Retired, lifelong rancher pursues his passion of paleontology

Fossil hunter enthusiast Kenny Brown, who volunteers at the School of MInes, preps a fossil...
Fossil hunter enthusiast Kenny Brown, who volunteers at the School of MInes, preps a fossil for research. (KOTA)
Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 8:02 PM CDT
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A lifelong Hermosa rancher whose passion for paleontology fostered a long meaningful relationship with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

More than 60 years ago, a paleontologist visited Kenny Brown's grade school in Hermosa.

"I never knew what a fossil was until that paleontologist from the School of mines come out to our grade school," said Brown. "I think I was about in the fourth grade or somewhere near there and he had a little hesperornis bone and he's showing us that and then told us that they'd really like to find some more of that."

The paleontologist said the area around where Brown lived had black shale and yellow bentonite, a perfect combination to find fossils. After that, Brown's passion for paleontology began, but he had to make a decision regarding the family business.

"I kind of had the choice, to either ranch or be a paleontologist and I did like to ranch," said Brown. "I'm hooked on horses and so that made the decision"

While still a young man, Brown's father opened the family ranch to to School of Mine's students and staff fostering a long term relationship with the school.

"I'd tell you, I had nothing but good with the School of Mines, it's always been fun to have them come out and they actually named a mosasaur after me," said Brown, "they call it 'Hainosaurus kenbrowni' and it was a new species of mosasaur."

Over the years, Brown learned a massive amount of information through field experience such as how to expose fossils and set them in plaster jackets and prepping finds. Now in retirement, he spends his time volunteering at the school's Paleontology Research Laboratory prepping fossils, something he does almost every day.

"I'm pretty fortunate to be able to retire and then come down here and work," said Brown. "Being retired with nothing do to is not the way to go. Come down here and it's cool in here and everything is easy to work on."

Brown recently prepared a part of triceratops pelvic bone as well some triceratops ribs for research. Mines' Freshmen students majoring in the paleontology go out to Brown's land for some first hand experience in fossil hunting.

His passion for paleontology runs deep, he bequeathed his 1,330 acre ranch to the School of Mines to further education and inspire fossil hunters like himself.