We've Been Digging Ourselves in a Hole...

Welcome back, Xplorers! As you may remember, this year, we here at TerraX reached a milestone — our 10th anniversary as a company. Just a couple of weeks ago, we got together to celebrate.

For the first time, our staff was able to gather together at our new lab facility in Tuscaloosa, AL to enjoy some good food and good times all together. We ate delicious food and heard some great music, and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to get together. We got to share our new staff video (which you can check out to your right), and we even had cupcakes! Then, the next day, many of us got to head outside and enjoy a picnic and visit to the research center at Moundville. Truly, a great time was had by all.


But more important than the food and fun, for us, was the camaraderie. It may sound a little silly, but at TerraX, we really feel like a family — and not just because we are literally owned and operated, in part, by the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Kristi Jackson. Nope, we’re a family because, as a group, we genuinely respect and care for one another. When we get together, everyone feels like they’re at home.


So, today’s post is going to be a little bit different. (Don’t worry — we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week!) We’re going to share a little bit more about what went on at our celebration and take a minute just to appreciate how far we’ve come. Let’s dig deeper!


The Par-tay!


As the sun set on another hot day in Alabama, the TerraX crew gathered together in our brand new lab facility to celebrate 10 years as a company. We had a fabulous dinner catered by Taco Mama (shout out to Raychel for setting that up for us!) as well as soda and drinks served up by the one and only Dan (shout out to Dan!) Just to be a little extra fun, we made some cups and koozies with our logo on them — super cute!

And seriously, check out these desserts! We had them decorated to look just like some of the equipment we use like safety vests and cameras, and we had our cupcakes iced to look just like one of our report covers. Could they be any cuter? And it wasn’t all about the food, either! While everybody was mingling, chatting, and eating, our fabulous band, The Negotiators, played some of everybody’s favorite pop and rock hits.

The party also featured two new exhibits put together by our history department! One features artifacts and information about our mitigation at the St. Amelia Plantation site, and the other contained a wide variety of glass bottles along with a guide to analyzing them. We even placed a few example bottles on top for guests to practice their analysis skills. We definitely hope to keep using these exhibits in the future! (And by the way, stay tuned for our forthcoming series on bottle analysis right here on Dig Deeper!)


But the best part of all was getting to meet and greet each other! Since so many of us travel and live in different parts of the southeast, it’s not often we get to gather this many of us together all at one place at the same time. It was magical to get to share hugs and casual conversations with coworkers who are really friends.


Here Come the Waterworks…


Okay, maybe not really, but we did have a few emotional moments when it came time for the speeches.


After everyone was well-fed and watered, our fearless leader, Paul, stood up to start the speech-making, and his words were truly something special. He talked about TerraX’s humble beginnings, when he and Kenny struck out on their own for the first time. That first year, they took in just over 40 projects. Now, we do over 400 a year. How times have changed…

Then, Paul’s daughter and one of our own Principal Investigators, Emma, took the stage, and she told an incredible story. She described how the company started in a bank building and about how they all had to shimmy around each other since space was so tight. Then she described how they moved along to their first building and about how much she loved spending time with her dad and learning about the CRM world from him. She talked about how they used to eat dinners together as a family in the building and about how she cherished that time in her childhood.


Then she described her excitement at our moving to a new building on University Boulevard — a homecoming of sorts, since Paul and Kenny got their start at a CRM firm on University Boulevard. She had the chance to tell her parents how proud she was of them and of how far they’ve come. She shared with all of us a little window into what it must have been like to grow up right alongside TerraX, and we think it’s safe to say there were a few less dry eyes in the room by the time she was done.


But before things could get too sappy, Paul stepped up to the mic once again to recognize a few very special TerraX employees. We took a moment to recognize Chris Rivers, who has been with TerraX almost as long as Kenny and Paul, Briane Shane, the head of our Architectural History department, Sharlene O'Donnell, our incredible Lead Writer, and Wade Tidwell, one of our incredible Field Directors. All four received a brand new TerraX water bottle and a gift card, and we were grateful to celebrate all that they bring to the company.


And The Fun Didn’t Stop There…


Sadly, the party had to come to an end, and it was time for all of us to pack up and get some sleep. However, we got to get up the next morning and head out to the special second party at the Moundville Archaeological Park in Moundville, AL!

Moundville, so named because it contains many earthen mounds built by Mississippian peoples, is the archaeological park under the direction of the University of Alabama, so it was the perfect place for a bunch of CRM people to gather. We packed up some of the leftovers from dinner the night before and had a big picnic with families and even a few furry friends. You may notice that a few of our team members were sporting their brand new TerraX t-shirts, thoughtfully designed in a retro style — we had to make the joke since we’ve finally reached the ripe old age of ten!


Then, a bonus surprise turned up. One of our team members (Shout out to you, Sharlene!) reached out to an old friend and contact who just so happens to be the director of the Moundville research center, and he gave the team their own private tour! TerraX got to see the incredible work the people at Moundville’s Office of Archaeological Research are doing to discover and preserve the history of the southeastern United States as well as work with Tribes to honor their pasts. It was such a fun and fascinating addition to our day!


Since 2012

At the end of the weekend, we were spent. It was a whirlwind time, and we think it’s safe to say our team was ready for a little R&R! Still, we were so grateful for the opportunity to spend a little time together. Reflecting on it now, we’re amazed at how far we’ve come and what a unique company we are.


At the beginning of the whole planning process, Paul came up with a funny little joke that has served as a theme of sorts for all of us. He said, “We’ve been digging ourselves in a hole since 2012.” Of course, it’s hilarious — we don’t even want to try to count up all the holes we’ve dug throughout our ten years of conducting archaeological surveys! But it also contains a little bit of truth.


When Paul and Kenny started this company, they knew the business, sure, and they were already well-experienced in the field, but they couldn’t know the extent of what they were really getting into. But as we stood in our incredible new lab space surrounded by dozens of team members who have worked on thousands of projects, it became clear that the more time and money and energy they’ve invested into this company — the deeper they’ve dug — the stronger we’ve gotten, and the better we’ve become.

It sounds a little cheesy, but TerraX is a unique team. We’ve brought together so many experts, but more importantly, we’re just a group of good people who, as Paul says, “I’d want to have over for dinner.” We believe that sentiment is a true reflection of this team. We’re a squad who can collaborate, share knowledge, and encourage one other. Our individual strengths and weaknesses balance each other out, and we all share the sincere desire to see our company continue to grow and be a leader in the protecting and preserving of our shared cultural history.


Okay okay, we’ll stop being sappy now!


Here’s to the Next 10 Years!

We could not be more grateful for this team! We loved getting together to celebrate our first 10 years as a company, and we look forward to what the next 10 have in store. And as much as we’ve enjoyed reflecting on our accomplishments and the fun times we’ve had together, for now, it’s time to get back to work.


Thank you all so much for joining us for our sappy celebration post! Be sure to check back next week, when we’ll be bringing you another exciting deep dig. And remember — you can always reach out to us with any questions, comments, or requests! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


Until next time, keep learning!


— The TerraX Team