I was born and raised in a typical working-class household in central Louisiana, and as with all children, I had my own interests and pursuits, most fleeting, momentary. Yet, from those earliest times I gravitated to science, in particular biology, and that budding interest would come to play a major role in the direction and motivations of my life.
More than anything else, I had a fascination with prehistory. I can still recall the thrill of visits to nearby stores, hoping to find a new dinosaur toy or a book on those ancient beasts for my growing collection. Beyond simple play, I spent many hours poring over their forms, appreciating the details, absorbing much about their physiology: the powerful contours of their musculature, the ripples and wrinkles of scaly reptilian flesh draped over heavy bone. Admittedly, toys and children’s books were not the best resource for learning the intricacies of dinosaurian physiology, yet it inspired my young mind greatly.
I’ve long been told by my mother that my interest in the beasts of old could be traced to her mother, my grandma Marjorie, who, in an effort to calm my youthful hyperactivity, set me down in front of several old encyclopedias, turning to a section on prehistoric life. While the original event has long since passed from my memories, I do indeed recall poring over those dusty tomes throughout my childhood, filled with wonder at the ancient landscapes full of various dinosaurs and other prehistoric megafauna. Looking back, it is fair to say that the whole of my life may have been influenced by that first taste of prehistory amongst the musty pages of those books.
As I grew older, my interests in the past developed profoundly, and I sought every material I could find to learn of the ancient world and its archosaurian¹ dynasties. By the age of seven, I could pronounce and spell the Latinized names of many of the great beasts. I also had quite an understanding of the familial relationships amongst the various orders, at least to the degree widely promoted in the materials available to me then, and could differentiate any number of forms based on a handful of anatomical features. The dinosaurs and their kin were my purest passion.
The End of Innocence
In those days, my family and I we were no strangers to the occasional church visit. Unfortunately, our desire to be at Sunday services typically were defeated by the barriers we put in our own way or otherwise allowed. Because of this, I would often accompany my paternal grandmother instead, my Mawmaw Geraldine.
I recall many Sunday trips to that little country sanctuary riding along with her. Nothing I could write here would adequately describe the love I had for her, and my grandfather, Barry. Their home was, to a great degree, my own, and there was no more comfortable haven to my mind. Rarely did a day pass in which I was not there from daybreak until dusk, playing with my toys, drawing, or more often than not, reading encyclopedias and other books.
1 – The archosaurs are the ‘ruling reptiles,’ the mainstream classification for all dinosaurs, pterosaurs, crocodilians, birds, and their relatives
The Story Continues with the Next Post…
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