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Then I had an encouraging thought. It struck me that Professor Jepsen probably hadn't run into many Jews at Princeton, and so his prejudice might just reflect the stereotypes circulating in that narrow community. Faced with new evidence, he would naturally, as a man of science, want to correct any errors in his thinking. So by holding up under the sizzling badlands sun and displaying my sterling character over the course of the summer, I figured I could set him straight.
essay / memoir The Dig at Polecat Bench: Summer, 1961 john morgan P rof. Glenn L. Jepsen, trim, graying, older than I’d expected, led me down to the basement of the museum at Princeton and pulled out an intricate golf-ball-sized skull from one of the Paleocene drawers. Using a pocket magnifying glass, he showed me the structure of tiny bones around the ear, but his explanation quickly outpaced my grasp of cranial anatomy. “We’ll be looking for more of these,” he said dryly. Then, after reviewing my background—the early fascination with dinosaurs and my volunteer work at Yale’s Peabody Museum—Jepsen asked me whether I thought I could hold up over ten weeks of digging out in the Wyoming badlands. “It goes well up over 100 degrees out there,” he warned, “and there’s no shade to speak of.” I brought up my camping trip to the Southwest a few summers before and told him the heat hadn’t bothered me. As an aside, I conceded that toward the end of that trip I’d fallen off a cliff. “Really? Any broken bones?” “Just my skull.” I’d hoped to pass this off as a joke, but Jepsen held up a hand for me to stand still, took my chin between thumb and foreﬁnger and directed it to the side. He was a patient man, a careful observer, and as he continued to check me out, noting the crook in my nose, my blue-gray eyes, and teenage acne, I wondered if he thought he could penetrate my character by scrutinizing the contours of my skull. It was only a tiny fracture, I explained, and had never shown up on 3 95 96 3 fourth genre the x-rays. True, I’d been unconscious for three days, but I was okay now, I insisted—adding that I really wanted to go on the expedition. Apparently satisﬁed, Jepsen said that he had reservations about my youth, but since he was short of hands and I had a strong recommendation from Dr. Gregory of Yale, he was willing to take me along. Then, as we moved toward the staircase, he asked: “By the way, Mr. Morgan, what is your family’s religion?”
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