What's the best thing you've ever found on a hike? I can almost certainly guarantee that Jude Sparks has got you beat.

Jude Sparks and his amazing find. Is it uncouth to be a little jealous? Photo via Peter Houde.

In November 2016, then-9-year-old Jude Sparks was hiking with his parents and younger brothers in the desert outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. The kids had walkie-talkies and as Jude dashed away to hide from his younger brothers, he tripped and fell, plowing nearly face first into a weird looking rock.


The rock was mottled, shiny, and dark. It looked like fossilized wood, he told The New York Times. On second glance, though, he realized it wasn't wood. It was teeth.

An entire jawbone, in fact, nearly as large as Sparks himself, was half-buried in the dry, desert soil.

Sparks had stumbled across something amazing — the fossil of a gigantic ancient creature.

At first they didn't know what they were looking at. Sparks' younger brother Hunter thought it was a cow skull. His parents suspected elephant. They snapped a quick cell phone picture and, when they got home, got in touch with New Mexico State University biology professor Peter Houde.

Houde immediately recognized the bizarre jaw as part of a stegomastodon — an ancient elephant cousin and a part of a truly amazing group of animals.

The rock Sparks had tripped on was actually the tip of the elephantine creature's tusk.

[rebelmouse-image 19529496 dam="1" original_size="750x429" caption="A reconstruction of what the animal might have looked like. Image by Margret Flinsch/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A reconstruction of what the animal might have looked like. Image by Margret Flinsch/Wikimedia Commons.

Stegomastodons were not elephants, though they did look like them. They're not a type of mammoth either. Instead, they're what's known as a gomphothere, an offshoot of the elephant family tree.

The skull Sparks found was about 1.2 million years old, though other gomphotheres are known to have lived quite recently. The first people to visit North America might have even sunk their teeth into roast gomphothere steaks.

Jude's discovery turned up one of New Mexico's most complete stegomastodons ever.

Professor Houde enlisted about a dozen students to excavate the creature and bring it back to the college for examination, preservation, and hopefully, display.

"I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends and even his own children, 'look what I found right here in Las Cruces,'" said Houde in a press release. They also found the rest of the creature's skull nearby.

Professor Houde shows off the tusk and lower jaw of Sparks' find. Photo by NMSU/Andres Leighton.

Houde said Sparks' timing was critical to their find. Recent rains had washed out the soil around the fossil, letting the top of the jawbone peek out like a hidden treasure. (If you're looking for fossils yourself, after a storm is a good time to go exploring.)

Just as Sparks literally tripped over a a scientific discovery, amateurs and accidents contribute to science all the time.

Discoveries don't just happen at multimillion-dollar laboratories. They're often the result of just a keen eye and curious mind. Velcro, penicillin, and microwaves were all happy accidents.

Of course, it was good that Sparks left the actual excavation up to professionals. Fossils can be surprisingly fragile. Plus, the skull was technically on private land, so the university had to work out permit rights before digging.

It just goes to show, though, if you keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll find right under your feet.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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