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MarcusMcCutcheon 3-28.jpgThere?s more than just dirt and rock under Sedona?s copper-colored exterior. One man even discovered the fragile remains of this town?s once-bustling life under the sea.
By Tyler Midkiff
Larson Newspapers
________________


There?s more than just dirt and rock under Sedona?s copper-colored exterior. One man even discovered the fragile remains of this town?s once-bustling life under the sea.

?We found just about everything imaginable in the ground,? said retired Arizona Water Company operator Marcus McCutcheon.

The real find, he said, was remnants of prehistoric crinoids, or ?sea lilies? — echinoderms that may have lived in the Verde Valley millions of years ago when the area was below sea level.

McCutcheon made the discovery while he and others were washing out a 500-foot hole they drilled near where the Sedona Arts Center is now.

In the water that pooled on the ground, he noticed hundreds of tiny vertebrates.

At the time, he had no idea what they were, so he contacted a professor at Northern Arizona University to identify them.

?They thought it was amazing,? McCutcheon said. ?They didn?t know anything like that existed in the area.?

The depth he drilled to was once shallow sea level, they told him.

?To think what this old Earth went through,? he said. ?I imagine a few million years from now, someone will dig us up and say, ?My Lord, look what we dug up,?? he said with a laugh.

McCutcheon also found Indian artifacts, including arrow points, broken pottery and an early version of a mortar and pestle in the ground, he said. Most of them he found while working in the Cibola Hills area.

?I found a body up there one time,? he said matter-of-factly. ?Well, my son did.?

One day, the boy came running home all excited. In his hand, he held a piece of a human skull.

?He thought he had done something big,? McCutcheon said with a laugh. They called the sheriff and a couple of deputies came over and dug the bones up, he said.

Since the body was found near a known cattle trail, they believed the person had probably died while traveling through the area years ago and was buried, he said.

?After a while, we got a call from them wanting to know if my son wanted the bones,? McCutcheon said. ?They didn?t care and we didn?t want them either,? he said.

When McCutcheon first began working for AWC in 1962, he dug up lots of wooden pipes that were made during WWII, he said. During the war, he explained, the government needed steel for the war effort.

People improvised and built pipes out of wood with only a thin wall of steel around them.

George and Walter Jordan told McCutcheon that most of the steel was recycled boiler tubing purchased from smelters in Clarkdale and Jerome, he said.

He saved some of the pipe, he said, but eventually he donated it to the Arizona Water & Pollution Control Association when it awarded him ?Operator of the Year? in 1981.

When McCutcheon joined the AWC, there were literally dozens of water companies in town, he said. AWC was busy acquiring the remaining companies and they needed people to connect them. By the 1970s, most of the connections were complete.

It was a difficult job, McCutcheon said, but he enjoyed it. Working on a new system would have been boring, he said.

Despite drops in the water table, he believes there will be water under Sedona for a long time, he said.

?So far, we?ve been pretty fortunate here,? he said.

For 45 years, McCutcheon has lived and worked in the Sedona area. He was once the president of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and also president of Keep Sedona Beautiful.

Adjusting to retirement took some time, he said. Companies could make it easier if they would allow people to break into retirement before the last day, he said.

?Unfortunately, you can?t practice ahead of time,? he said. ?You work up to five o?clock the last day and that?s it.?

But between working on his farm in Iowa and living in Sedona, he finds ways to occupy his time, he said.

?Sedona has been a great place to call home and raise a family,? he said. ?I don?t know of anything I?d rather have done.?


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