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DEMOLITION DAYS, PART 36
We, to a man, stood our ground as they made feints closer, closer, closer. Then eventually in very close proximity to our little group of concealed party favors.
Now, we didn’t want to blow them up, per se. No, really. We just wanted to let them know that they had made really bad career decisions that day. If they wanted to remain breathing normally, they should categorically get the fuck out of Dodge now, lest they end up less than 100% functional.
They were obviously heavily tanked-up, loaded with Dutch courage, getting closer, and more belligerent. They inched and centimetered closer to, then finally right on target. Just in the perfect place for an up close and personal demonstration of our subterranean deterrents.
I looked to the good Doctors, and they nodded back to me; all grinning very evilly.
Now, Primacord detonates at around 25,000 feet per second. So, it took about 1.03 milliseconds after I hit the button on the blasting machine for the first line of explosives to detonate. It threw up an impressive vertical curtain of earth slightly ahead of the hooligans and drifted to settle on and over the crowd of reprobates.
They were flummoxed. They didn’t know to get angry, go away, or to attack. More emphatically, they didn’t know whether to shit or wind their watch.
Dr. Zed smilingly accepted the blasting machine and after a quick re-wire, pressed the ‘Go’ button for round two.
Another lateral explosion occurred behind them this time. Even though their booze-addled brains, they realized they had been bracketed. This served to staunch much of their bravado. They realized that things had suddenly, and in a big way, gone decidedly south for them.
Dr. Seri was up next and the line of Primacord, which was actually rather closer to the last vehicle in their caravan than we had anticipated, detonated. Another meter or so closer, and Mongolia would have unknowingly entered the space race.
The bandits were completely taken off guard. Shocked, scared shitless, and stupid, they broke ranks and were running around in a believable imitation of a flock of decapitated Gallus domesticus. There was shouting, unbridled panic, and them plowing into each other. They were knocking each other over in their fervent desire to suddenly be elsewhere, anywhere, on the planet rather than here.
That left the final row of Primacord. The one with the little 5 kilo party favor buried out in the desert. I wandered out in the front of our crowd, holding the blasting machine. I was letting them know I was armed, angry, and we weren’t about to go gentle into that, goodnight.
Panic dug it claws in further as these brigands were not used to their prey fighting back. They blustered and made a lot of bad noise. However, they stopped and froze; standing stock-still as I fired off a couple of steel-jacketed .357 rounds skyward.
“Намжүүн! Namjüün! Fuck off! Зайл! Zail! Go away!” I shouted at the top of my voice.
I was in no mood to deal with these asswipes and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that I was uber-PISSED OFF!
Last chance, assholes.
“Намжүүн! Namjüün! Fuck off! Зайл! Zail! Go away!” I bellowed at them once more.
They started to get into their vehicles slowly, but evidently needed a wee bit more encouragement. My Polish and Japanese counterparts were right behind me, bring up the rear, watching that we weren’t going to be flanked. There were now three foreign languages searing the warm Mongolian air with very colorful and some frankly anatomically impossible suggestions, dark oaths, and epitaphs.
“You had your chance” I mused aloud.
Mash goes the boom-maker button.
A huge sheet and monstrously great throbbing, pulsating billows of desert earth that would have impressed Uncle Bår shook them, their vehicles and partially buried the whole caboodle.
I walked out now with the blaster held high, giving them the impression that they were next.
Chomping my cigar, I proffered the blasting machine in one hand and my gleaming nickel-plated .357 in the other.
They finally got the message.
They disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. Baggi was already on the shortwave to the local constabulary giving them the play-by-play and descriptions of this band of filthy malefactors.
“Ашшолc!” I muttered as I walked back to camp. My Mongolian language skills were coming along a treat.
The next day, the sheriffs arrived late in the morning. Tyuma, Baggi and Moony gave them both the descriptions and events of the past day. They walked out into the desert, looked around and all came walking back laughing.
Our would-be gatecrashers were indeed a group of cross-border bandits and have been plaguing the southern Gobi with their dirty work. They stole fossils, looted caravans, and even attacked a tour bus loaded with Germans. The last one didn’t work out so well as the bus driver blitzkrieged one of the bandit’s trucks and put that outlaw into hospital. And later into jail.
The police wanted to meet me. We went over my permits, my paperwork and they really enjoyed playing around with my .357. In fact, one of them tried to get me to trade for his 9mm Makarov, a Russian shootin’ iron. I begged off saying it would prove difficult to explain to exit customs why my pistol mutated from an American Colt to a Russian Makarov while in-country.
They said they’d try and keep the pressure on these idiots and make sure we had a more uneventful remainder of an expedition. They left, wishing us well, and promised to look in on us once in a while.
We never saw them again.
Back to the problem at hand. We spent the next few days cutting the block into 12 more or less equal pieces. The coal mine had sent over a series of hydraulic jacks that made our life so much easier. We were able to ‘easily’ flip each sub-block and plaster it, readying them for their transport back to Ulaanbaatar.
Our low-boy semi-trucks began to show up and we just had to wait a short time before the wheel loader was trundled over to location. The wheel loader driver cut a service road so the Lorries could drive up to within a few meters of the quarry. He also cleared the entire quarry area around the blocks with a couple of deft passes of his huge machine.
Each lowboy could accept one or two of the blocks. After we chained them to the wheel loader’s bucket, and he gingerly set them on the trailers, where we all jumped on and chained them down. We had plastered a series of heavy iron U-bolts into each block for attachments of these chains. A little prior planning saved a lot of time and headaches.
12 hours later, the last semi-trailer truck left for the University and Museum in Ulaanbaatar. The quarry over which we had all fussed for so many days was obliterated by the wheel loader as he had made a few quick passes to fill in the dent we had made in the earth.
The wheel loader driver stayed the night and we all had a fine time toasting him, our luck, and the wonderful country of Mongolia and all its people.
The next morning, we were all going nomad again. We had some sites that had been reported by several different previous expeditions. So we were off to make a big Gobi-sized loop which would eventually, in a week and a half’s time, lead back to Ulaanbaatar.
We said our goodbyes to the wheel loader driver, saddled up, and headed west.
After several days of traveling, prospecting, and camping, we were all getting rather whiffy. Bouncing around the Gobi also was proving to be strenuous. It was hot, windy, buggy, and very dusty. We were beginning to show sight of travel weariness.
Plus there were the herds of brazen little kangaroo rats.
After a conclave of team leaders, it was decided a day off was required. Close at hand, that is, within a day’s drive, was Buuntsagaan Lake and Hot Springs. It looked like just the ticket for our road-weary clan.
The lake was bereft of visitors so we had our choice of camping sites. We all wanted to be right up on the lakeshore as it looked terribly inviting and we all wanted to scrape a few layers of Gobi off our collective epidermi. There were a few rooms at the hot springs hostel, but Esme and I decided to tent it tonight, as usual. We listened to the oddly prescient Tyuma and set up our tent in a more protected, out of the way area.
The rest of our crowd, after filling the hostel to maximum capacity, pitched their tents right out on the sandy beach of the beautiful intermontane lake.
We all had great times swimming, hot springing, and using something a little less primitive than a pit toilet.
It’s the little things in life…
Right as evening began to fall, Tyuma called us over and told us to fold our tent and get everything into the UAZ.
“Storm is coming. Going to be big.” He noted.
We didn’t argue, but the others on the beach we had warned decided they would just weather the storm. Besides, it was such a nice night coming. How bad could a little thunderstorm be?
We soon found out.
The winds went from dead calm to gale force in the span of seconds. What was ever outdoors and not nailed down was flying or flapping in the breeze. The tents all looked like someone had hooked up an air compressor to each and overinflated them 150%.
Thunder boomed mightily, and lightning marched, crackling all around the perimeter of the lake. From the protected confines of Tyuma’s UAZ, it was all terrifyingly exciting.
The rain hit, and it hit with a vengeance. Instead of looking like someone took a garden hose to you, it’s rather that someone dumped a swimming pool on you. Tents that survived the winds were flatted by the driving rain. We had now 7 people in Tyuma’s UAZ, most of them watching helplessly as the weather made short work of their expensive North Face products.
Luckily, the Uaz had ample internal power so we had Tyuma’s disco lights to add to the lightning crackling festivities. He also had an unfortunately large collection of Turkish rap and Bulgarian disco music.
However, we also had cigars, cigarettes, beer, and vodka.
With nothing else to do, we invented the “Mongolian Instant Thunderstorm Drinking Game”.
Thunderclap? 1 shot of vodka. Lightning strike? Another shot. A direct hit on the van? Pass the bottle…
It was a game most at the time were trying hard to lose.
Hail dropped by for a visit, with a vengeance, however, it didn’t last too long. Luckily the tents were already wind and rain flattened or the hail would have punched holes through them like so much alpine cheese. I seem to recall a similar event in my life some months back. Odd how things tend to repeat themselves…
The storm abated as abruptly as it began. We cautiously ventured out to check the damage.
The storm winds had blown a large seiche of lake water high onto the shore. In its wake, it left a large number of 30-40 centimeter perch-like fish. They were a gladly accepted bounty which added some variety to our mutton and carbohydrate-rich diets over the last weeks.
After drying everyone out the next morning, it was back to the job at hand. Surveying, taking samples and checking on previous discoveries.
Along the way, we went past the ruins of many, many Buddhist monasteries; as they were forbidden by the Stalinist regime emplaced here earlier. We did find one that was still operating and were warmly welcomed by the head monk.
He offered us a place to stay the night and we gladly accepted as the monastery was ringed by a great rock wall, hundreds, and hundreds of years old. It’s one of the reasons this particular monastery still existed. It also would have the same effect on cross border bandits.
We pitched our camp in the back-yard of the monastery and were circumspect in our actions as to not offend our hosts. I locked my trusty sidearm in Tyuma’s truck and kept my cigar and Yorsh lowly discreet.
After evening prayers, the head monk visited with us and we had a wonderful listen to the history and mythology of Buddhism. Tyuma couldn’t stand it anymore and fired up a Marlboro.
The monk offhandedly asked if he had an extra.
Over beer and cigars, we were regaled with more history, folklore, and incredible tales from this part of the world. It was most de-centralizing. He also explained the ovoo, the rock cairns we were constantly seeing that were adorned with strips of blue cloth.
“Prayer cairns,” he said. Each strip of blue cloth was a prayer. There were often offerings of money, food, and tobacco left at the ovoos as well, but much of that mysteriously disappeared.
We left the next day after accepting their blessings for long lives and a fruitful expedition.
We left them a box of cigars and a few bottles of vodka.
“Prayer offerings, for luck,” I said to the group. No one said a word.
We headed northwest and to the outer reaches of the Gobi. Time was drawing nigh. We had accomplished all of the mission parameters and now it was time for sightseeing, geologizing, and taking in the wonders of the Mongolian landscape.
We stopped at a recently erupted volcano and had a great time wandering around and exploring the ice caves that had formed back in the Late Pleistocene. Got to remember, we’re geologists, and ‘recent’ to us means ‘in the last three or four million years’.
As we began our swing more northerly, we were seeing more diverse sorts of fauna. Great herds of wild horses, marmots who were the big brothers to South Dakota prairie dogs, and an amazing assortment of raptors, that is, birds of prey.
Huge Kazakh eagles, harpy owls, hawks, osprey, and vultures. There were many more species of birds here, as Dr. BG, amateur ornithologist enjoyed pointing out, than in Japan.
Then it really hit the fan. We drove smack into a massive swarm of locusts, Oedaleus asiaticus.
These were not your little Salt Lake City ‘we’re going to eat your crops’ types of locusts. Oh, no. These were more ‘we’re going to strip your flesh and leave your bones to bleach in the sun’ batch of bugs.
We had to pull over and wait until the swarm had passed. Driving through them would have been suicidal. The locusts would mash up against the windshield rendering it opaque. Their sheer numbers would choke off the radiator of any water-cooled vehicle. So, we sat in Tyuma’s UAZ; chitchatting, smoking our smokes, drinking our drinks.
Es decided now would be a good time for a nap, so she crawled into the far back of the truck and made a little nest for herself. I, on the other hand, had to piss so bad I thought my back teeth were floating.
I set a new all-state outdoor urination record as I tied my flannel shirt around my head and donned my duster. Tyuma joined me as he had to answer nature’s call as well. We took turns de-locusting each other, several times before we got back into the van. It was a scene right out of the Raiders cave spider incident.
These locusts were huge, fully 6 to 8 centimeters in length. Winged with huge, nasty, bitey looking mandibles. They did indeed look like aerial piranhas that could strip a human down to blanched bleaching bones if they really wanted.
The entire convoy sat for 8 hours until the worst of them passed. Finally, as their ranks thinned, we decided to head back out towards our destination.
That didn’t go well as the vehicles were so caked with locust schmoo in just a few miles, we decided to pull off the road, circle the wagons and spend the night in a cold camp. Rations were whatever you could find that didn’t require cooking. Luckily, we were well stocked with jerky and fermented liquid bread. Everyone remained in their vehicles for the night.
Except for Esme and me. We weathered the storm and went out for a look around. There wasn’t a stick of greenery that could be found. The locusts had lawnmowered every piece of chlorophyll-producing flora down to nubbins.
If nothing else, they cleared the path for Es’s discovery of the remains of the Eocene mammal, Gomphos. It was a stem lagomorph, or distant cousin to rabbits, pikas, and hares. We collected it in less than an hour. It was our only post-Cretaceous fossil for the whole trip.
The next day, just after dawn, we headed for the nearest ger camp. The vehicles were disgusting and needed a good hose-down. We were all semi-cranky, sore from spending the night in our vehicles and being bereft of a hot dinner. Morale was a bit on the draggy side.
We took over the entire camp which was luckily empty. We didn’t care what it cost. It had hot food, hot showers, and a place to get horizontal away from big, nasty, flying bitey bugs.
The next day we were all in better spirits. We were out of the Gobi and headed back towards Ulaanbaatar. First, we were going to take a side trip to the Przewalski's horse reserve in the Khustain Nuruu National Park, on the way back to the city. They are one of the oldest breeds of horse and most primitive in terms of being considered the only 'true' wild horse extant in the world today, never having been domesticated.
We stayed the night there and had an excellent time getting to know the local takhi, as they are known. They may have never been domesticated, but they certainly had no fear of humans. One was especially enraptured with Esme as she had brought along some carrots and apples for the equine crowd. It followed her everywhere. The curator of the reserve said that Esme must have good horse sense and that these horses are keen judges of character. Must be why they avoided me.
We ended up sponsoring ‘Socks’, as Esme named her new charge. We parted with a sum of Tugriks for Socks’ better welfare. Today, we still send them an annual donation in our and our horse-crazed daughter’s names.
After all this horsing around, we were back hot on the trail, heading eastwardly toward Ulaanbaatar. We still had several days to go and there was rather a lot of geology gamboling around the countryside, right outside of our vehicle’s windows.
Since Es and I were the only soft-rock geologists in this crowd of paleontologists, it naturally fell upon us to explain the vistas by which we were passing. I was searching the old Russian and Mongolian reconnaissance geological maps while Esme was giving a good rundown over the radio of the rocks and structures we were seeing.
We passed by more recent spatter-cone volcanoes and stopped at one for lunch. There was a conical structure some 50 or so meters in height and was vaguely emitting little wisps of smoke. These were indeed very recent, in fact, active basaltic spatter cones dotting the landscape. They were not on our maps so they were evidently new discoveries. There probably weren’t all that new, just overlooked by previous geological parties. As such, we were able to name them.
Our maps now showed Japan Peak, Mt. Krakow, Bataar Highland, and Es-Rock Rock. Since we were the first group recording these, we received the honor of naming them. Each group named them for other members of the expedition, even naming one for the American crew.
Being seriously chuffed with ourselves, we continued our slow eastward drive. Incredible vistas of the open steppe, badlands topography, and wide open spaces were everywhere. Once past the town of Altai, we traveled more or less northeastward. Past Taishir, past Gegeen Lake, where I couldn’t convince the caravan to stop for the night so I could try some more fishing.
We continued towards Tsagaankhairkhan, on the Zavkhan River. We did stop for a breather here but I couldn’t raise any fishy prospects in our short visit this time. Further north, we made a tourist stop at Uliastai's Zavkhan Aimag Museum – the Famous People Museum, in the foothills of the Tarvagatai Mountains. The topography was changing from desert plain to bouncy, jagged, disorderly mountains. We were in the Central Asiatic Altai Mountain chain.
The Zavkhan Aimag Museum - Famous People Museum features well-known Zavkhanites from the aimag (region), including Mongolia’s first two democratically elected presidents, P. Ochirbat and N. Bagabandi. The adjoining Zavkhan History Museum contains the bones of a Pleistocene mammoth, some fine religious art, and a coral tsam mask, worn during Buddhist lama dances. There are also a few photographs of the region taken in the late 19th and early 20th century, a wall map depicting Uliastai's layout when it was a garrison city, and some grisly reminders of the Manchu era in the form of shackles and torture devices. It was most entertaining and enlightening.
After lunch and back on the ‘road’, we headed north to Tosontsengel. From there we head east for the duration of our tour. We pass into the tiny town of Iik-Uul, which Tyuma said was ‘something special’. It was getting on toward late afternoon and we were all about ready for a stop. We stopped first by the “Roadside Eatery” just north of town and invaded this little hole-in-the-wall snack bar.
We ordered virtually every variety of noodle dish they offered. Some with lamb, some with mutton, some with mystery meat; all delicious, if you ignored the somewhat semi-grubby surroundings. What was so special is that it featured a full Western-style standup bar. We were allowed to bivouac that night just behind this little shop. In no time at all, our tents were pitched, laundry hung to dry, and most of us were back in the bar.
As usual, music broke out later that night as more and more locals drifted in. It was quite the crowd, songs in badly-tuned Polish, Mongolian, Japanese, and English drifted out the doors until the late evening. The proprietor, happy to have us as guests called “Last Call!” and by midnight, we were all soring soundly out on the steppes.
We were up bright and early. After a quick noodley breakfast at the Roadside Eatery, we were on our way eastward, with the largish town of Tsetserling as our evening’s stopover.
Through Tariat, and just outside of Khorgo, we had our only flat tire. The lead Japanese vehicle blew the left rear and luckily, they had a spare, but no jack. We scrounged the other vehicles and found a jack that would work on their larger Land Cruiser. I offered to help change the tire, but Baggi and Tyuma forbade it. This was their exclusive department.
With nothing else to do but wait, I broke out the binoculars as Esme set up our camera and tripod. We wanted some scenic overview pictures for our reports when we returned home.
As I scanned the scenery, I saw a large herd of wild horses, gazelles, and many birds gathering around an oddly brightly white-colored outcrop of rocks a few tens of kilometers distant. The rest of the rocks we’ve seen over the last couple of days were melanic: dark, and mostly gray-brown-black.
I could clearly see a large quasi-circular pattern of these snow-white outcrops due to the distance and our relative higher elevation. I went over to inform my Polish, Japanese, and Mongolian counterparts to get their take on this odd situation.
Esme and I thought it resembled some sort of diapiric intrusion that popped through the alluvial valley-floor regolith like some form of terrestrial acne. Density differences due to lithostatic loading can mobilize lower density rocks at depth and literally squeeze them up to the surface like toothpaste from a tube.
In the US Gulf Coast, these are salt domes and can be enormous. They also harbor vast amounts of oil and gas. It could also be a carbonatite lava flow; lava made of essentially melted limestone. Very, very rare and hosts to incredibly exotic and valuable mineral deposits. Either way, we suggested we take the time to investigate, as none of this appeared on any of our maps.
The flat fixed, we were back bouncing eastward. Looks like Tengri, the Mongolian harbinger of good fortune, was smiling upon us that day as the road cut directly through the circular formation. We stop off to the side of the road and piled out to investigate.
It was halite. A natural salt lick, which explained all the animals I saw further back. This was an important find. As I had noted, in the Gulf Coast, salt domes are host to huge deposits of oil and natural gas. Mongolia’s oil industry is small and hasn’t been done too well since the Russians gave up prospecting in the late 1960s. Sure, there was some ongoing development of oil and gas over to the west and south, towards China in the Delgerkhan Sub-basin and the Tamtsag Basin, which are host to the countries only two oil fields, Zuunbayan and Tsagaan. These are clear over on the other side of the country and there is no oil, nor gas known from this far west. This could have significant ramifications.
If it was a salt dome, they occur in groups. If the salt is mobile, as is demonstrated here, it could form hydrocarbon traps. If there are appropriate reservoir rocks and a good source for the hydrocarbons, such as in the Jurassic and Cretaceous further east, this could be a bird nest on the ground, an oilfield or two. This could be a game-changer for the Mongolian extractive economy.
I had to map and document this as much as possible in our short time. I ask Esme to photograph everything she thinks important. I ask Tyuma and Moony to go out and hnt up some samples of all the different types of rocks. I pull out my mapping table, theodolite, compass, and Leroy lettering set. I get to work.
Tyuma brings me back a beautiful sample of almost pure sheared halite. Pure native rock salt, the reason for all the animals. There is an abundance of associated pink, green, and yellow minerals in the surrounding shales and siltstones. This is really beginning to look like something substantial. Baggi comes over and asks me to come with him, he’s found something unusual and has no idea what it might be.
He shows me a dark stained pit within the salt. I hack away at it with my Estwing and break off a piece of glistening, black mineral. I give it a whiff and it smells exactly like old crude oil.
I take this back to camp and ask for the opinions of the Polish and Japanese teams. They ponder over it and Dr. Woz asks me for my lighter. I hand it over, he strikes it and applies the flame to our sample. It burns with a cloud of black, unctuous smoke.
“Rock, in my opinion, this is Gilsonite” he pronounces.
Gilsonite is basically the fossil remains of crude oil that has been weathered as all the lighter volatiles have long since escaped. We all agree and I return to the site to take some more samples. Unfortunately, the section in question has other ideas. It was hard, ductile, and fairly reluctant to give up its prize so easily.
Having had enough of this, I go to our van, pop open the trailer and extract a few blasting caps, some demo wire and the blasting machine. These are initiators, but pack enough of a thwack to get the rocks here to release their geochemical hold. No great production, I just tell everyone to stand back a few meters and its FIRE IN THE HOLE!
Ker-POP! The rocks shatter and yield up some very nice hand samples which we bag, tag, and notate for future reference and research at University.
Out of seemingly nowhere, a local shows up. He was wondering what was going on when he heard the blasting caps go off. Tyuma and Moony explain who we are and what we’re up to when he suddenly becomes very animated.
He points off to the north and we can see a solitary ger with a wobbly wooden windmill standing beside it. Seems the storm we experienced a few days ago played hod with his windmill and it was threatening to collapse and crash down into his house. Could we be of any help, as his wife and children couldn’t help shift the heavy wooden structure?
Tyuma relates his story to Es and me. I’m standing there smiling like a damned Cheshire cat. Knock down an old wooden structure, with precision?
Why certainly, my good man, most certainly.
We sample some of the ooze that seeped in from out little shot hole and confirmed it was hydrocarbons. Vials of this discovery were going back to the museum and university as a bonus.
We load back into the caravan and take the local back to his ger.
Upon arrival, Esme shouts “Hохдоо байлга!”, “Hold your dogs!” the traditional nomadic Mongolian greeting.
Tyuma and Baggi’s jaws drop almost to the ground in humorous amazement.
We meet the family and see the ancient windmill was treated very roughly indeed by the last week’s weather. It was swaying now in the light breeze and approximately 15 or so meters tall. If it fell in the wrong direction, it would make a mess of the ger to which it was standing next; possibly collapsing it.
Not a good thing.
Since Tengri had been so good to us that day, I immediately start assessing the situation. It had four stout wooden though weather-beaten legs, and wobbly as hell. The rusty 3 bladed metal prop-rotor up top would certainly make a large dent into anything it fell into.
This was a job for none other than Captain Primacord. A few millisecond delay blasting cap super-boosters and wraps of Primacord would reduce this looming wooden danger to a pile of kindling in no time.
After having everyone home vacate the ger, I told everyone to just stand back, keep your hands in your pockets and let Esme, Tyuma and myself handle this. It’ll be over in minutes, I assured the crowd.
Wrapping the Primacord was simple, thanks to the miracle of Duct Tape. I wired in the blasting caps and boosters so that the left-hand legs opposite the ger would be blown out in a section of half a meter’s height. 500 Milliseconds later, the right-hand legs would be sheared in a single plane. With a good chunk of the left legs gone, the tower has no option but to fall in that direction, away from the ger.
This was a cakewalk but everyone save for Tyuma and Es thought I was a practitioner of the black arts. I arranged for the master of the ger to push the button to take down the tower. Tyuma explained what I was doing and what I planned while I galved the connections one last time.
When I gave the high sign, we cleared the compass. Everyone was back where they should be, so the countdown continued.
Tyuma was in his UAZ already and gave three hearty toots of the horn. He came back to translate FIRE IN THE HOLE for me three times. I handed the ger’s owner the blasting machine, smiled, and yelled: “HIT IT!”
Tyuma immediately translated.
KER-BOOM, tick, tick, tick…KA-POW.
The tower fell exactly as planned and was now a splintered pile of its former self.
The ger owner, Batbayar, was all smiles with gasps of relief. Esme, Tyuma, and I received a brief standing ovation from the already standing crowd.
“Aw, shucks. Twern’t nothin’”, we smiled.
We had to stay for tea and sweeties after all this. To leave and refuse their hospitality and thanks would be the height of rudeness. I was presented an ancient bone-handled knife, Tyuma some snuff, and Esme received a necklace of vaguely Western Indian animal fetishes carved from a variety of different stones. It looked stunning around her neck.
I gifted back some Western sweets; Squirrel Nut Zippers, which were proving to be a favorite, and a bottle of our best vodka for Batabyar.
With heavy hearts, and yak-butter tea-filled bladders, we pushed on east toward the nights’ rendezvous, Tsetserling.
Back on the road, headed east lie our night’s bivouac, Tsetserling. The best thing about this town is that it was home to the OK Field Cafe & Bakery. This Australian-run cafe-restaurant offers a fantastic menu of international cuisine. The cafe bakes its own bread and cakes, to go with full English breakfasts, egg-and-bacon rolls, roast beef with Yorkies, a monstrous Aussie burger, and vegetarian and Mongolian dishes as well. There's a proper fresh espresso-machine coffee, too.
Real coffee, not that crap instant sludge? Praise whatever immortals were involved.
Tengri had indeed been good to us that day. There were proper dorm rooms instead of gers or our tents, and we could have hot showers and relax off the road for a change. It was a most welcome antepenultimate evening’s conclusion to our trip so far.
After a wonderful breakfast that I didn’t have to help cook, we were back on the road. Time was getting short and there were but three towns to go before Ulaanbaatar. The first was Altan-Ovoo. What makes this place unique is that it is the legendary eastern vast steppe-homeland of Dariganga people where mountain worship here is true example of nomadic Mongols beliefs in invisible deities of nature handed down from ancestors. It is also known as “Dari Ovoo”. It is one of the volcanoes in Dariganga Soum region.
Traveling further east we next come to Khotont, right outside the huge Orkhon Valley Natural and Historical Reserve. The 122,000-ha Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape encompasses an extensive area of pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century. The site also includes Kharkhorum, the 13th- and 14th-century capital of Chingis (Genghis) Khan’s vast Empire. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia. The grassland is still grazed by Mongolian nomadic pastoralists.
Past that we motor to Khujirt. We stop at the extensive hot springs complex at Khurjirt, on the edge of the Orkhon Valley. It is located between the popular tourist attraction of Erdene Zuu and the famous Orkhon Waterfall in the upper Orkhon Valley. We only stay a short while as our time is growing ever closer to depart this wonderful land.
Our stop for the evening is Bayan-Undar, the second-largest city in Mongolia. Our reservations at the local hotel were somehow lost and they were tourist full. We tried a few other hotels in the area but came up empty. Baggi was talking to a local who informed us that just 25 kilometers to the east, there was a brand new ger camp. They might not even be open yet, but it was a South Korean enterprise and might be able to accommodate us at this late point in time.
Around some incredibly impressive eroded volcanic necks and huge weathered vertical stocks of naked rock, we found the ger camp about which the local had spoken. It looked brand new but deserted. We all wheel in and Tyuma, Moony and Baggi infiltrate this place to see what was the story.
Good news, everyone! They had not had their grand opening yet, but were fully staffed, supplied, and waiting on the first crowd that weekend. They would be happy to accommodate us for the night, for a fee.
We all got our individual or couple’s gers and settled in quickly. There were hot showers again, an open restaurant, and an incredibly well-stocked bar. We all showered and met a couple of hours later in the restaurant and sampled what they had to offer.
It was a bit of a horror show, as the servers all spoke Korean and only one or two of the camp’s personnel spoke any English or Mongolian. We kept the translators very busy that night through the ordering and distribution of the meals.
After dinner, Esme begged off to our ger citing road fatigue and left me along with the Koreans, Mongolians, Japanese, and Polish. Of course, drinks were to be had and card games broke out spontaneously. There was a satellite television in the bar and, of course, we had to watch the latest football scores from around the globe.
There was an electric piano by the bar and most everyone took their turn pounding out some of their country’s songs. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, nor can’t play a musical instrument other than my saxophone, which didn’t make it on the trip. I preferred to just be a spectator this time. It was still a grand time when they kicked us all out of the bar around midnight.
We learned we were only 205 kilometers from Ullanbaatar so we all decided to sleep in late, have a leisurely breakfast, and get packed to hit the road around noon. Or 1300. Or 1400. We really didn’t want this trip to end. We had all become friends as well as colleagues. We all had amassed stories we will tell for years and years into the future.
Up through Buran, and then into Altanbulag, we were on the very outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Our trip was nearing an end. So much so, we were actually on a tarmac road rather than the Intershire dirt turnpath.
We reluctantly wheel into the museum parking lot. Our trip was over. It was a great success and was regarded as heroic by all participants. We offloaded our accumulated geological and paleontological treasures and were ushered into the museum to visit with some old friends.
The blocks we cut up out in the Flaming Cliffs had all arrived intact and two of them had been opened and were being prepared. The preparators told us that we must have agonized in cutting up the block. We did a good job they said, as there were but few bones that had been severed in the process.
Esme’s egg discovery had been confirmed as a clutch of Velociraptor mongoliensis. It consisted of not only 11 eggs, four eggs caught in the process of hatching, as well as the bones of three tiny hatchlings as well. It was the first find of this type in Mongolia as well as the world. It is now on permanent display in the museum’s Hall of Mongolian Dinosaurs.
So far, the blocks we rescued from the Flaming Cliffs contained Oviraptor, Velociraptor, Protoceratops, Tarbosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus Asian relative, and Therizinosaurus. There were mammal, turtle, multituberculate, fish, crocodile, and even bird remains. These blocks are still being worked to this day. The genera count surpassed a hundred back in 2005.
Also, I finally unloaded that damned core drill to the grateful folks of the University geology department.
To be concluded…
With the discovery of Canadian, TX teen Thomas Brown's remains, what's next for the investigation? Open question about discovery of deceased teen, missing since 2016.
I understand this has been posted about recently, given the finding of Thomas’s remains. I’d like to get into it some more. This case is so strange to me.
Introduction to case
From Casefile podcase episode 85, Writing by Milly Raso
Midnight approached on Thanksgiving Eve, November 23rd, 2016. Penny Meek was up waiting for her son Tom Brown, who was due home any moment. Hours earlier, Tom had gone out to meet up with friends. The 18-year-old had a strict midnight curfew and was rarely late. If he was, he always got in touch to let his mother know. So far, she’d heard nothing.A summary and timeline of the case from NBC New, written by Bianca Hiller
But midnight ticked by, and there was no sign of Tom.
At 12:03 am, Tucker sent his brother a text asking where he was.
Tom didn’t reply.
Tucker and Penny sent Tom several more text messages, trying to locate him. But still, they received no response. This was unusual – Tom always responded to texts.
At 12:23 am, Penny tried to call Tom. But her call went straight to voicemail – his phone was off. Penny’s concern grew. Though Tom could be a joker and a goofball, he wasn’t the type to pull a prank like this. He was a well-behaved son, far from rebellious or disrespectful.
Getting into separate cars to cover more ground, Penny and Tom’s older brother Tucker went searching for Tom’s red coloured 2009 Dodge Durango SUV.
Penny and Tucker combed the entire town – checking local haunts and hangouts. Yet, there was no sign of Tom or his car. Though Canadian had more wealth and bustle than other townships in the semi-arid Panhandle region of Texas; it was still incredibly small and close-knit. The layout of the land was deeply ingrained within the residents who lived there. There is no way Tom had gotten lost.
So where was he…
The day before Thanksgiving in 2016, Penny Kendall Meek was enjoying having her sons together at their Canadian, Texas home. Penny tells Dateline she remembers her youngest son, high school senior Thomas Brown, spending time with his older brother, Tucker, who was home from college for the holiday.Regarding the release of information about the case, from acb 7 News
Around 6:00 p.m. that night, Penny says Thomas said he was going to go hang out with friends. He asked for her debit card for gas money before driving away.
“Generally, the kids would meet at one of the schools and they’d park their cars there and get into one car and just ride around,” Penny told Dateline. “That night, they met at the middle school and rode around.”
Penny says she texted Thomas shortly after he left the house, but wasn’t surprised when he didn’t reply because she figured he was driving. Friends who were with Thomas that night would later tell Penny they all arrived back at the middle school parking lot around 11:20 p.m.
“Then, [Thomas] went to Fronc’s Oil and Gas. There are just gas pumps there -- no attendants, no convenience store,” Penny said, adding that surveillance footage would later show him pumping gas into his car. “My card was swiped at about 11:28 p.m.”
Thomas’s curfew was midnight, leaving him plenty of time to make it home. As soon as midnight came and went with no sign of Thomas, Penny grew concerned.
“Thomas never missed curfew. He would even come home well before curfew, and then he and his friends would play video games,” Penny said. A few minutes after midnight, Penny asked Thomas’s brother Tucker to text Thomas to see where he was. According to Penny, the text was delivered to Thomas’s phone, but it was not read.
When 12:10 a.m. came and Thomas still hadn’t replied to Tucker’s text, Penny says she texted Thomas herself. Once again, the message was delivered but not read. Just five minutes later, Penny texted Thomas again. This time, Penny says the message was unable to be delivered, meaning Thomas’s phone was likely off.
“Initially, I thought maybe he had an accident,” Penny told Dateline. She and Tucker took off from the house in separate cars to search the roads, while her husband stayed at the house in case Thomas returned.
“I headed to some of the places I knew Thomas would have driven around. I checked some of his friends’ houses. But his car was not there,” Penny said. Around 2:00 a.m., Penny says she called the homes of the friends Thomas had hung out with that night. One friend did not answer her call, but the others had each made it home that night and were surprised to hear Thomas had not.
“I didn’t call 911 because my husband is a volunteer fireman, so he just gave me a number for the [sheriff’s office] dispatch,” Penny told Dateline. “It took about 45 minutes for the deputy to respond. He went out to look for Thomas.”
By 3:30 a.m., Penny tells Dateline, both she and her son Tucker had returned home from their separate searches. Shortly thereafter, Penny says a deputy from the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office arrived at their home. Since Tucker knew where Thomas’s girlfriend lived, he went in the patrol car with the deputy to search for a few hours. They arrived back home around 6:00 a.m. not having found Thomas or his car.
Unbeknownst to Penny, a couple of hours later -- after dawn -- one of Thomas’s friends went up in with her father in a helicopter to look for Thomas’s car. They spotted the car in a remote section of the Canadian, Texas suburbs, about four miles from Thomas’s home. But Thomas was nowhere to be seen.
The friend called the sheriff’s department who then notified Thomas’s parents of the update.
“It was found near where our sewage ponds are, which is not near anywhere he would have gone,” Penny told Dateline of the car’s location. Penny added that Thomas’s phone, laptop, backpack, and keys were all missing from the car, though the chargers were still there.
The Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office told Dateline that Thomas’s case was turned over to the Texas Attorney General Criminal Investigation Division in the beginning of 2018. The Texas Attorney General Criminal Investigation Division did not reply to Dateline’s repeated request for comment.
Shortly after Thomas’s disappearance, his family began working with private investigator Philip Klein. Penny says that in a search two months after Thomas disappeared, her son’s backpack was located about four miles from where his car had been found. About 10 months later, in a subsequent search, Thomas’s cellphone was also located. It was found five miles from where his backpack was, nine miles from the car. Unfortunately, finding Thomas’s belongings has not yet yielded any evidence of significance.
Thomas was in his senior year of high school when he disappeared.
“The first year Thomas was missing, we wanted to give a scholarship in his honor because he was not graduating with his class,” Penny told Dateline. “Our hope is to be able to raise enough money to be able to give the scholarship to a Canadian high school student every year, but also to be able to give scholarships throughout the [Texas] Panhandle.”
Penny added that while the scholarship is to honor Thomas, it’s also to give back to the people who have helped support her and her family throughout the past two years.
“I don’t have words to describe the support we have gotten throughout the panhandle,” she said. “I have received messages from people all over the world.”
Penny has also created a Facebook group called Moms 4 Tom, which is “a group of moms, friends, and community members dedicated to finding Thomas and bringing him home.”
“I just know there is no way that he would’ve left without telling me or his brother,” Penny said. “I think something happened, but I don’t know what it was. Not only do I deserve answers, but our community deserves answers because we don’t expect anything to happen in our rural community. I think that’s why the panhandle has been so supportive, because it’s bothersome.”
Thomas Brown is described as being 6’ tall and weighing 195 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black shirt, a black windbreaker with “OSU Cowboys” in orange letters on the left chest, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. If you have any information on Thomas’s case, please call the Texas Attorney General Criminal Investigation Division at 512-463-2100.
"Details have been few in the case of a missing Canadian teenager. Thomas Brown went missing 14 months ago on Thanksgiving 2016. Now his family's fight for answers may be leading to another dead end._________________________
In October, Thomas Brown’s family filed a public records request with the Hemphill County Sheriff for information about the case. The request was sent to the attorney general for a decision about what could be released. The attorney general ruled the family could have the documents requested, but now the county is appealing that decision in a lawsuit, asking the attorney general to reconsider. Thomas' mom, Penny Meek, said she is not seeking sensitive information.
"I can't think there was really anything that would compromise the case,” said Meek.
Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis disagrees. He said the case is open and any information released could interfere with the investigation. He gave ABC 7 this statement:
“The Sheriff's Office foremost concern is maintaining the integrity of the case. We do understand the desire for knowledge and insight concerning this case, however; dissemination of certain facts and documents would only serve to impede the ongoing investigation and possible prosecution in the future.”
Meek’s requests include a log of volunteers that participated in searches, dates the Department of Public Service, the Texas Rangers and the FBI became involved in the investigation, any press releases about Thomas' case, names of deputies assigned to the case, disciplinary reports of personnel, the number of photographs and recordings made plus, most importantly, the classification of the case. She wants to know whether or not it is a criminal investigation.
"I know more about the Las Vegas shooter or the church shooter than I do my own son's case,” said Meek. “That is kind of frustrating because I am the mom."
She said the information would reveal what she most wants to know: If the investigation is progressing.
"It would be nice to have some assurances that they were getting leads or we're following up on things," said Meek.
The Hemphill County Attorney Kyle Miller said releasing any information could jeopardize justice. In a statement to ABC 7 he said:
"The entirety of the file contains information that, if made public, could compromise a criminal prosecution should one prove warranted. We have asked the Attorney General's Office for an opinion as to what, if anything, can be released to the public and what should remain confidential to ensure justice is served. This is simply the next step in the required process with the Attorney General's Office."
Thomas' mom said the lawsuit is another delay in getting the answers she wants.
"It's pretty disheartening and disappointing because at this point I just feel like we are playing political games and my son's life isn't a game,” said Meek.
There is no time table on when the attorney general will make a decision about if the documents will be released.
In January of 2018, Sheriff Lewis officially requested assistance from the Attorney General’s office. A copy of the letter can be found here:
From “The Canadian Record"
Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis has sent an appeal to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, requesting that it take over the investigation into the Thanksgiving 2016 disappearance of Thomas Brown, then a senior at Canadian High School.
Sheriff Lewis’ request, emailed to the AG’s Criminal Justice Division on Friday afternoon, is an apparent concession to a petition posted at change.org by Tom’s mother, Penny Meek, and promoted by the advocacy group, Moms4Tom.
“To leave no stone unturned and to bring to bear every resource the State of Texas has to solve the case of Thomas Brown,” the petition reads, “we respectfully request Hemphill County Attorney Kyle Miller and/or Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis to turn the investigation and subsequent prosecution if warranted over to the Texas Attorney General offices and let’s use our tax dollars to find Thomas rather than be an adversary of his family.”
The petition is directed to Hemphill County Attorney Kyle Miller, and has gathered 6,316 signatures since Thursday afternoon when it first appeared online.
In response, Lewis asked that the AG’s office “formally assume the responsibility for the investigation and/or prosecution” into what it terms a “missing person case.” He cites the family’s growing dissatisfaction with the results of his investigation, thus far, writing, “To that end, so that justice may be served for all concerned parties and Hemphill County, we ask [that] your office formally take the reins as the lead investigating agency for this matter.”
The petition drive follows several open records requests filed on October 2017 by Elgin attorney Rosanna Abrea—who represents Tom’s mother, Penny Meek—demanding that Sheriff Lewis release ten items of information compiled during its investigation of Tom’s disappearance.
County Attorney Miller challenged Abrea’s request, and sought an attorney general opinion on what, if anything, could be released to the public, and what should remain confidential. In requesting the opinion, Miller noted, “The entirety of the file contains information that, if made public, could compromise a criminal prosecution, should one prove warranted.”
In another online appeal, Moms4Tom asked the public to call the Attorney General’s office, urging them to grant the Public Information Request, and to reject the county’s appeal to keep the information private.
In a Dec. 20 response, Assistant Attorney General Kelly McWethy concluded that the information requested should be released. McWethy cited Miller’s failure to submit a copy of the specific information requested, or representative samples, labeled to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the documents. Without that documentation, he wrote, the information requested “is presumed to be public and therefore must be released, unless there is compelling reason to withhold the information from disclosure.
Hemphill County officials believe they do have reason. Amarillo attorney Matt Mazner has been retained by the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) to represent Hemphill County in seeking a declaratory judgment against the attorney general. Release of the requested information will have an adverse impact on the investigation, Mazner wrote. He cited Sheriff Lewis’ claim that disclosure of the documents would reveal individuals involved in the investigation, law enforcement methods used to obtain information, the identity of individuals who have provided information, and the various methods utilized by law enforcement agencies in assisting with the investigation.
That request by Hemphill County for injunctive relief from the attorney general’s ruling will now go before the Travis County District Court.
Meanwhile, amid all of this legal wrangling, Thomas Brown has not been seen or heard from since 11:20 pm on the night of Nov. 23, 2016. Since then, the Texas Rangers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have both assisted the Sheriff’s Office investigation into Brown’s disappearance. Shortly after Tom’s disappearance, his family retained the services of Klein Investigations & Consulting of Nederland, whose agents continue to investigate the case.
Summary of Documents Released to Family
Wednesday, 26 December, 2018Discovery of Remains, January 2019
Hemphill County and the Texas Attorney General’s office have reached an Agreed Final Judgment in the Public Information Act lawsuit regarding the matter of Thomas Brown. The family of Thomas Brown had filed a public information request via attorney Rosanna L. Abreo with Hemphill County, requesting the following information:“1. Copies of all recordings, call sheets, incident reports, memorandums, text messages, and emails regarding Thomas Kelly Brown, a missing person from December 2, 2016 to present.2. Names or logs of all volunteers, employees, other agencies members, and professionals involved in the searches for missing person Thomas Kelly Brown from November 24, 2016 to the present.3. Dates of all contact with Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Ranger Division and Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, specifically, all requests for assistance in the investigation of missing person, Thomas Kelly Brown. Please note identity of persons contacted, dates of contact and method of contact. 4. Use of force reports for Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office from January 1, 2016 to the present. 5. All training received by all Hemphill County Sheriff’s office personnel, currently and previously employed, since January 1, 2016 to present. Please list name of training class, where class was attended, and number of hours of training to TCOLE.6. Reports, memorandums, interoffice emails or other correspondences regarding commendations, and incidents of misconduct or disciplinary action of personnel currently or previously employed by the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office from August 1, 2016 to the present. 7. Copy of all public service reports, press releases, flyers, or announcements from Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office regarding missing person, Thomas Kelly Brown from November 24, 2016 to the present. 8. Names of all officers/deputies, current or former, assigned or who have actively assisted in the Thomas Kelly Brown investigation. Please state what their primary assignments are in the investigation. 9. The number of photographs and/or other electronic recordings taken from the scene where missing person, Thomas Kelly Brown’s vehicle was located. A copy of all photographs and/or other electronic recordings taken from the scene where missing person, Thomas Kelly Brown’s vehicle was located. 10. The official characterization or type of case designation by the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office regarding the disappearance of Thomas Kelly Brown.” Hemphill County provided the requested materials regarding training and personnel, and asserted that disclosure of what amounted to its entire investigative file on Thomas Brown would adversely affect the ongoing investigation and subsequent prosecution of any criminal acts associated with the case, citing the exceptions from disclosure under Texas Government Code §552.108. After review of the file by the Attorney General’s office during litigation, the investigative material was agreed to be exempt from disclosure. The Agreed Final Judgment is quoted as follows:“1. The County may withhold information at issue, which consists of videos, photographs, phone records, digital voice recordings, radio calls, emails, and documents relating to Texas Attorney General Criminal Justice Division’s Thomas Brown Investigation, under Texas Government Code §555.108(a)(1).2. All court costs and attorney fees are taxes against parties incurring same;3. All relief not expressly granted is denied; and4. This Order disposes of all claims between the parties and is a final judgment.” The Judgment reflects the parties’ agreement as to a compelling reason to withhold the information under Texas Government Code §552.302. The County proved that release of the information would interfere with the Texas Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division’s investigation of the disappearance of Thomas Brown. The order was signed by Lora Livingston, Judge of the 261st District Court in Travis County, Texas. The entire investigative file was provided to the Attorney General’s office and reviewed by their Administrative Law Division, and the investigation remains ongoing with the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigative Division, who took over the case at the request of Hemphill County.
Remains found near Lake Marvin Road (located near Lake Marvin, Hemphilll County) have been identified as missing high school senior Thomas brown who went missing the night of November 23, 2016 under puzzling circumstances. His remains were positively identified via dental records. The name of the individual who located his remains has not been released.
From News Channel 10 KFDA
By Cassie Stafford | January 16, 2019 at 7:31 PM CST - Updated January 17 at 2:56 PMSome Discussion Points:
CANADIAN, TX (KFDA) - We are learning more on the discovery of Thomas Brown’s remains in Hemphill County.
NewsChannel10 spoke with the lead private investigator on the case, Philip Klein, who was hired by Brown’s family.
He said on January 9, a man was walking down a path near Lake Marvin Road when he noticed something, and called authorities immediately.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office (OAG) and the Texas Rangers responded and later confirmed through forensic testing it was the missing Canadian teen.
Original report, November 2016: Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office still searching for missing teen
During what Klein calls a phase one search last year, he said they had roughly 18 miles to cover plus an acre on either side of the road.
He added that the area where Thomas was found wasn’t missed, but had not yet been searched.
NewsChannel10 spoke with the lead private investigator on the case, Philip Klein, who was hired by Brown’s family.
He said on January 9, a man was walking down a path near Lake Marvin Road when he noticed something, and called authorities immediately.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office (OAG) and the Texas Rangers responded and later confirmed through forensic testing it was the missing Canadian teen.
Original report, November 2016: Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office still searching for missing teen
During what Klein calls a phase one search last year, he said they had roughly 18 miles to cover plus an acre on either side of the road.
He added that the area where Thomas was found wasn’t missed, but had not yet been searched.
“That area had been flown by helicopters... the south part of that area had been run by our guys, by trace sergeant and her dog,” said Klein. “They had run to the south side of that area but he had not gotten to the north side yet. So it wasn’t a matter of a missing by law enforcement or us at all, it was just a matter of that area hadn’t been searched.”
Klein wouldn’t comment on the condition of the remains found, however he said there’s no doubt this is an active homicide investigation.
“What will happen now is that the OAG and the Texas Rangers will continue their investigation and will continue to interview people and build evidence,” he said.
He said their team is very well focused right now and that they knew a body was out there all along.
“We’re going back over the evidence of the car, the shell casing... the blood that was in the car,” said Klein. “The actual timeline between 11:38 and 12:05 I think is very, very, very, very important.”
They’ve received questions as to whether or not there’s a killer among in the community of Canadian.
To that he says:
“Everybody can sleep well at night, but if I was a dad and I had kids out there in the community, I’d be like anything else.” said Klein. “Maybe I’m just too cynical being a 29-year-old investigator, but I’d sleep with one eye open right now. I would, until this thing is solved.”
Klein said he does not believe it was a pre-meditated homicide. The reward that was in place for Thomas' whereabouts is now geared toward information surrounding his death.
Klein stresses that locals steer clear of Lake Marvin Road as it could impede their investigation.
“It’s still an active working crime scene and we just don’t need people out there tromping around,” he said. “We know everyone loved Tom, we know the town is hurting, hell we know Hemphill County and North Texas is hurting. And we know people want to go put roses and flowers and markers out there honoring Tom but now isn’t the time to do that.”
He said the whole area of Lake Marvin Road probably needs to be look over again and that there are some persons of interest floating around.
“Do I think there will be an arrest in this? Oh eventually one day there will be, yes absolutely,” he said. “When? I don’t know.”
Unfortunately, I can’t find a new source from this information, but it has become part of the narrative and can be found in podcasts about this case, including Casefile and Unfound.
Prior to Thomas’s disappearance, the high school student had an encounter with Sheriff Lewis. In an unpleasant exchange, Lewis, not yet Sheriff at the time, approached Thomas and a friend in a public area and accused them of being up to something nefarious. This confused the young men, and Lewis ultimately demanded that Thomas get into his car where he continued to berate and curse at the teen. Thomas’s parents were called, which added to the confusion. While Lewis knew the family, he was not exceptionally close to them and it was strange that Thomas would be targeted in such as way as he was rarely if ever in trouble of any kind.
The incident stands out as being, if nothing else, peculiar, especially in hindsight.
During the early investigation into Thomas’s disappearance, Sheriff Lewis openly stated that he believed Thomas was alive. Contrary to Thomas’s record of calling to check in, being on time for curfews, and staying out of trouble, the implication is that Thomas left voluntarily. Unfortunately, this outlook is further refuted by the shell casing and blood evidence found in Thomas’s car.
and finally..... an article about investigators' perspectives early in the search
From a News Channel 10 KFDA Article:
May 5, 2017 at 2:40 AM CDT - Updated August 12 at 9:31 AMPoints of Speculation, Closing Thoughts
CANADIAN, TX (KFDA) -
Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis believes missing teen Thomas Brown is still alive.
But as we enter the sixth month since his disappearance, private investigators aren't so sure.
Klein Investigations, a private firm hired by brown's family, said based on their searches, there's a 70% chance that Brown is dead.
Lewis said there's no evidence to back that up.
Both groups are continuing their investigations, and have some updates in the case they can share.
A cadaver dog was brought out by Klein Investigations to search for signs of Brown, and alerted investigators to the Lake Marvin area.
That location is where a different body was found nearly 20 years ago, but because they were not able to search the entire Lake Marvin area, investigators are focusing their efforts there.
"We did put the dog onto Thomas's automobile," said Philip Klein, lead investigator. "The dog hit on the automobile and the dog hit in the automobile."
What the dog found was a small trace of blood that Lewis said was small and looked like the result of a minor cut.
Brown's backpack and laptop that were found months ago proved to have no information that would help out this case.
His Facebook profile was deleted by Facebook after being hacked, but both parties said that will not hinder the investigation,.
Klein investigators covered 19 areas in and around Canadian during their most recent search, and said they're looking into five of those areas, and believe something "nefarious" happened to brown.
Lewis thinks otherwise.
"Everything that was put out there by Klein Investigations was speculations and theories," said Lewis. "This could have happened, this might have happened, we think this happens. That's not what we do here. We go off of evidence or lack of evidence."
Some of those theories are that someone dumped Brown's car and walked into the neighborhood nearby, or that his body is buried somewhere in the county.
Lewis said there is not evidence to back these theories up.
Private investigators focus on the civil side of the investigation, while law enforcement takes a prosecutory standpoint.
But both groups are working together and sharing resources to solve this case.
"I really don't care who finds him," said Lewis. "We just need to bring him home, or figure out exactly what happened."
Lewis and Klein and his investigators are looking into every tip they receive.
As of January 2019, it is known that Thomas Brown is no longer alive, and while the date of his death is unknown to the public, it appears extremely likely that the Canadian, Texas teen met his end on the night of his disappearance in November of 2016.
I’ll avoid injecting TOO much of my personal opinion here, but my own wariness of Sheriff Lewis is likely already apparent.
- Reluctance to release information is understandable and sensible, and it was my original impression that the Sheriff’s office likely had a good idea of what happened and were essentially stuck sitting on their hands until they had enough to act. Currently, it’s difficult to say, especially given the previous interaction between Thomas and Sheriff Lewis (if true). It raises questions, and the questions regarding why Thomas Brown died are many:
- Is the conduct of Sheriff Lewis at all related to the young man’s death? Was it a homicide as Klein asserts? Was his death the result a suicide, and if so, were there simply no signs of a distressed mental state? Was his body truly at the location it was found the entire time?
- Speculation, though unofficial, has even been posed as to whether the cell phone found in a search was in fact Thomas’s.
- The surveillance video evidence in this case raises even more questions about the last night Thomas was known to be alive. Were vehicles captured on surveillance footage at the gas station around the time of Thomas stop for gas at all related to his disappearance? Some speculation includes the assertion that these are unmarked police cars, citing a glowing computer screen that can be seen though the vehicles’ windows.
- More unofficial speculation has stated that Thomas may have been on the verge of coming out as gay, or had come out privately to some as gay. This his highly speculative and it is often pointed to that he made a switch from focusing on football to focusing on the performing arts. Whether this has any bearing on is disappearance and subsequent death is unknown.
EDIT: had a title in the wrong spot
EDIT 2: This edit is referencing a comment below made by a user. I don't know how users feel about having their name called out, but you can find the comment below. The reference is a recent suicide of a teacher following the discovery of Thomas body.
The following is a short article from the Canadian news paper:
"BREAKING NEWS The Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office reported late yesterday afternoon that Canadian Elementary School teacher Jeff Caseltine had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A witness in the vicinity of the Hemphill County RV Park reported having seen an individual alone at campsite in the park, and then hearing a gunshot. He contacted HCSO. Law enforcement officers responded, secured the scene, found Caseltine's body and recovered a note. The family was notified. The death has been ruled as a suicide, pending an autopsy, which will be performed today in Lubbock."
Below is an obituary for the deceased teacher:
Jeff’s Obituary Jeff Caseltine, 54, of Canadian passed away on Monday, January 21, 2019 in Canadian. Memorial services will be 10:00 AM Friday, January 25, 2019 at First Christian Church of Canadian with Matt Cook, pastor, officiating. Cremation and arrangements are under the direction of Carmichael-Whatley Funeral Directors of Canadian. Jeff was born September 24, 1964 and was reared primarily in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, Jeff was a born performer. Be it his high school theater class at Lago Vista High, or karaoke at Buffalo Wild Wings, he was most at home while making people smile or laugh with his talents. Jeff joined the Navy in 1984 where he served until 1986 on the U.S.S. Vincennes. Throughout the eight years he spent post-military, he held many exciting jobs, including being KTSA’s leading radio man as Jeff the Kool Breeze. In 1994, Jeff fell in love with and married his wife Shannon in small town Booker, Texas. Jeff, Shannon, and 13-year-old step-son TJ packed their things in 1995 and hauled off to Stillwater, Oklahoma where Shannon would eventually become pregnant and give birth to their first child in 1996, a daughter named Sarah. A few years would pass before Shannon would become pregnant again in 1998 and give birth to their son, Michael. The Caseltine’s would call Stillwater home for the next nine years, where Jeff worked as a caretaker for Stillwater Group Homes, Inc., caring for adults with mental disabilities. However, Jeff was called to work as an aid for an autistic child at the elementary school his children attended in 2003. During his time there, it became clear to him that he wanted nothing more than to teach. He attended Oklahoma State University from 2004 until his departure from Stillwater in 2007 when he and his family moved to Abilene, Texas. In Abilene, Jeff continued his work as a caretaker for a man with cerebral palsy, attended school at McMurry University, and taught a fourth grade Sunday school class at Beltway Baptist Church. In 2012, Jeff attained a Bachelor of Science degree from McMurry University, with the intention of teaching young children. For three years after attaining his degree, Jeff worked for Sylvan Learning Center as the Regional Director of Education, but always desired teaching in a classroom setting. In 2015, a job for a Pre-kindergarten special education teacher became available in his sister-in-law’s hometown, Canadian, Texas. The Caseltine’s mulled it over, and eventually came to the decision that the ideas of both being closer to family and Jeff getting the opportunity to do what he loved made it an obvious choice. Survivors include his wife, Shannon of the home; 2 sons, Thomas Judd Maness and wife Reba Collins of San Antonio and Michael Caseltine of Canyon; a daughter, Sarah Caseltine of Bryan; 3 sisters-in-law, Terri Long and husband Tim of Edmond, Oklahoma, Denise Janko and husband Chris of Beaver, Oklahoma, LeeAnn Monty and husband Tyler “Max” of Canadian; his father, Dale Gray and wife Martha of Happy, Florida; his mother-in-law, Della Lawson of Canadian; and numerous nieces and nephews. Extended family Brenda Maness of Beaver and Cody Maness of Abilene. Read More
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Jeff Caseltine September 24 1964 January 21 2019.
Source: Carmichael-Whatley Funeral Directors of Canadian – Canadian, Texas – Canadian
Death notice for the town of: Canadian, state: Texas"
Not from Canadian Texas, so I can't comment with any validity on what the local gossip is, or what's a local speculation is. I'll connect a couple of dots that might be obvious.
His death closely followed the discovery of Thomas body.
He was a theater teacher, maybe Thomas theater teacher, I can't confirm that.
He left a note, which has not been released to my knowledge.
Also, it would be interesting to know which RV park they're referring to and whether it is near the lake where Thomas's remains were found.
Early on, Sheriff Lewis pushed " if you see something say something," and if my memory is correct, he stated he believed that people, or students, at Thomas's High School knew something.
Please keep in mind that this is only speculative, and that there is no official information stating that this man is connected. At this point, it's another interesting layer to an unsolved case that very well may be unrelated.
And I'm on mobile, so forgive my errors.