Paddling up the Nueces River in his kayak is Gipper Nelson’s primary form of exercise as well as adventure.
During one of those trips down the river, Nelson said he noticed something unusual sticking up a few inches above ground, and he went closer to investigate.
“It turned out it was a mammoth tooth, and there were also parts of the skull nearby,” Nelson said. “It weighs about 5 pounds, and I will contact the University of Texas at San Antonio, which has conducted digs in this area, to let them know.
“I found it near an old bridge about 3 miles north of Highway 59, close to Billy Worthington’s Turkey Call Bend RV Park.”
Nelson said he recently purchased the kayak and that he’s always on the lookout for interesting and unusual items along the river.
“I’m always looking for stuff, searching up and down along the riverbanks,” he said. “There are several gravel bars that I like to look at – you can find all kinds of stuff along there. When I saw what turned out to be the mammoth tooth sticking up, I rowed over to it. I had just seen a little piece of it. There was much more there than I had anticipated.
“I said, ‘Wow, that’s definitely not a cow tooth.’ Some people are telling me to be careful so that I don’t get in legal trouble but I just washed it off. I don’t plan to keep it. I hope to turn it over to a museum, probably the one in the Dobie West (Performing Arts) Theatre.”
Nelson said that Brush Country Cowboy Church Pastor Pat Traxler joked that Nelson should turn the tooth into a necklace, and Nelson joked back that he would paint it purple and wear it all the time. But the final resting spot for the historic item will likely be a museum.
Nelson said from about 600,000 years ago to about 10,500, wooly mammoths were prominent in the area.
“This one was roaming around Live Oak County,” he said. “I bet money that those tusks are still there, and the whole skull is probably still there.”
Nelson noted that mammoth tusks found in Live Oak County are already present in the Grace Armantrout Museum south of George West.
“This tooth was in a strata of clay, and that’s what preserved it,” he said. “I was pretty excited when I found it. I knew it was unusual. I am planning to work with the (Live Oak County) Historical Commission and see if I can donate it to the theatre’s museum. I’ve also given items to the Armantrout museum over the years.”
Nelson talked with Jim Warren, a retired state archaeologist, about the tooth, and that Warren encouraged him to call UTSA.
“He told me they would be a good contact, because they’ve done work in this area in the past,” Nelson said. “As much as I’d like to go after those tusks, that’s a job for Superman and I’m not Superman.”
Nelson said he also plans to contact the Waco Mammoth Site National Monument to let him know about what he found in Live Oak County.
During his explorations throughout the area,Nelson has found a number of interesting items, including Clovis era arrow points which he said date to around the same time of the mammoth.
“Those are the oldest type of points they know of in Texas,” he said. “They (the Clovis era people) were probably hunting wooly mammoths.
“I’ve found some interesting stuff over the years, but this mammoth tooth is at the top of the list. It’s really cool. I hope to get the historical commission involved, and I hope whenever somebody comes down to dig up the rest of the mammoth, I can be there. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t keep me away. It will be very interesting to see what all they find.”