Third grader Flavio was first to the spot. "It was still warm," he says of the peanut-shaped black rock that lay embedded in the ground. The Lyles boys, Alvaro, 11, and Patrick, 8, suggested showing the stone to their father, Orlando, a 42-year-old auto-parts worker and amateur astronomer. He informed them they had found a meteorite. In quick time, the 2-pound, 11-ounce space rock became the center of a civic dispute, and Flavio, Aivaro, Patrick, and their four friends—Flavio's brother Neri, 12, Jose Felan, 11, Eron Hernandez, 10, and Javier Juarez, 9—were branded the Meteorite Seven.
As news crews descended on Monahans (pop. 8,100), NASA spirited the meteorite away to the LBJ Space Center near Houston, promising to return it after tests; a bidding war erupted among collectors with offers reaching $19,000. Then city manager David Mills suggested to Orlando Lyles that the meteorite be considered "as property of the citizens of Monahans." (The city had already claimed another meteorite found nearby on March 23.)
Lyles demanded the rock back. At their June 9 meeting, with indignation rising and the public gallery packed, the city council voted 4-0 to return the meteorite to the boys, who will sell it to help pay for their future education. "We've had a lot of fun," says Flavio. "All this has been really exciting," says Javier. Adds Patrick and Alvaro's mother, Rose Mary, 41: "I'm just glad it didn't hit anyone."