|Kurt Plinke, Artist and Naturalist
Between the Waters
life, Art and The Nature of things Between the Atlantic and the Chesapeake
Sometimes, I look out the window and swear that I see dinosaurs in the garden. Not Triceratops or T-rex or anything. Just common, everyday dinosaurs. Smallish (for a dinosaur), dark, long-legged and primitive.
When I was a kid, the idea of dinosaurs in the woods behind the barn always lurked in the back of my mind. I could clamp my eyes shut, focus my thoughts and there they would be... not big scary dinosaurs, but gentle creatures, almost like pet dinosaurs, hiding behind the big burr oak trees on the hill. Still wild, mind you, but not the dangerous kind of wild. At least, that's how I imagined modern dinosaurs; huge, gentle creatures with long necks and long legs.
As a child, I grew up in several parts of the country. But most of my clearest memories from my younger years were on a farm in southern Wisconsin. I had great friends there, and we roamed and played across the woods and fields near Whitewater Lake. Mostly we pretended to be soldiers, or cowboys, or explorers. We dug caves out of the hillsides, built cabins from old fallen tree branches and chased long-gone deer by following their tracks in the snow. But when my friends were not around, I dreamed of dinosaurs. I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, just so I could somehow bring dinosaurs back, to be able to really see one. Occasionally I would find a small fossil in the rocks on the moraine hills behind our big barn. These excited me to find more. On a trip to the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History I saw huge fossilized dinosaur bones and entire skeletons, held together with wires, bronze-brown and ancient looking. These were even more amazing to me as I imagined unearthing entire skeletal creatures from ancient bedrock and then painstakingly reassembling them. But old fossils were not enough. I wanted to see them in the flesh, walking around, doing what dinosaurs do. I hoped that someday I would discover a way to recreate these big beasts and give them a chance to live again. As I got older, those thoughts faded and I became more interested in the living things that surround us all... the birds, mammals and other creatures.
When that movie about the dinosaur park came out and then the sequels, I was instantly returned to those dreams, however. The idea of real-life dinosaurs roaming the countryside again sprang up in my head, and I discovered that the notion of recreating dinosaurs still hides in a mind corner of mine.
And then, once in a while I actually, really, truly see one; strolling across my yard, under the fruit trees, in the garden, or peaking from the underbrush at me. The round, scowling little bead of an eye, the long sinuous neck, the primitive walk all tell me I am looking at a dinosaur.
I saw one this morning, first slowly strolling across the front lawn. Then she reappeared beneath an apple tree, looking for insects in the shaded meadow grasses of the orchard.
easily wend their way through blackberry brambles, greenbriers and other dense undergrowth. I have come upon turkeys along a path, and not seen them among the dense path-side thickets until I am almost on top of them.
Turkeys, in fact, are very similar to dinosaurs. Bot the wild turkey and the Tyrannosaurus Rex share a furcula, a special bone that most other creatures do not have. (http://www.livescience.com/32228-what-do-turkeys-and-t-rex-have-in-common.html) A furcula is a wish-bone. In fact, it is a fusion of the collar bone and the sternum. Velociraptors also had a furcula.
The turkey that ambled through the back yard today, however, did not look so much like a velociraptor as it did some other small dinosaurs. Animals like the dinosaur called Anzul, pictured in the photo of the skeleton above, probably looked a lot like turkeys in many ways. In fact, scientists now believe that dinosaurs like the Anzul and even velociraptors wore feathery coats.
It may be that turkeys, ambling through the woods behind the house, are as close as I'll ever get to seeing a real live dinosaur. That's probably good. I'll just keep imagining that they are dinosaurs, living relicts from eons past, stalking across the primeval Maryland landscape.
Kurt Plinke: About Life, Art and the Nature of Things on the Eastern Shore
I write about things I've noticed, places I've been, plans I've made and paintings I've finished or am thinking about.
See recent naturalist observations I have posted on iNaturalist: