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The Secret of the Mammoths

Millions of Years Ago …

“Hey Nough, what are you doing?!” Nough was a young mammoth who loved to roam around and play. For a young mammoth, he was rather large but he was always funny and playful- and Nough had just jumped off a low cliff on the side of what was his usual playground. As he landed on the mass of ice below he made everything shake. Yeyh was Nough’s best friend – in their team he was the voice of reason, which meant that when Nough got into trouble, Yeyh bailed him out. Yeyh noticed a long crack forming in the thick ice that covered the ground below.

“Nough what are you doing?!!” Yeyh yelled loudly from the top where he was standing.

“I didn’t do anything. It was just a tiny, little jump!” he yelled back up.

“Yeah, and a tiny jump made a big long crack,” muttered Yeyh softly so Nough couldn’t hear him.

Suddenly they were startled by a very loud rumbling noise like thunder. They both knew it was not Nough’s stomach growling but they had never heard such a loud noise like this before. Yeyh did not know how he could get to Nough, he was scared and started screaming, “Nough, Run!” as he ran for his own life. Nough started moving but the ice under his feet started moving too. He started bellowing loudly, he was scared. He saw Yeyh trying to get to him as he yelled, “I am coming for you!” But then the ice started to float away. Nough stopped moving thinking somehow that would help slow down the ice block, but it did not help. In the distance, his buddy Yeyh was just a speck and then vanished. He hoped Yeyh had reached safety. So finally he just lay still. Water surrounded him and the two best friends went their separate ways.

A Surprise Phone Call

“Tony, my man, what are your plans for the summer?” Tony was so happy to hear from his buddy Ishan. Ishan lived in India and he was a scientist that Tony had met a long time ago. Both Tony and Ishan loved paleontology. “I was actually wondering what I could do – what are your plans Ishan? Are you coming to LA?” Tony lived in Los Angeles, California but loved to travel and India was one of his favorite places. He almost wished Ishan was calling to invite him to India. Tony’s wishes were about to come true.

Ishan said, “Tony did you hear about the devastating earthquake in Nepal?” Without stopping for an answer Ishan continued, “Well that was a terrible tragedy! But something happened as a result of that and we are needed there. We suddenly have a ton of new fossils that were exposed. Are you up to some “bone”-chilling fun this summer? Hahaha!” Ishan laughed at his paleontologist joke, as did Tony.

“I can dig any spine tingling adventure you have to offer,” Tony responded and they both laughed like the good old times. Tony wasted no time in buying his plane ticket to New Delhi, from where he boarded a train for Gorakhpur, a city in India close to the border with Nepal, and Ishan’s hometown.

Ishan Shows Tony His Exciting Findings

Tony saw Ishan waving on the platform as his train pulled into the platform. They were planning to drive straight to the fossil site from there. Tony could not wait to see the fossils, but he was also was amazed at what he saw at the station. He saw fascinating things in India no matter how many times he visited. Chotu drove the car through traffic like a pro, and he was going to help them dig as well – Chotu was always in for a good adventure!

After a few hours of driving through really tall mountains, they got to the fossil site.

Tony could not believe his eyes – he felt like a kid in a candy store. So many fossils were all around them. Tony could not wait to get started. Ishan smirked and said, “Hey Tony, want to see the most amazing thing here?”

Tony just said, “Are you kidding, there’s more? Lead the way!”

They walked up the hill and then down by a clump of trees and Ishan stopped at the hillside and said, “T-dah! Behold … the Wooly Mammoth!!” It was the most complete fossil of a mammoth that Tony had ever seen. He was so excited, he did not know whether to jump up and down or laugh or cry. All that came out of his mouth was, “Let’s get started.”

An Exciting Idea …

Several paleontologists on Ishan’s team were working on it already and Tony joined them. As they started digging, Tony noticed something.

He turned to Ishan and said, “Did I take you to the La Brea Tar Pits when you were in L.A.?” Ishan said, “I don’t think so.”

Tony said, “That is nuts, I should have. La Brea Tar Pits is a museum in California that is all about paleontology. They have a very similar mammoth fossil called Zed and it is a Columbian Mammoth – it’s really strange, but this one looks like one of the same kind. I wonder if these two are related?”

“How did the scientists at the La Brea Tar Pits find Zed?” Ishan asked.

“They found part of him stuck in tar and then they found the entire fossil as they were digging up the land close by to build a parking lot.” Tony said. “The structure of the legs is almost identical to the leg placed at La Brea Tar Pits. These Mammoths must be related!” said Tony in a surprised voice.

They continued digging and cataloging carefully but Tony could not get this feeling out of his head that the two Mammoths, one in LA and one near Gorakhpur – thousands of miles away from each other – were somehow related. As they ate their very yummy dal, bhat and ghee (Indian food), Tony started asking Ishan, “What do you think could have happened, how did the Mammoth get here?”

The Mammoths Drift Apart

As the tar got all around him and the two best friends went their separate ways, Yeyh wondered if they would ever meet again. He thought of all the fun they had together and what adventures lay ahead for Nough. In the meantime, Nough drifted on the huge block of ice and it started getting colder and colder.

He closed his eyes and thought of all the nice memories he had with Yeyh. He must have drifted off to sleep but he woke up with a jolt when the ice block hit something. Land at last! Nough knew he had to find his friend but he needed to eat before that. So he grazed on tall dry grass till he was full then started walking. He saw these bright colors in the sky, walked on land that had water all around it and saw other herds of Mammoths.

But he had no time to stop, he had to find Yeyh so he kept on walking as the sun set behind him. He did not know he had just crossed over a land bridge into Eurasia.

A “Pit” Stop in L.A.

The next morning Tony woke up with a brilliant idea, “Hey, Ishan! Do you want to go to L.A. and compare these fossils to the ones at the La Brea Tar Pits and see if we can find a connection and learn more?”

Ishan responded, “Indeed, yes! It is a great idea, Tony. But we still have some more work here. Why don’t we stay at Hotel Vivek until we can get the fossils cleaned, cataloged, and photographed? Then we can get a flight to L.A. and go to La Brea Tar Pits.”

Ishan was so excited about all the things he could do in L.A. that he kept talking, and it felt like he had been talking for three days without stopping for one second! Finally when it was time to leave, Ishan had to drag Tony out of the hotel. Tony was excited to go back to L.A., but when he arrived at Hotel Vivek and lay down in his comfortable hotel room and tasted the amazing food, he thought he had everything he needed right there – he was going to miss the good life!

LOS ANGELES CA/USA - NOVEMBER 29 2014: George C. Page Museum at Le Brea Tar Pits. La Brea Tar Pits and Hancock Park are in urban Los Angeles in the Miracle Mile district.

LOS ANGELES CA/USA – NOVEMBER 29 2014: George C. Page Museum at Le Brea Tar Pits. La Brea Tar Pits and Hancock Park are in urban Los Angeles in the Miracle Mile district.

The Los Angeles LAX airport was busy as usual. As Tony and Ishan came out of the arrival tunnel, they saw Tony’s best friend, Bob the Biologist, waiting for them. Bob had already made an appointment for them to meet the curator of the museum at La Brea Tar Pits. They would also meet several scientists. Next morning, Ishan got his first taste of L.A. traffic. But despite the crowded freeway, they reached the La Brea Tar Pits, where he saw black and sticky tar oozing from the ground.

“Now that is very oozy tar,” Tony said as they walked toward the lake that was half covered in tar. “What is that weird smell?” Ishan asked while staring at lake that was also a tar pit. The smell came from the tar that was oozing out of the ground for centuries.

Tony and Ishan walked into the building and saw fossils all around. The circular building had full size skeletons of Mammoths, sloths, saber tooth tigers, condors and bison. There were glass cases that held parts of fossils, and in the middle of it all was a round glass structure. Tony said, “Ishan, I call this place the fish bowl – you can look inside and see the paleontologists working. The real name of course is the fossil lab. Bob has arranged for us to meet Dr. Howard.”

Gary the Wizard Reappears

Dr. Howard showed them around and took a look at the pictures of the fossils Ishan had found in India. She was amazed and she showed them the fossil that they were working on – the mammoth, Zed.

Tongary-the-wizard2y and Ishan got their own stations in the fossil lab and started working. That night after everyone else had left, Tony and Ishan were still working when they saw a big huge “poof!” of smoke. The “fish bowl” was filled with thick smoke, and then the smoke cleared and they saw a person standing in the middle, smiling. He was wearing a long purple robe and a purple pointy hat, both covered with twinkling stars.

Tony recognized him instantly – it was Gary the Wizard. The last time they met was in New York City. Gary said, “Hello my friend, Tony! And you too, young man!”

Tony was surprised to see him and Ishan had never seen anything like this before. For the first time ever, Ishan was speechless.

Said Gary in his deep voice, “Hiding is the goal, a prank has taken its toll. Time travelers are chasing me now. You hide me, I give you a wish – I vow!”

Tony thought for a second and said, “Gary, I would love to hide you but this is a glass room, everyone can see everything here.” Gary smiled and said, “Turn into a dog I will, and sit by your foot, very still.” Gary had this annoying habit of talking in rhymes and riddles.

And with a snap of a finger there was beautiful golden retriever with a purple collar sitting by Tony’s foot. Ishan and Tony were startled by a loud clanging noise, and they saw two oddly dressed men appear outside the fish bowl. They were wearing long trench coats and hats that were pulled over their ears, and they had a clock around their neck. They looked around at the fossils and said “Gary, I know you were old, but are you fossilized too?” They laughed loudly at their own joke.

The dog by Tony’s foot started barking. Tony whispered, “How can we hide you if you attract attention? Be quiet!” Gary obeyed.

The odd-looking time travelers then turned to Tony and Ishan and said, “Is there an oddly dressed old man in there with you?” Ishan and Tony both truthfully said, “No, just the two of us, hardworking paleontologists, and our dog here.” One man turned to the other and said, “He escaped us again! Let’s continue the chase, how about the flying carnival he likes in the twenty-fifth century?” Then they adjusted the dial on their clocks, snapped and disappeared.

Gary Grants a Wish

“Ok, Gary, show yourself please,” said Tony. “How did you find me at the La Brea Tar Pits?”

Gary said, “Heard I had of your adventures in the east, that’s how I followed you to the tar pit. Well, tell me what is it that you wish, and I will make it happen in a swish!”

Tony excused himself to discuss this with Ishan. They both really wanted to solve the mammoth puzzle, so Ishan suggested they ask Gary to take them back to the time of the mammoths. Tony knew Gary well, so he told Ishan that they had to make sure it was included in their wish that Gary take them there and bring them back to the present. Suddenly everything around them seemed to dissolve.

It was very hot, in the middle of the day the temperature was over 100 degrees. Yeyh was sad, his friend had floated away on a big block of ice and it had been several days he had been walking but could not find Nough. He was thirsty and stopped to drink water. He stepped into the shiny dark lake and filled his trunk with water. As he tried to get out, Yeyh realized that he could no longer move his right front foot. Then his left front foot got stuck too! He lost balance and as he fell, he yelled for help. After screaming for what seemed like a long time, he finally gave up. Yeyh started seeing this warm, sticky black, gooey stuff all around him and the more he tried to wiggle, the more he sank. Finally he was tired of fighting and gave in. All this time, he wondered where his friend was.

It was a dark stormy night, Nough had walked for days but the place looked unfamiliar. He knew he was terribly lost, and probably would never see his friend again. He was traveling between big mountains now, which were so different from the grasslands he was used to. He was tired and he lay down. Dark clouds hung low in the sky and the rain started pelting in big huge drops. Suddenly a huge bolt of lightning struck the mountainside, and thunder rumbled. And then came the avalanche.

Gary, Ishan and Tony saw all this standing on a cliff near Nough. Now the story of the fossils came into focus. Gary said, “Time to leave is now, let’s all take a bow.” Tony and Ishan were not sure what to do when they saw suddenly saw a large boulder tumbling from the mountain behind the cliff. They ducked with Gary and poof they went.

Friends Reunited, Once Again

Back in the fish bowl at La Brea Tar Pits, Gary was no longer to be seen. Tony and Ishan were cold and soaking wet, so they knew what they saw was not a dream. Tony and Ishan were excited, but their hearts were heavy now that they knew the real sad story of the two best friends.

“We must bring these mammoths together again,” said Ishan, his eyes shining. Tony didn’t say anything, but nodded in agreement.

The next morning, they met Dr. Howard and tried to tell her the story, but when they told her about the wizard she simply couldn’t believe them anymore. But she said that if they could scientifically prove that the two fossils were related, she would work to get them both in the same museum.

Tony and Ishan worked hard over the next year. They studied and analyzed the data, day and night. They looked through all the evidence that was found around the fossils, studying the geography of the time when Nough and Yeyh lived. After all this work, Ishan and Tony were finally able to prove that both fossils indeed lived in the same place at one time.

Six months later, a new exhibit was unveiled. It was called the “The Secret of the Mammoths”. The two friends were finally united.


Neil got the idea for this story after a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits. He was fascinated by what he saw there – fossils of massive animals from years ago, that were preserved in pits of tar where they must have got stuck. The previous winter, Neil had also visited his grandparents at Gorakhpur and saw many fascinating things.  He spent a lot of time with his cousin brother, Ishan, who became the inspiration for the paleontologist of this story.

The La Brea Tar Pits recently discovered a mammoth called Zed, a big Columbian mammoth. They are currently putting together the mammoth from the thousands of pieces they have recovered. Interestingly, the Columbian mammoth is related to the Asian elephant, a species dominant in the same areas where Nough found himself. It is very likely that the mammoths migrated across land bridges between North America and Eurasia, and they became the ancestors of the elephants found in Asia today.


vocab-words

Mammoth

An extinct animal that was the ancestor of current day elephants. It was a lot larger, with long curved tusks and shaggy hair.

Cliff

A high steep rock face.

Bailed

A sum of money to be paid to a court to excuse someone accused of crime to be set free till his or her trial. Also used as a slang to say, help get a friend out of trouble.

Paleontology

The science that deals with fossils and other ancient life forms.

Devastating

Very badly damaged or destroyed. Also anything that is shocking and distressing.

Earthquake

A sudden violent shaking of the earth caused by the shifting of the earth’s crust.

Fossil

The remains or traces of an animal or plant from millions of years ago preserved as a rock.

Exposed

To uncover some something so it can be seen. To reveal the truth about something.

Adventure

An exciting or dangerous experience.

Platform

A flat, raised where people can stand, as in a train platform or a speaker’s platform.

Paleontologist

Someone who studies paleontology.

Columbian

“Columbian” refers to a type of mammoth that used to roam the lands of North America. Not to be confused with the term “Colombian” which refers to someone or something from the South American country, Colombia.

Cataloging / Cataloged

Catalog is a book or pamphlet listing things. To catalog is to put a list of things in a book.

Gorakhpur

A city in North Eastern India, near the foothills of the Himalayas. It is the place where Neil’s grandparents live.

Grazed

Animals eating grass that is in the field.

Eurasia

Name given to the entire land mass that includes Europe and Asia.

Brilliant

Very smart, splendid or very bright and shining.

Connection

Link between objects, people or ideas.

Curator

Person in-charge of a museum or art gallery.

Scientist

A person who studies science or the nature and the physical world by testing, experimenting and measuring.

La Brea Tar Pits

An amazing place in the heart of downtown Los Angeles that has tar pits that have been bubbling for millions of years and from where many fossils have been recovered that have helped us put together a lot of interesting prehistorical facts. Check out their website at:   http://www.tarpits.org/

Sloth

A mammal with long arms, legs and curved claws and shaggy coats. They move very slowly and hang upside down on trees and live in central and south America.

Saber Tooth Tigers

A pre-historic animal related to the lions and tigers that had long curved teeth in its upper jaw.

Condor

A large vulture, it is the largest flying bird in the western hemisphere.

Bison

A large animal with a big shaggy head a humped back and short horn, found in North America.

Structure

Something that has been built, like an office building, house or dam.

Wizard

A man believed to have magical powers.

Surprised

To be amazed by hearing or seeing something unusual.

Grassland

Large open area of grass used for animals to graze.

Avalanche

A large mass snow, ice or earth that suddenly moves down the side of a mountain.

Boulder

A large rounded rock.

Scientifically

To study something by testing, experimenting and measuring and providing exact proof.

Evidence

Information or fact that makes you prove something is true.

Exhibit

Display, to show something to the public. Exhibitions are large shows where vendors demonstrate their products to increase people’s knowledge and awareness.

United

To join together.

Friends on Facebook

Connect

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