--> --> W.A. Cobban, the Cookes Range, N.H. Darton, J.G. Love, and me

AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting

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W.A. Cobban, the Cookes Range, N.H. Darton, J.G. Love, and me


My four-decade long collaboration with Bill Cobban began on October 20, 1976, when he and I measured an Upper Cretaceous section south of Cookes Peak, southwest New Mexico. A week earlier, I had rediscovered Darton’s enigmatic “Prionotropis” bed near Frying Pan Spring, Cookes Range. Corroded and oyster-encrusted ammonite steinkerns from that bed led to that field trip to the “Cookie Range” with Bill and to a lifetime’s association with one of the greatest paleontologists of the twentieth century. Together, we published more than 40 peer-reviewed papers and established more than 1,000 numbered USGS Mesozoic Invertebrate fossil localities (Denver), mostly in New Mexico. The papers range from monographic studies of ammonites to paleogeographic maps, to oyster evolution, to stratigraphic studies. Our 1989 memoir on the ammonite faunas of southwest New Mexico resulted from that first field trip to the Cookes Range. The late Cenomanian/early Turonian faunas of southwest New Mexico are a mixture of Tethyan and Boreal ammonites, allowing for international correlation of the largely endemic faunas to the north. This research led to the recognition of three new upper Cenomanian ammonite zones in the Western Interior, along with the discovery of five new genera and 27 new species of ammonites. The late Cenomanian fauna is one of the most diverse in the world with 59 named species in 32 genera, all coming from small isolated outcrops in southwest New Mexico, but anchored by those in the Cookes Range. Yet, my association with Bill might not have occurred if not for John Galloway Love, a Wyoming sheep rancher, who saved Darton’s life by pulling him, his wagon, and team of horses from the flood-swollen, raging Wind River in the summer of 1903. John Galloway Love (1870-1950) — the father of Wyoming’s greatest geologist, John David Love (1913-2002) — had never met a geologist before rescuing Darton. Without this lifesaving encounter, Darton (1865-1948) would not have found the Prionotropis bed in 1910 and I may not have worked with Bill Cobban. My professional career would have been poorer, as would the Cretaceous geology of New Mexico. Darton’s loss to the geology of the Western Interior would have been catastrophic, especially in New Mexico where, among many accomplishments after 1903, he mapped the geology of the entire state singlehandedly in 1928.