been found all across the state – one in almost all 92 counties – but primarily in central and northern Indiana.

The bill refers to the mastodon as “an ancient member of the elephant family that scientists believe roamed North America, Europe, and Asia before becoming extinct more than 10,000 years ago.”

Purdue University Fort Wayne's mascot is the mastodon – the only one in the country – going back to the late 1960s.

One key mastodon was found on a family farm near Fort Wayne. In June 1998, Dan Buesching was digging up a clump of tree roots surrounded by peat moss from a lake. He noticed teeth. Big teeth. That mastodon is now known as Fred and is a fixture in the Indiana State Museum.

Nearly 80% of his skeleton was entombed in the muck soil of this ancient lake, missing only its hips and right back leg.

“Indiana is a mastodon state,” said Ron Richards, senior research curator of paleobiology for the Indiana State Museum. “We are among several states in the southern Great Lakes region where mastodons were once abundant, and their remains are often discovered.”

It's about time

Some Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops saw firsthand Tuesday that local government meetings last longer than expected.

Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, introduced the scouts of Troops 519 and 19 who were sitting in on the council meeting.

“We always try to recognize our young, up-and-coming leaders,” he said as the city camera operator panned to the scouts donning tan uniforms.

At quick glance, the agenda implied the meeting would be relatively short – a presentation about ongoing issues with Red River Waste Solutions and six items up for discussion. But the end of the meeting wasn't in sight at the 90-minute mark.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, addressed the scouts about an hour and 40 minutes into the meeting.

“We were planning on a short meeting, and it's looking to go a little bit longer, and I know it's a school night,” she said. “We love that you're here, but if you need to exit, it won't hurt our feelings. ... I just didn't want you to feel like you're pressured to stay.”

The scouts silently remained in their seats. The meeting ended about a half-hour later at 7:40 p.m.

Hines thanked the scouts “for showing up this evening and staying the whole time.” The council members cheered and applauded the scouts.

Looks deceiving

Allen County Treasurer William Royce had the job Friday of presenting an annual report on the county's accounts and investments – a report that showed they earned much less interest in 2021 than in previous years.

A general fund account earned less than half of the 2020 total in 2021, Royce said, and the reason was low interest rates because of the financial uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and federal interest-rate policies.

“It's a good report,” Nelson Peters said, only to be wryly – and quickly – countered by fellow Republican Commissioner Rich Beck.

“It's a terrible report,” said Beck who has been in local banking and financial services for more than 40 years.  

“Yes,” a nonplussed Peters responded. “But,” he added of Royce, “he did a good job at presenting it.”

Devan Filchak and Rosa Salter Rodriguez of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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