Category Archives: Snapshots

Random things about us

Homeward Bound

Returning home is always bittersweet. We miss our families, pets, beds, etc… and are eager to get back to our normal routines.  But it is also difficult to return home when there is so much more work to be done here Texas. Yesterday, the Texas State group invited us to their hotel for a last night together pool party. It was a great way to come together and celebrate a week of hard work and to unwind together.

We left bright and early for the long drive to the airport. We decided to stop for spiderWhataburer taquitos to eat en route.  About an hour into our journey I see a large furry spider crawling over the vent and towards my hands on the steering wheel. I’m not scared of spiders, but not knowing if it’s poisonous was frightening. So I turn to Erica in the co-pilot seat and ask her what to do. She tells me to pull over and immediately makes a mad dash from the van. She nearly stumbles into a fire ant mound and ends up in a mess of sticker burrs. The spider retreats behind the odometer (meaning we  can’t remove it from the van and now have to drive over 3 hours watching to see if it emerges). We identified it as a jumping spider and read that they rarely bite humans and can jump over 50 times their body length.

As we drove north we had to go through the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint. We saw the construction work indicating the plans to expand the size of the checkpoint. We decided to make a pit stop in Falfurrias at the gas station next to the hotel where we always stay there. We just couldn’t imagine a trip to South TX without at least a few minutes in Falfurrias! Then we return the rental vehicle and make it to the airport with enough time for a last meal together.

fullsizerender-6It has been a very successful trip to South Texas! We analyzed 9 individuals at the lab at Texas State University and exhumed 5 individuals at the Rio Grande Cemetery. Not only did I have a great team of students that worked hard together as a team to get the work done. But we also had Jorge with us behind the scenes at the hotel each day. It took all of us working together to accomplish as much as we did this trip. Even though we are home, we will continue to post daily blogs for the next week or so. Please keep reading for more on our trip and our reflections.     ~KEL


Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much

There are so many dedicated and hardworking volunteers working in the RGC Cemetery this week on the excavations. There are five of us from UIndy and a large group from Texas State University.  We have already talked extensively about the challenges we face: the high temperatures, the difficulty digging in the ground here, and the depth of the burials (among other things). But, unlike what we faced in Sacred Heart Burial Park, each area of the cemetery where unidentified migrants are buried brings its own unique challenges.


The area that needs to be searched here is very large. While that might not be an issue in the sandy soil of Brooks County, here our normal search strategies are difficult or impossible. Probing the ground has proven impossible and the act of digging test pits or trenches is difficult and time consuming. Yet, they are still making progress and doing an incredible job facing the challenges of this particular site.


The area here is located on low ground. We had had several big overnight storms throughout the week that has left this area completely underwater.  Yet, this group came up with strategies to remove the water from the pit and continue to work without much delay.


This group is digging their excavation area completely by hand. This burial is expected to be 5-6 feet below ground surface and is located in a place that the backhoe cannot reach.   So they are using shovels to excavate the entire pit by hand. In this environment that is quite a task!


In this area of the cemetery the burials are deep! This has required a lot of digging to locate and remove each burial. Yet, this team has powered through it each day.

Every volunteer is facing the same collective challenges in addition to the unique challenges of their team’s particular excavation spot. It takes a lot of dedication, determination and strength to continue to make progress each day and we wanted to make sure all these hard workers are recognized!



Our Last Day in San Marcos, TX

Our team at the art festival

I have enjoyed an incredible three days at Texas State University at ORPL participating in the analysis of the skeletal remains that were recovered by the UIndy team in January, May 2013 or June 2014.  I learned an incredible amount in the process and I feel so far beyond grateful to be here.  After analyzing 9 cases (our goal was 6), today was our rest day before we travel to Rio Grande City tomorrow.  We left the hotel at 9am to go to Gil’s Broiler for Manske rolls.  We realized before we left that Gil’s didn’t open until 11am though, so we ran a few errands before going for breakfast.  A few of us needed a couple of odds and ends to survive the rest of the trip, so we stopped at CVS to pick up a few things.  We were on the hunt for a cooling towel, which will be essential when we are in Rio Grande City performing exhumations.  It is supposed to be around 100 degrees each day we are in the field, only allowing each of us to work about 4 minutes before we have to take an 8 minute hydration and cooling break.  During this time, a cooling towel will help tremendously to cool us down.  One of our team members forgot her cooling towel in Indiana, so we did some hunting around San Marcos to find one.

After CVS, we went to Lowe’s to pick up tarps to keep our van clean after our field days next week.  We want to preserve the beautiful brand new van as much as we possibly can, so we decided tarps were completely necessary.  After Lowe’s, we went to Academy, a sporting goods store, to find the cooling towel.  We were successful and what a cool store that was!  After that, it was nearing 11am so we headed for Gil’s to get our Manske rolls.  When we got there, there were a couple of people waiting outside.


The doors finally opened a little after 11 and we were so excited.  We ordered our Manske rolls at the counter, a few of us adding half of a Hershey’s bar to our rolls, and then we found a table to wait.  After getting our rolls, it was very difficult not to scarf them down because they were so delicious.


After our breakfast, we traveled a short way past Texas State University, a beautiful campus, to an art show we were invited to by Kate Spradley.  It was located at the Eye of the Dog Art Center and was a pottery show.  The pottery on display was so beautiful.  We really enjoyed seeing it all.  We spoke with one artist who informed us that they have three art shows a year and this was their biggest one.  It was so neat to see all of the different ways clay can be used to make beautiful pieces of art.

After the art show, we went back to the hotel to relax and do laundry before dinner.  We left at 6pm for a restaurant called “54th Street”, which turned out to be extremely busy because of a prom being held nearby.  It was a lot of fun to see the prom dresses as we were waiting for our table.  We waited for about an hour before our table was ready.  The food was fantastic, and thus the wait was well worth it.

Tomorrow morning we are leaving for Rio Grande City at around 10am.  It will take us about 6 hours to get there.  I am so excited for this next leg of our journey in Texas.  I have had an amazing experience here thus far, and I very much look forward to being able to learn so much more about this process, as well as observe a different culture.  I am so glad that the University of Indianapolis offers experiences such as this one, and I am so thankful for Dr. Latham and the wealth of knowledge she is able to share.  I have learned so much from this experience already, and I am looking forward to learning a lot more.