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A Dynamite Dinosaur Day, 9.14.2014

A Dynamite Dinosaur Day, 9.14.2014

September 15, 2014
Joan and Darwin the Dinosaur
Joan with dinosaur bone

66 million years ago, or so the story goes, dinosaurs roamed South Dakota. (Actually, I was not there, so I cannot verify this fact.) However, I hear that our often- barren land was then covered with water. I have even heard that our climate was almost tropical with palm trees–proving once again that I missed my time. It all makes me wonder if this climate change story of 2014 might possibly be true? But, I digress…

Flash forward to 1976, the Medicine Bow ranch of WY, when 2 young men, ages 17 and 18, whom I had never met, knocked at the door of our isolated ranch about midnight and stayed for several months. We had many laughs and tears together. Dawn, age 5, and Bo, age 2, adored these two young men, Darwin and Bob.

Flash forward to 1977, Cascabel Ranch of AZ, and Darwin and Bob showed up again about midnight and stayed several more months. (I wish they would call first–oh, yes, that’s right: We didn’t have a phone on that ranch.) Dawn and Bo were thrilled, and so were we. They stay several more months. Lots more laughs; no tears this time.

Flash forward to 1994, Wink Ranch of SD, and here is Darwin in our community again. Only now he is working on a ranch about 50 miles North of us, and eventually goes on to buy the ranch.

Today, September 10, 2014, we drove to Darwin’s and Patty’s (his wife) ranch for the Lakota blessing of the dinosaur skeleton, which was discovered on his ranch. Yes, the skeleton really is now named, Darwin, the Dinosaur. And, one day you may be lucky enough to visit a museum.

Darwin, the Rancher

Darwin, the bone
Darwin, the Dinosaur

Dar Patty
Darwin and Patty

We arrived about 3 p.m. at Usta, SD, now a ghost town, but once a rollicking post office and bar. A caravan of 20 pickups drove West into the afternoon sun to see the bones.

I will never forget the beautiful children running and climbing, and carefully avoiding the flagged areas of bones.

4 kids hill
4 Kids Playing on the Hill

ali dean
Dean and dear Ali

Joan and Ali
Joan and dear Ali

We waited for the Lakota leader to arrive–it was worth every minute. He spoke with us about the past, present, and future on a glorious windless day. When he began the smudge ceremony (fresh burning sage) to purify and preserve the area, we were captivated…but, not as much as the little children were, who were drawn to the smoke and the rhythmic Lakota language of prayer just as the sun was setting.

Lakota blessing
Lakota prayers.
Thank you to Gnene Fordyce for this photo.


  • Laura Mitchell

    It really is all about relationships, isn’t it. Your relationship that you built with the two boys. The relationship the two boys had with your children. Then the relationships within the community. What a wonderful story.

  • Lindy Barnes

    Good morning, Joan. I just finished reading your dinosaur story. What an amazing adventure! The link to your past, present, and future with Darwin is absolutely wonderful. (I need better adjectives :D)
    I’m thinking about sense of place and what it means to have such connections to the land and to others. Thank you for sharing this adventure with your readers.

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