KARNES CITY — Davy Villanueva isn't an outgoing guy, so handling the notoriety generated by his discovery of a mastodon tooth last month has been a big adjustment.
“Now I know what all the celebrities go through. I feel sorry for them,” said Villanueva, 44, whom friends jokingly nicknamed “Hollywood” after his story appeared on national news outlets.
A collector of petrified rocks, Villanueva said he's never found anything before that compares to the seven-pointed tooth, which has been identified as a molar from a mastodon that died at least 12,000 years ago, perhaps much earlier.
But she's never found anything like Villanueva's tooth in more than 20 years of digging for fossils and artifacts.
“It's beautiful,” said Meissner. “He's a lucky guy. I'm jealous.”
She'd like a chance to scour the site along the San Antonio River where the tooth was found, but so far Villanueva isn't saying where he spotted the prehistoric elephant tooth on Sept. 2.
“I was setting up my fishing gear and it caught my eye. It was in about a foot of water,” he recalled Monday. “I'd never seen anything like it.”
It wasn't until he examined it closely after arriving home that he discovered it was a tooth, whose roots, conical crowns and enamel are clearly visible.
Upon checking a few websites on fossils, Villanueva surmised it was a mastodon tooth, a view shared by Meissner based on her examination of photos.
Villanueva's son, Patrick, 7, was initially scared of the tooth, telling his father, “You need to go put it back in the water.”
Dad has other ideas, including possibly giving the tooth to a library or a museum.
“If I donate it to the library here in Karnes City, all the kids could see it,” said Villanueva, who quickly passed on an acquaintance's offer of $500 for the find.
Villanueva initially wasn't keen on being interviewed for television.
“He gets embarrassed, but he got over that,” said his wife, Patty Cruz, 29. “He still can't believe he found what he found. He's very happy.”
As the tale spread from the Karnes Countywide — circulation 3,500 — to Yahoo News, Villanueva's thought: “Wow!” A Google search of “mastodon” and “Davy Villanueva” on Monday generated 334,000 hits.
The once obscure South Texas oil field worker now has a newfound appreciation for what (fellow) celebrities must endure.
“When the paparazzi are after them, now I know how they feel,” he said. “It's crazy.”
Authors: MySA News