Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Saturday Part One: Dino Sores and Roars

(Note: To continue reading “Apartment Life Returns,” click for Part Five)

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Saturday was a full day for our family. Full of the expected and the unexpected.

I got up with Ben, per usual on a weekend morning, and as we played for the next couple of hours, I was going stir crazy. I needed to do something that didn’t involve a plastic toy or a Pixar character. I contemplated loading the kid up in the minivan and driving to the Arbuckle Mountains, a 2.5-hour jaunt to southern Oklahoma. I would leave a note for the missus, of course. No doubt she would enjoy the solace and Ben and I would have a fun road trip.

I wanted us to do something as a family, so I held out until Shannon awoke. She was feeling sick, and running a low-grade fever, but she agreed going somewhere was a good idea. We knew that the Heard Museum was featuring life-size animatronic dinosaurs, the same ones we saw at the Fort Worth Zoo several months ago, and that January and the dinosaurs would say goodbye on the same day. (sounds like an all-girl rock band from “The Flintstones.”)

“Is it free?” Shannon asked.

I envisioned the facility out there, with modest museum exhibits indoors and a system of hiking trails outside — the only possible place they could display life-size dinosaur replicas. “It’s outdoors, so I don’t think they’re charging for it,” I said.

When we arrived, we saw that the packed parking lot had leaked three rows of minivans and SUV’s into the adjacent field. Obviously, January’s ice and generally unseasonable cold had kept folks waiting. A set of reverse lights caught my eye and drew me in like a moth to a lamp.

Except that it was daylight and I don’t have wings.

We walked in to find a small dinosaur and a lot of people. “Oh, I don’t think it’s free,” Shannon said as she pointed to a sign above the information desk.

I looked up. $8 per adult. $5 per child three and older. Ouch.

The dinosaurs were along the Hoot Owl Trail, a half-mile affair that winds its way around a hilly, wooded area (those are VERY rare around here). Ben begged to be held as we set eyes on the first exhibit, wherein a predatory dinosaur dined on a plant eater. The bloody scratches on the victim and his assailant’s claws, along with the chewing motion at the wound site, made for a realistic, if not revolting scene.

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Apparently the Dinos Alive! coordinators felt that scaring the living daylights out of the younger children was the perfect way to start the self-guided tour. Ben wanted to be held at each exhibit, but we insisted he walk the “safe” stretches.

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“Well, that was a waste of $21,” Shannon said. I agreed. Although, at about the .10 mile mark, I’m convinced we arrived at the highest point in Collin County. There was an actual overlook. Shocking. Not worth $21, but shocking.

To keep all of us firmly grounded in human history, generators peppered throughout the woods chugged and hummed a homo sapien tune. Battery power would be a good idea, as the motors sometimes drowned out the dinosaurs’ roaring sounds.

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In a low-lying section of the trail, I had to stop for pictures of a huge Bur Oak estimated to be 250 years old. Other trees, paltry in comparison, wondered if it was on steroids. I felt small and insignificant contemplating which branches predate the American Revolution and which didn’t show up until the Civil War.

Ben let me put him on my shoulders for the last massive beast from the animal kingdom — the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I posed us for a picture, but Ben’s nerves put him out of the smiling mood.

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After we finished the tour, we went inside to check out the museum. A large indoor sandbox called the Fossil Dig attracted many kidlets, and Ben was no exception. I must point out, however, that he was not the one throwing sand or taking other kids’ toys. Nope, not that time.

His dinosaur safely back in hand following a quiet controversy with one of his archaeologist buddies, Ben walked up to me and said, “I want to go back outside to see the dinosaurs.”

Shannon, by this point exhausted and pretty sure she shouldn’t have come at all, headed back to sit in Homer while Ben and I enjoyed some father-son time.

He hiked the entire half-mile this time without getting scared. So did I. Other kids shrieked in terror (especially at the death scene), but Ben never flinched. Instead, he turned his head to me, eyebrows raised, and said, “Come on, Daddy, we’re running from the dinosaurs.”

We ran. And we had a blast.

Then, the weirdest thing happened.

(tune in next time)

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(the photos in this post were more highly compressed than usual, because the multitudinous branches in the background made for big file sizes)

13 Responses to Saturday Part One: Dino Sores and Roars

  1. Sounds like a great day, even at the $21 charge bud.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s entry… wondering what happened next!

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  2. T-rex? Ha..

    I’ve seen bigger.

    Not really.

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  3. I really like the idea of the dinosaurs roaming the forest. It’s much cooler in a natural setting. However, the feasting poses do seem a bit graphic when removed from the safe halls of the museum. I see why it bothered so many kids.

    I also love that tree. The twisted branches look wise and wicked. Then again…I just saw Pan’s Labyrinth, so that could be coloring my imagination a bit.

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  4. That big oak looks like the perfect foundation for an absolutely killer tree fort.

    (Is that the first time you’ve used ‘multitudinous’ on this blog? I bet it is.)

    *****

    Then, the weirdest thing happened.

    As soon as we started running away from the dinosaurs at Ben’s behest, the generators stopped running. The sudden cessation of the ubiquitous noise was startling. Even more startling was that the dinosaurs did not stop their own inimitable growls or jerky movements. They became more pronounced. Almost life-like.

    All hell broke loose when the Allosaur actually stepped off the path and eviscerated a German tourist.

    Ben and I kept running. We ran off the path, into the woods, hoping to find refuge until I could decide what to do next. We stopped behind another bur oak, catching our breath, and Ben clung tightly to my leg. My breathing stopped the instant I heard the first blood-curdling scream from the parking lot. It was Shannon. I knew it was my wife because it was the exact same scream as that time I bought her that gold bikini and brunette hair piece for Valentine’s Day. Then, I was in terror of my own life, this time, my wife’s.

    Girded by the adrenaline that only comes at knowing a loved one is in mortal peril, I whisked Ben into my arms and sprinted in a bee-line for the parking lot. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a shadowy figure pacing me several yards to my right, in the bushes. My heart skipped a beat when I saw something similar on the left. As soon as my run carried us into a small clearing, two raptors burst forth from the surrounding brush and converged on us for what they thought would be an easy, tender meal.

    They were wrong. With the surge of energy already provided by the risk to my beloved wife, the added element of my only son in peril put me over the edge and I began to see nothing but red. In the precious seconds I had before the raptors had us I whispered harshly in Bens ear, “Emergency move Tango, Ben, NOW!”

    With a fluidity that comes only from weekly practice sessions, I flung Ben straight up in the air into the waiting arms of a small bur oak tree, its branches hanging over our ersatz arena. He knew the move well from our myriad late-night drills: in the house under ceiling fans, at the playground on the monkey bars, running through traffic and trying to catch the overhanging light standards, the usual routine. Ben clung hard and observed the ensuing frenzy beneath him.

    Knowing my son was safe above me (assuming no pterodactyls circling), I dove to the ground and rolled into a tight tuck. The converging dinosaurs sprinted over top of me and skittered to a halt on opposite sides as I bounded back to my feet. I assumed the Whickering Pony Stance as taught to me those many years ago by Pei Mei, fames martial artist non pareil, and I quietly intoned a poetical stanza of focus and power, drawn from the works Coleridge.

    I waited.

    Each raptor, regaining its bearings, again sprinted over the short distance towards me, covering the ground with alarming speed. I chose my moment and leapt straight up in the air with a shout of sonic energy intended to temporarily confound my aggressors. On the descent I executed my favourite move: the Whirling Dervish of Denmark. My left foot, in a blur of tasteful footwear, connected with the lower jaw of the larger raptor, snapping it clean off and it went spinning into the far brush in a mist of blood and a spray teeth.

    As I continued my spin, my right arm shot out directly into the slavering maw of the remaining foe, my fist forcing its way down the throat. The raptor reflexively clamped its jaw tightly on my shoulder and I grunted in recognition of the threat, though I felt no pain in my current state. I snapped open my fingertips into the Spiderweb Of Despair, still deep in its throat, causing the raptor to gargle in agony and it backed itself off my arm.

    I took no time to observe my own wound, seeing the raptor spewing bloody bile and trembling. I seized the opportunity before it recovered and head-butted it on the snout. When it reared up in reflex, I again leapt in the air, this time to deliver a simple round-house kick to the neck. I released a small amount of my ki energy and felt a satisfying snap under my heel. The beast collapsed to the ground, its neck at an unhealthy angle. Beside it, still quivering but near death, the first dinosaur was busy drowning in its own blood.

    Victorious, I shouted, “Eat some Arkansas foot, Bitches!”

    I called out, “Ben, release!” and my son dropped dutifully into my waiting arms. I finally did grunt with pain, as Ben jarred my injured and bloody shoulder. Shannon just got this shirt back from the drycleaners, I thought to myself. She’s gonna have a fit.

    We began a slower run back to the parking lot when the next desperate scream reached our ears. I picked up my pace and hoped that I wouldn’t be too late. After a short sprint up a low rise, we cleared the brush and saw what was happening in the parking lot of the Heard Museum.

    That’s when it got REALLY weird.

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  5. Um, I’m not too sure at which point I got carried away.

    I think I was just trying to make it worth your $21.

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  6. Uh, Simon, I think when the comment became longer than the post itself, that was the point. Good guess as to what happened, though. You were pretty close, except that Mark was not donning particularly tasteful footwear that day. Oh, and I looked HOT in that gold bikini and brunette hair piece!

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  7. You ALWAYS look hot (or hawt).

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  8. Dave – It turned out to be worth every penny. I can’t imagine a better time with Ben than walking/running through the woods. Some of my fondest memories of childhood and my adulthood are doing the same with my dad and brother.

    Alvis – I was hoping they’d have a truly huge monster like a brontosaurus, but oh well. Weird. I tried to use brachiosaurus, and Firefox’s built-in spell-checking suggested “brontosaurus.” Have they changed their minds on that one again?

    Moksha – It was much more realistic visually than when we saw the same dinosaurs at the Fort Worth Zoo, but with electricity readily available, the zoo didn’t have to dedicate generators to it. Plus, it was kind of neat walking by a real elephant or rhinocerous and then seeing a Megalosaurus (but not Mega-Lo-Mart).

    The tree was one of my favorite things, as back home in Arkansas pretty much all the outdoors are second- and third-growth forest. Not many that old left in the south at all.

    Now, of course, I must see Pan’s Labyrinth. You evil temptress.

    Simon – A search reveals that you are correct. First use of that word.

    I loved your extension of this story. I laughed the whole way through, and exploded at the “Arkansas foot” line. Thanks for all that. Now I’m even more hopeful that you will one day post some fiction on your site.

    Shan – I was going to say he was real close, too, except he didn’t play up my bravery enough. I think we all remember the horse incident (well, all of our family, anyway).

    Alvis – Okay, the floodgates are open now. I’m so grabbing your wife’s butt the next time we get together.

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  9. I hope what really happened was outrageously exciting, Mark. Otherwise, Simon has set us all up for a let-down. I’ll be all like, “a camera malfunction? That’s not nearly as weird as when the dinos attacked. I mean…there’s not even any kung-fu in this story.” And I’ll complain…loudly…in all caps.

    I should note, however that if tomorrow’s story involves a gold bikini…I will accept that as a suitable substitute to the Whirling Dervish of Denmark. I should further note that if it’s you, and not Shan, in the gold bikini…you will have safely out-weirded Simon.

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  10. Great finish Simon! I’m glad I don’t have to top that one. When I saw the second tree photo all I could think of was the scene from Poltergeist when I came in through the bedroom window. I got chicken skin.

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  11. Many apologies, I admit I skimmed this; I have this weird aversion to dinosaurs, ceramic mushroom cannisters and those weird-ass characters at McDonald’s. I will, however, want to tune in for the weirdest thing.

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  12. Mokker – I’m afraid it will pale in comparison.

    Blitz – Yeah, that tree pic toward the bottom almost looks like it has a torso and arms.

    Linda – Skimmers miss good stuff, but that’s okay. This probably was a very guyish post.

    The weirdest thing really isn’t very weird relative to Simon’s inspired tale. But tune in anyway.

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  13. Hilarious stuff from Simon.

    Mark, I can’t resist. When Simon was writing about the scream from the parking lot, and Shannon’s impending peril, all I could think about was you screaming during what is now a part of Williams’ family lore. “The Horse Incident.” (AKA “When Animals Attack”) It was VERY ironic that you went on to reference it later in the entry.

    I am excited to hear about what happened next, even though having the truth measure up to Simon’s post will be a daunting task.

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