A news release by a local archaeologist recently caught the eye of Dixie Burmeister. Soon after, she went searching for the man in an effort to dig up his story...
Archaeologist Curtis Martin has his father's friend to thank for his chosen profession.
"(My) father was a political science professor at the University of Colorado, and he worked side-by-side with Robert Lister, who was one of the fathers of archaeology in western Colorado," Martin explained.
Then, perfect timing opened the job door.
"It fell into place at about the time that I was getting my degrees at the University of Colorado," explained Martin. "They were passing legislation that said there has to be archaeologists out there. When you're disturbing the surface of public lands, you have to get an archaeological clearance first. So I got out of graduate school, literally stepped into a career in archaeology, and haven't looked back," he said.
We caught up with him at a fascinating location known as the Ute Learning Garden here in Grand Junction.
"I'm principal investigator of the Colorado Wikiup Project," Martin explained.
How fortunate he is to have found his passion.
"From the time I was five years old, Indians were a fascinating, important aspect of my life," he explained.
Being an archaeologist may not be exactly what you picture.
"Archaeology has evolved a lot in the past few decades, to the point where... Dominguez-Escalante Archaeological Research Group, there's research money available out there to go do archaeology for archaeology's sake, and academic research-oriented archaeology, which is the real fun part of that," he explained.
Today, he combines field work with presentations to schools and the general public. He also finds time to teach an archaeology class at Colorado Mesa University.
"I finished my third year of teaching it, and had to shed a tear when the last class was over," he said. "I'm really enjoying it. Small classes of eight or nine students was just perfect for that kind of... It's a real hands-on class. We get out four saturdays during the end of the semester to go out and get our hands dirty and practice the real techniques of discovering and mapping and recording archaeological sites."
So, does retirement ring a bell with Curtis?
"I've been self-employed my entire life, so I'll probably never retire," he said with a smile. "I'll be out in the field as long as I can keep hiking, and then at that point I'll start writing up books and giving back to the general public."
What's the future hold for Curtis? Most likely just more of the past, and that's just fine with him.
To learn more about Curtis and the Ute Learning Garden project at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, visit http://www.mesacounty.us or call 244-1834.