It’s time to hop off the bus! Summer Solstice is about to occur. Children are excited with freedom from classroom structure. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective would agree that achieving 5th grade is not so “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Recall equilateral, isosceles, or scalene triangles? Still have trapezoid, pentagon, heptagon, etc., in your memory bank, or that the square, rectangle and rhombus are parallelograms? What? Your memory feeling a tad fuzzy over trapezoid and kite being types of quadrilaterals? Other than the stop sign being octagon, I haven’t found much need to overtax my gray matter on all those other polygons. And, please don’t ask me to calculate areas or perimeters! I would need a new math tutorial for most geometric properties. A swarm of bees could calculate the geometry of the sun’s position with better results. Oh yes, math is fun! Most fifth graders would giggle over my quandary while eagerly absorbing new knowledge. Like that of animatronics technology used with electronics to animate figures for displays or motion pictures. Remember Jurassic Park? A 1993 science fiction adventure film centered on the fictional Isla Nublar near Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. A billionaire philanthropist and a team of genetic scientists created a park of cloned dinosaurs. Any curiosity toward Dilophosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, or Velociraptors is a far cry from the entity of politics.
Tyrannosaurus rex is the only dinosaur name that sticks with me. That’s because “Sue” is on display at The Field Museum in Chicago. Every fifth grader should be given opportunity to meet this 3,000 pound marvel. No dinosaur in the world compares to Sue - the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered. In May of 2000, the unveiling of the 67-million-year-old skeleton made global news. Since then, more than 16 million visitors have met Chicago’s pre-historic giant. Sue’s sex is still unknown. The fossil is named after the woman who discovered it. Beginning in the summer of 1990, fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson was working at a dig site near Faith, South Dakota. She had hiked out to an eroding bluff from where she spied bone fragments that had rolled down the incline. Looking up, she spotted several vertebrae sticking out of the bluff face. She immediately identified them as the bones of a large carnivorous dinosaur and suspected they were from a Tyrannosaurus rex. Her commercial fossil-collecting team from the Black Hills Institute confirmed her find and named it “Sue” in her honor. It took six people 17 days to free Sue from her rocky grave. However, dispute followed. Word of her value spread, and battle erupted over who owned Sue. The Institute had paid the rancher for permission to dig on his land and thought they owned the fossil. The rancher stated that he’d only permitted them to clean and prepare Sue for future sale. Meanwhile, because the Native American rancher’s property fell within the boundaries of a Sioux reservation, the tribe also claimed ownership. By now, the U.S. Government became involved to determine if Sue had been found on Federal land. (Seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the pie.) During dispute, the bones were locked away in storerooms at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. A judge finally decided that Sue be held in trust by the U.S. Government for the rancher on whose property the skeleton had been found. The rancher decided to sell Sue at public auction. After being put up for sale at Sotheby’s auction house in New York, Chicago art dealer Richard Gray orchestrated the museum’s participation in the auction and bidding process. Just eight minutes after the bidding began, the Field Museum had purchased Sue for a record total price of $ 8.36 million - the largest amount of money ever paid for a fossil. Months of planning allowed for the successful purchase.The Field Museum had formed a unique partnership with the McDonald’s Corporation, the Walt Disney World Resort, and private individuals. Their generosity enabled the Field Museum to provide a permanent home for Sue. Without the united effort, Sue might have ended up someplace where her bones could not be studied by researchers or seen by the public. You might wish to consider a trip to the Chicago Field Museum for the fifth grader in your life. Walking around it, and viewing a real Tyrannosaurus rex fossil would leave even Albert Einstein to ponder. He once said, “we never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” And, that’s my opinion . . . .
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(Sharen Jergenson of Heber Springs writes her “And that’s my opinion column... “ for The Sun-Times monthly)