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Now this is the Story all about how Ray Alf’s Life got Flipped-turned Upside Down

Freshman girls enjoying the beautiful sunset with their classmates in Barstow, California. Graphic courtesy of Faith Ferry ('21)

Here is a story that will take us back 81 years to a time when Webb gained one of its most well-known traditions…the peccary trip.

It began in 1936 when Raymond Alf was teaching math and biology courses here at Webb. He had not yet become interested in paleontology. In fact, a display of a horse fossil in downtown Claremont sparked his interest.  He asked the discoverers where they had encountered the relic and they responded with the very word that would determine the birthplace of Webb’s paleontology program. “Barstow.”

Shortly after, with his camping gear and newfound inspiration, Alf led the first paleontology trip to Barstow with some of his students. One of these special pioneers was Bill Webb, the son of Thompson Webb.

On one of these trips, one of his students slid down the side of a hill and came across a hard, skull-like object. Full of intrigue, they took the fossil to a paleontologist who worked at the California Institute of Technology. He identified the skull as a new genus of species called “the peccary.” The paleontologist published the discovery, which served as an encouraging sentiment for Alf’s fieldwork.

These frequent paleontology trips had now gained a name, the peccary trips. “Thanks to the discovery of the peccary, it has become a tradition to take students out into the field to provide them with the opportunity to learn about past life,” says Doctor Lofgren the Director of the Alf Museum.  

Just recently, the freshman boys and girls went on their very first peccary trip. Lily Miller (‘21) says, “I absolutely loved the trip. It was so much fun to go out onto the hills and see all of the fossils. We even found a fossil of a horse ankle!” Faith Ferry (‘21) agreed, “We slept on tarps and the stars were beautiful at night. We even went looking for scorpions.” The boy’s school also had a memorable experience, Ethan Sego (‘21) says, “It was so much fun driving to and from the sites and I am excited about any future peccary trips.”

Overall, both trips were very successful and Dr. Andrew Farke, Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research and Collections, concludes, “The freshman did really well and made great discoveries for their first time in Barstow. These included a horse ankle, camel teeth, and small mammal bones.”

The experience of going on a peccary trip is an experience unique to Webb. It provides students, faculty, and alumni with the opportunity to roam the hills of Barstow in an attempt to find their very own discovery.

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