Let me make it perfectly clear from the git-go ... I hate dinosaurs. I know they have been dead for some sixty million years but that in no way diminishes my rancor for those stupid, overgrown lizards. Most archeologists I know pretty much share my view, though with somewhat less fervor. Dinosaurs seem to have some sort of magic appeal for small children and I believe that is where the human interest should die a quiet death. Big Bird, the tooth fairy and dinosaurs should be removed from the learning agenda when children grow up and put away childish things.
I was not born with this prejudice, I acquired it as an archeologist. A surprising number of people think archeologists are motivated to root around in the ground looking for dinosaur remains. Nothing could be further from the truth. Archeologists are interested in reconstructing the daily lives of extinct people, not animals. The study of the big stupid lizards is the province of the paleontologist ... not archeologists. Nevertheless, the notion persists that archeologists can answer any and all questions relative to the ancient behemoths and Dyer the years this has become a source of irritation for me.
Several years ago, before moving to Belize, I was employed as an archeologist in a first-rate museum in Texas. Hardly a month went by without someone, usually a rancher, oil man or deer hunter, turning up in my office seeking an expert to identify an object the, owner was absolutely sure was a dinosaur bone. The first lesson I learned was to never, never tell the owner that the object was in fact a garden-variety rock. This often resulted in the owner lowering his Stetson brim down to eyebrow height while assuming the steelyeyed look of a professional killer. "Mister, my granddaddy found this here on the ranch forty years ago and he said it was a dinosaur bone." For my money, if he wanted that rock to be a dinosaur bone it was certainly okay by me. In fact, at this point in our discussion, if the owner of this rock wanted it to be the Star of India diamond, I would have readily agreed. I h developed sense of survival.
From time to time a school teacher would show up with what I'm sure was a scheme to get out of a day's teaching by inviting me to come "talk to her class" about dinosaurs. The class was invariably second or third graders with a record of dubious academic achievements. You have no idea how difficult it was to weasel out of those invitations until I learned to toss around a few terms like Megafauna, Permian, Pleistocene and such. The teacher then beat a hasty retreat convinced that my presentation was beyond the grasp of her little darlings and I was an unbelievable snob.
The Rotary, Kiwanis, Optomist and a dozen other "service clubs" all have "program chairmen" whose job it is to corral some hapless soul for a sumptuous repast of chicken with a rubber-like consistency, in return for a thirtyminute talk about virtually anything that smacks of professional endeavors. Those guys were so desperate for a speaker they would have gladly signed up Charles Manson. Believe it or not, more often that not, the program chairmen had no clue what archeology was all about but they were damn sure I could dazzle the audience with the dinosaur stuff. stuff.
The incident that is foremost in my mind concerning my dinosaur aversion ocurred on a flight from Corpus Christi, Texas to Denver where I was scheduled to attend an archeological conference. Arriving early at the airport I slipped into the cocktail lounge for a pre-flight adult beverage. A wondrous sight greeted me. Seated at the bar was a young woman I judged to be in her mid-thirties who was obviously well on her way to a very relaxed flight, with or without an Aircraft. Aside from looking a little worn around the edges, like she had been "rode hard and put away wet" once or twice, she was not unattractive. Her dress consisted of a simple white sleeveless form-fitting number made all the more fetching by the numerous round holes which served to display more female pulchritude than one is accustomed to seeing in public these days. I thought the various tattoos were a nice touch as well. She was busy with a dissertation on fear of flying when the flight to Denver began to board. As fate would have it, she was assigned to seat 21 A while I was in 21 C. With no one between us my tipsy new-found friend began a non-stop monologue about her life in Corpus Christi. It seems she was a topless dancer on her way to Colorado for a couple of weeks of "guest dancing" at the ski resorts. (I didn't ask what "guest dancing" involved.) A couple of more drinks and my blonde dancer friend found herself sufficiently fueled to keep up a discourse on the seamier side of life in South Texas for the next two hours. Just as we began our approach to the Denver airport she seemed to sort of run out of steam. I had not spoken ten words to her on our voyage west.
Now, at last she turned to me and said, "What do YOU do?". I replied rather tersely, "I am an archeologist." Her eyes seem to slip out of focus as if some object outside the aircraft had suddenly attracted her attention. After a moment she shifted her eyes back to me with a glazed look of recognition and said, "Archeologist ... oh I just love them dinosaurs!"
I considered for a couple of microseconds the possibility of distinguishing between archeologists and paleontologists and discarded the idea in favor of what can only be called a coward's way out. I drew myself close, looked deep into those rheumy blue eyes and said, "Darlin', I LOVE them dinosaurs too!"