As of 2006, the future of Range Creek is still up in the air.
From the start, the archaeologists enlisted Waldo as their guide to the often well-hidden Fremont sites. One spring day last year, as she walked the valley-bottom dirt road in Range Creek, team co-leader Renee Barlow, of the Utah Museum of Natural History, was bursting with pride: "So far we've found 280 sites, ranging from ruins and rock art panels to scatters of potsherds and toolmaking debris. Every one Waldo either told us about, or we found it on the way to a site he told us about. And we've only seen 15 percent of the canyon!"
"You ain't seen 5 percent, kiddo," Waldo rejoined.
Waldo's partnership with the researchers has a certain edge, for he takes a dim view of professional archaeology—and not without reason. Years ago, at a ruin a good thousand feet above the valley floor, Waldo had found an eroding Fremont skeleton sticking skull-ﬁrst out of the earth. To protect it, he picked up a nearby metate—or "corn grinder," as he calls the stone basin the ancients used to pulverize their maize— and laid it over the skull.
Four years ago, Waldo directed a pair of archaeology students to the site. They came back from the all-day hike exhausted but exhilarated. "They told me, 'We've discovered that the Fremont buried their dead with corn grinders covering their heads,'" Waldo recounted. "I said, 'Yep, and I bet I can tell you right where that was, too.'"
Waldo gradually developed his own theories about the ancients who once thronged Range Creek. One evening, in the cinder-block house he had built for his family that now serves as the cluttered headquarters for the archaeologists, the rancher unfurled his ideas, based on the rock art and artifacts he had found.
"The ﬁrst people in here wasn't but four foot tall," he said. "I call 'em the Little People. I think the Fremont come in and killed off the Little People. Then later the Utes come in and killed off the Fremont. Every place you ﬁnd an arrowhead, there was a dead Indian."
Project leader Duncan Metcalfe, of the University of Utah, absorbed this narrative from an adjoining chair. He kept a straight face, but professional dismissal oozed from his pores. Metcalfe and the other archaeologists had found little evidence of any prehistoric inhabitants other than the Fremont. And no professional would give credence to Waldo's Little People.