Velociraptors in my backyard | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Velociraptors in my backyard

I have an old National Geographic article from November '99 with a story in it about an Archaeoraptor, a so-called fossil eventually found to be a fake. According to another article written in USA Today, the so-called "missing link" dinosaur/bird is actually two animals pieced together—either as an honest mistake made by its discoverers in China—or a fabulous phony.

The composite consists of a birdlike upper torso and the tail and feet of a small raptor, and described as a "true missing link in the complex chain that connects dinosaurs and birds."

Cope & Marsh, two early paleontologists who prowled the western United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, stealing one another's fossils, were forever trying to better each other. One even shot himself in the foot when he put the wrong head on the wrong dinosaur. No one's perfect.

The Asian specimen was (allegedly) smuggled into the United States from China, and popped up at a gem show in Tucson, found by Stephen Czerkas, then the owner of the Dinosaur Museum in Monticello, Utah. He apparently purchased it for $80,000 and made a deal with National Geographic to study and publicize it and ultimately return it to China—where people may be happy to have it back.

Be-that-as-it-may, I could show you living proof in my backyard that my chickens are very close relatives of at least one dinosaur, the velociraptor—and I'd be happy to sell you one for a lot less than 80 grand—if I had any left. My neighbor's dog killed them all.

I'm not a biologist or paleontologist, but based on what I have observed with chickens, in my book they're not far removed from the ferocious velociraptor of "Jurassic Park" fame and fortune.

First, look at a chicken's anatomy. It runs like a scaled down dinosaur because it has a skeleton similar to a lizard; you can see where scales change to feathers on their legs, and zoologists will tell you that feathers are nothing more than modified scales. Then there are the rooster's spurs, used to kill and maim other roosters (and my legs). They're very similar to appendages the velociraptor of old used to slice up other animals.

When I was a kid on my grandfather's farm in Connecticut, I had a lot of experience with chickens. After a chicken was killed (on its journey from hen yard to supper table by chopping of the poor thing's head) I had the job of dunking it in boiling water (to loosen the feathers); then I'd pluck the feathers and draw it. "Drawing" a chicken was my grandmother's polite term for cutting off the legs and removing the guts.

Because of the rooster's sharp spurs (and a wonderful imagination and too much time on our hands) a lot of the time, my uncles and I staged "cock fights" by having mock battles with the legs and feet.

Hey, don't knock it! We didn't have television, tablets or cell phones in those days; therefore it was necessary to continually invent new and exciting games. (Like "slide-ass soccer," a violent game we played in winter on the living room rug in which you couldn't lift your fanny off the floor to move—kick—the soccer ball.)

When I was eight, I discovered that chickens have gizzards. When I was 30, I discovered that dinosaurs also had gizzards when my mentor, Phil Brogan, showed me a whole cigar-box full of beautiful, agatized fossil rocks that he identified as, "dinosaur gizzard stones." At first I thought I was being bamboozled, but Phil was a man of absolute integrity; if he said they were gizzard stones, they were gizzard stones.

In our home, we keep a container under the sink known as the "chicken bucket," in which leftover food scraps are deposited. One day I emptied it into a pan in the chicken yard, and a live (but unlucky) mouse dropped into the chicken's pen.

I wish you could have seen the chickens go after that poor mouse! You think cats are good at catching mice? Hah! Cats can't hold a candle to volicichickens. I had hens that can outrun the raptors of "Jurassic Park!"

One old hen grabbed the mouse by the nose and slammed it to the ground like she was beating a rug. Wham! Wham! Wham! The mouse was defunct. Two others dashed over and grabbed the mouse away from the first one, and then about four more began to chase around the yard with it. Within minutes, mouse parts vanished down gullets of the winners.

Watching my chickens before my neighbor's dog moved in, as they went about their day-to-day activities —Especially when I turned them loose in the afternoon so they could feast upon my thriving grasshopper population—is like observing a herd of small, meat-eating dinosaurs of the past. Maybe that so-called Chinese fake fossil wasn't too far off the mark...

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