In 1962 Voorhies was a senior at the University of Nebraska, leading a State Museum crew in a search for ancient mammals in the badlands. When the weather would not allow the crew to go into the field, Voorhies helped set up exhibits in the Trailside Museum.
One day, two men from the area brought a fossil wrapped in a feed sack into the museum.
"That bone was quite a surprise," said Voorhies. "We knew right away it was an elephant. They are pretty scarce in that part of the state, so we went out to look and scratch around a bit."
Voorhies noticed a large amount of bone and received permission from landowner Tom Moody to start a dig. Moody helped, removing the uppermost layers of soil with his backhoe. Voorhies and other members of the crew scraped away the remainder of sediment and eventually discovered two skulls.
"When we started to uncover the mammoth, the point of the tusk was headed the wrong way," Voorhies said. "We thought that when the elephant died that it fell forward and broke a tusk and it pointed back toward him."
The discovery of a second skull jolted the 21-year-old dig site leader.
"It was probably the most exciting fossil I've ever seen," Voorhies recalled. "Someone with a lot of experience would have known right away. We were basically teenagers without a lot of digging experience, flying blind."
However, the young paleontologists realized they found an international treasure. Covering the bones in shellac then protecting them in layers of paper, burlap and plaster. The agreement with Moody allowed the skulls to be moved to Lincoln and required the mounting of one of the skeletons for display at the Trailside Museum. The skulls and remaining skeleton were to stay in Lincoln for study until a newly renovated, secure exhibit space could be created at Trailside.