Coaching soil judging at the state soils judging contest last week proved to be a memorable experience. Our high school team placed in the top 10, but fell short of the goal all Indiana teams strive for- being in the top five and earning a trip to the National Contest in Oklahoma in May. Oh well, there's always next year.
It certainly wasn't wasted time. Friday, practice day, when soil scientists have 15 or more pits set up to look at throughout the host county, in this case, Morgan County in central Indiana, was a beautiful, sunny day, and the leaves in that heavily-forested part of the world were at their last hoorah. Besides, how can you not be happy when you've got 14 teenagers tagging along?
The neatest thing we saw was a road cut along a winding road near the Morgan- Monroe State Forest where within 200 feet, nature deposited at least five parent materials. Those are what soils formed from over thousands of years.
It's not unusual to find bedrock close to the surface in the hills of that region. It's not unusual to find wind-blown, or Eolian sand, in certain parts of the county. There are also old lakebed soils, called lacustrine deposits. And then there's always loess, wind-blown silt, that often forms over glacial till, the rock fragments and soil left behind by a glacier.
What is nearly unheard of is to find them all within 150 feet of each other. All the Purdue University specialists overseeing the contest did was put labels on each type. Sometimes the change was abrupt. Bedrock went into loess over till right next to it. That went into Eolian sand. All of this was covered for centuries by trees. When man built the road years ago, just a county road, they cut through this area and exposed the various parent materials.
Geologists and soil scientists can probably explain it. I decided just to enjoy it for what it was- an act by the creator. If he wanted bedrock next to sand, he could put bedrock next to sand, and he did. If he wanted to throw in outwash material typically carried in by water, often sand and gravel, he could do that too, and he did. And he sent a glacier down just for good measure.
We didn't win the contest, but we left Morgan County with an affirmation of who is in control. And it's not you nor me! Never was, and never will be, as much as we might think otherwise!