EXHUMING GEOLOGIC DISCOVERY OR DIGGING UP BONES OF CONTENTION: MENIFEE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
My introduction to the program was taking field trips with Don to gather data for producing a geologic map of the Scranton quadrangle in Menifee County, Ky. Having the good fortune of finding outstanding exposures of the rock section from the Mississippian Borden Formation to the Pennsylvanian Upper Breathitt Formation, we worked together diligently in the field to learn as much as possible about these rocks. Through the course of our mapping, Don, Harry Hoge, and I, along with our graduate students, found abundant structural and sedimentological evidence to support an interpretation of tectonic activity near the end of the Mississippian and into the Early Pennsylvanian that included exposure surfaces (paleocaliche, paleosols, paleokarst) and, most importantly, an abbreviated section of both carbonates and terrigenous clastics.
Because this interpretation was diametrically opposed to that of some respected names in Pennsylvanian stratigraphy and sedimentology in the eastern United States, we unwittingly stepped into a volatile controversy over the character of the Pennsylvanian-Mississippian boundary. The more we learned about the rocks of Menifee County, the more convinced I became that we should press forward on entering into open debate with the supporters of the model constructed on a facies transition for the Pennsylvanian-Mississippian boundary. The disappointment remains, for me, that our work was not taken to its logical conclusion: open debate on the outcrop or in a seminar setting. Either way, the process would have been scientifically healthy and inspirational to our graduate students.
Had it not been for Haney's commitment to sticking to the task at hand, I may have remained, to this day, having fun digging up bones in Menifee County. However, the Scranton quadrangle map was completed and published, and I gained immeasurably from working with my mentor, critic, and friend, D.C. Haney.