Meet the Family.
The GRPM sat down with Courtney and Michael Clapp who, on August 11, 2022, got the shock of their lives when they were told that a Mastodon skeleton had been found during a construction dig on their property.
What was the reaction after you found there were bones in the backyard?
Michael: “Well…you really don’t want to hear my reaction, because I didn’t really believe it. Our neighbor came knocking on our door and said ‘hey, they found dinosaur bones in your field.’ Then I looked out my window and there were six or seven important-looking people walking up to my house.”
Courtney: “It’s still surreal…I just said ‘okay, I’m gonna get dressed and I’m gonna walk down there and find out what’s going on.'”
Courtney Cont.: “Once we got down there and we saw it, saw their initial find, I think everything became more real.”
How have things been since?
Courtney: “I don’t think we imagined everyone being so excited about it, it still hasn’t hit us. When all is said and done and everything is unveiled, that’s when it’ll hit us.”
How have people around you responded to the news?
Courtney: “Seeing how excited everyone is, I think there are more positive comments than negative. All of those people on social media that don’t believe it…we can sit here and say that it’s real.”
It must be interesting to think that those bones have been there the entire time you've lived here?
Courtney: “Michael’s mom grew up here. His grandma and grandpa were here since they were married. They were here for so long and (the area) had never been dug up. For seventy or so years his family had been here and it had been there.”
Michael: “The fact that it’s been there and that that part has never been farmed because it’s been so wet, and now that it’s 2022, they’re finally being found because of the new culvert being built. I mean, I probably walked over them five thousand times or so.”
How does it feel to have your name attached to the Mastodon bones?
Michael: “To be honest, they were on the property that we own…do I own those bones? No, not really. The Earth owns those bones. I didn’t make them, I didn’t kill the animal and bury it there. We just happened to own the property at the time that they were discovered.”
Was it important to you that the bones stay local, and stay with the Museum?
Courtney: “I know there’s been a lot of comments just from what I’ve been reading about “how much would (a Mastodon skeleton) pay?” But honestly, us donating it to the Grand Rapids Public Museum was the only thing in our mind. We just want to keep it here, close to home, so we can go and see our Mastodon whenever we want.”
To follow the Clapp Family’s Journey, visit The Clapp Family Mastodon Facebook Page.
This interview was recorded on August 19, 2022. Since this interview, 32 more bones from the Mastodon have been recovered from spoil piles that were removed just before the initial finding. The Clapp Family Mastodon is now part of the Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Dr. Cory Redman and the GRPM staff will be working with Dr. Daniel Fisher and Dr. Scott Beld from the University of Michigan to follow best practices for carefully cleaning and drying out the bones.
Follow the GRPM on social media for more Mastodon updates.
By: Sara Olson, GRPM Marketing Manager