When he arrived a few minutes later, Jones was gone, though his handiwork remained: Hundreds of square yards of federal soil were torn up.
The Meltons have been farming this flat expanse for at least a century.
A third of these were stone tools left by Native Americans that no human hands had likely touched since about 1,000 B. But authorities also seized an additional 12,000 Indian artifacts of uncertain origin.
Among these were needles and hooks made from animal bone, clay figurines, pottery shards and something more unsettling: fragments of human skulls, femurs, jaws and teeth.
Picking up an arrowhead or digging a small hole on federal property might lead to a citation, but looting that causes damage in excess of 0 is a felony. Digital cameras at the ready, they sat on watch through sweltering summer humidity and cold winter rains. Donaldson, a devout Christian and father of two, remembers racing back to Cypress Creek under a darkening sky, praying to keep calm. He reached the top of the bluff and scanned below for Jones. Then he inched down the slope toward Jones' "honey hole" — the site of the most intense digging. He was gripping a hand shovel and staring at Donaldson's neck.
A tedious half-hour later, he was standing smack in the middle of it. The officer assumed his cover was blown and prepared to show his badge.