Howard knew that anything buried in Laguna's soft, sandy soil would
be quite easy to dig up. So easy in fact, that he only brought along
a screwdriver to use as a digging tool. It was what he had always
done before, and he couldn't imagine why he would need anything
The boys left the house and headed down off the sloping hillside
to the Pacific Coast Hwy., then walked south until they arrived
at St. Anns Drive, a short street that ran back up the hillside,
perpendicular to the recently paved Highway. The first block of
the street had been graded down a long time ago, about five feet
lower then the surrounding ground level to meet the PCH at a more
favorable angle. This exposed a 100 foot long bank of sand colored
soil on top of a layer of solid rock. They began to inspect this
exposed earth as a good place to start.
Howard walked along to the west, carefully inspecting
every tiny rock and bump along the face of the bank, when he suddenly
saw something unusual down near the very base of the cut. Bending
down for a closer look, he realized that he was looking at the end
of a long bone sticking out of the hard rock. Howard yelled to Ed
to come see, pulled out his screwdriver, and began to chip away
at the rock. Immediately Howard realized that there was something
very odd about this whole thing, and made a mental note to himself
about it, because the bone was encased in solid rock - not
the soft soil one would expect for a burial. He chipped away for
many minutes until at last the bone fell free.
boys looked closely at the bone and knew that they had found something
that might be human, but they weren't really sure. Howard
knelt back down and began to chip again at the hard rock to see
if there might be more bone now exposed. Sure enough, he spotted
what looked like another smoother and more rounded piece of bone
further into the rock, and began again to chip and dig away at the
hard rock surrounding it. He chipped at it for many minutes, working
up a good sweat, but he had made very little progress. Tiring rapidly
from the effort, Howard handed the screwdriver to Ed who began to
try his luck at the task. Ten minutes later, Ed had made very little
headway, and a lot of sweat too. It was in very solid rock. This
was going to take forever, they both agreed.
Realizing that the screwdriver was completely inadequate for
the job, Howard decided that he would run back to his house
to get a pick axe. Ed stayed and continued to work with screwdriver,
and within an hour, Howard came excitedly running back with
this new more powerful tool. Resting just a minute or two, Howard
then began to whack much more forcefully at the rock with the
pick. This time, he began making better progress. The rock was
shattering away from around the bone quickly now.
In his enthusiasm, and with a tired arm, Howard struck hard
at the rock, but the pick glanced off the rock and struck the
bone with a loud "thwack"!
They both held their breath and peered closely at the damage.
There was a small nick in the smooth surface, but the bone appeared
to be solid and unbroken. With a much more careful and gentle
swing from then on, the boys finally succeeded in removing the
large bone from it's rock tomb.
Holding it up to the light at last, Howard now
knew for certain that what he had found was a human skull.
But what he wouldn't know for almost another
40 years was that he held something far more important.
He was holding the first American in history!