The Gringa Chronicles...
Gringa in Jurassic Park
Do you remember when you were a child? How simple and sensible everything in the world seemed to be? The impossible was possible, the improbable was probable, everything fell into either right or wrong. Very simple " indeed. There was no such thing as reality and science had yet to out prove the most magical magic of all.
Such was the case for this Gringa.
At an early age, I knew, I was destined for greatness. Just like every blond haired, blue eyed gringa from the Midwest. I knew it, and no matter how everyone around me seemed to think I was an ordinary child " nothing special about me...a bit shy perhaps, overweight...but I didn't "see dead people", so I was indeed stamped with the rubber stamp in big red letters..."NORMAL".
But, I had a secret " I was going to be great...I just didn't know where my greatness would be found. Until......
It was the early 70's....Hippies, free love, rock & roll, no more war, bra burning, black panthers, baby killers....and me....the little gringa living on a farm 15 miles north west of a small town Eureka SD, population 1,350 " including a couple of chickens, a dog, 13 cats & a goldfish or two...
I was 4 maybe 5 years old, when the news broke "The largest skeleton of a T-Rex found in the Black Hills of SD!" What????? SD is in the news? I remember the day " the very day " the news broke. Nothing happened in SD. Nothing. Of course, we had Mount Rushmore to brag about, and the badlands....but that was about all. And certainly, no one cared about the tiny town in the middle of the state which proudly proclaimed the title of the "Wheat Capital of the World" in 18 something or other.
But of course, this is it! This is what I am destined for!!!!! I, Marsha Lynn Ackerman at 4 years of age will be the most reknowned of Paleontologists in the entire universe! Of course, I must start my work immediately " fame awaits!
I was abruptly returned to my reality, at the dinner table with my father on the right and my mother on the left. It is late, finish your dinner and off to bed. Sigh....do obviously my parents were not yet aware of the greatness in their presence. I finish my glass of milk, clear my dishes and up the 13 stairs to my bed.
As I lay in my bed " I gaze out at the sky full of stars, and I dream that each star represents a flash from the photographer's cameras all in competition to catch a portrait of the youngest, most successful of paleontologists ever.
Sleep is welcome " but it won't delay this Gringa " one bit. And as the final battle of me versus the sandman is lost, I pull my quilt to my neck and close my eyes.
The sun creeps through my window and fills my bedroom with the pink walls. Like a big Hostess Snowball, warm, cozy & sweet. And by the time, I feel the warmth of a new day on my face, the room is bright. Welcoming me to my future....
I jump out of bed, peek out my window, although it is just shortly after dawn, my father was already hard at work. It was planting season, and each minute was priceless. I see him out by the tractor, and I smile. My father, my hero, my guide, my biggest supporter, and I was sure the hardest working man in America " and quite possibly the world. I stand there, my elbows on the window sill and my head in my hands. There is a cool breeze, blowing my blond hair across my face, but my blue eyes never turn away. I was determined....as I watch my dad, I'm going to make him proud of me. And this is how I will do it....
I run down the stairs in my socks and flowered nightgown...no time to waste!!!! My mother is drinking a cup of coffee, watching the Today show " I have no time for this. "Hi mom, Bye Mom!" I run as fast as my little legs to carry me. To the bathroom....brush my teeth, my hair.... " nope " no time to care about that. I am a scientist....no time for beauty!
I run out of the bathroom, "Hi Mom, Bye Mom", and up the stairs, what should I wear? It has to be smart. It has to be something to allow me to work. I know just the thing.....the perfect uniform....versatile, stylish...and clean! Osh-Kosh B'Gosh.... I jump into them, struggle with the suspenders....never get them right! Undo " re-snap....reach around the back, grab the right, cross to the left " twist, turn, put the other leg in " shake it all about...I have turned myself into a pretzel! UGH!!!! Snap " Snap " it's good enough!
I run back downstairs, Hi mom, Bye Mom!!! And out the door I go! Standing in the back yard.... (back yard " we lived on a farm, everywhere was a yard) Now " where do I start? My faithful companion, our dog Pepper. Pepper was a black & white border collie. The smartest dog in the world. He sure does put Lassie to shame. Lassie, ha! If Pepper were in charge, Timmy would not have been anywhere near a well, let alone get him out of it. But " Timmy was stupid and Lassie incompetent. Marsha and Pepper, were a much better team.
Pepper sits at my feet, staring at me with his big brown eyes. Cocks his head, just waiting for a command. Let's see " I say aloud as I scratch behind his ears, if I were a dinosaur, where would my bones be? I'm not so sure. Every dinosaur on the Land of the Lost was in a tropical rain-forest.... A rain forest..... Where do I find a rain forest?
Bark Bark " translation (this is South Dakota " there are no rain forests!) remarked Pepper. "Ah yes, of course" I reply... a bit annoyed; Pepper is getting kind of snippy lately.
I guess I just have to start digging. Back in the house, "Hi Mom, Bye Mom!" I whip open the door, down the stair I go. Rumble rumble rumble.....and back up the stairs again, "Hi Mom, Bye Mom!"......
I return outside, I was ready now. I hold up my yellow beach pail with the red shovel. Not only do we not have rain forests, but beaches are quite rare in South Dakota as well.
Time to dig.
I lift the shovel; bring it down with all the force I could muster..... Nothing. Again....up......and whamo .... Not even a divot in the ground. Pepper looks sullen. It was obvious he would have been happier, saving me from a well, as was about to give up, find a shaded corner and take a nap.
I won't be defeated that easily....I take my yellow pail, red shovel, bare feet, blond braids & my osh kosh b'gosh's with the suspenders snapped wrong and find softer ground. Ah!!!!! I know just the place " Mom's Garden!!!!
Dad had just tilled, and I helped mom plant the veggies myself. I knew where I could dig and I felt this was the place! It had to be. Because it all made sense. If a dinosaur died " how would they ever get beneath that hard gravel???? It had to be in the garden!
I start to run again " I'M A GENIUS! I run to the garden, I feel it, I feel it " I am on the very edge of stardom!
I put down my yellow pail, lift the little red shovel high above my head......down it goes! And, into the dirt! Yes! I broke ground!! Dig, dig, dig!!!! Pepper next to me, pushes me gently with his nose. "You're gonna get into trouble!! Everytime I dig, I get yelled at!".... Oh " My faithful buddy, but I'm going to find a dinosaur! And I continue on.
Pepper, shakes his head, and finds a place in the shade. He wanted no part of this. A hole is bad enough, but in the Human's garden? Nope " he wanted nothing to do with that.
Dig, Dig, Dig....oh " gross " a bug! A big bug, and it jumped at me! "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh I run, hands in the air, around the garden......."....Back again, just a minor setback. I look at the hole " no, the dig site in front of me. It has to be 3 if not 4 feet around by now. I'm close, I know I am. Dig, Dig, Dig..... "18 tons, what do ya get...another day older...." I sing to myself. Singing helps to make the time go faster. Dig, Dig, Dig
"Secret Agent Man, Secret Agent Man...... less digging, more dancing and spinning " I love that song.".... Dig, Dig, Dig,
"King of the Road".....Dig...."May the birds of Paradise fly up your nose......" Dig Dig..
"Overture, Dim the Lights, This is It...the Night of Nights" Sigh.....dig....dig....dig..................
Tired, so tired.....
When suddenly, I look " what is that? It looks like a " stick? No " No " not a stick, this is something else..... Do I dare look? I am so excited..... I look to my left, then my right....reach down, my hand stretching to grab it,
I pick it up " small, light, but a.... "A BONE!" I did it! I jump up and down! I am so excited! I place it in my yellow pail and dig with more fever.....Another one! 2 " this is almost an entire skeleton!!! A small dinosaur, but a dinosaur nonetheless!
I hear a voice; it is my Mother calling for me. Time to take lunch to dad! This is one of my favorite things...it is like a little picnic. She is in the pickup truck, Pepper is in the back. I go running to the truck, open the door. I have to take this finding to my dad; he is going to be so proud!
We start down the road. Even though it is less than 2 miles away, the drive takes forever. I have the most amazing find in my little pail. Soon, we will be on TV, there will be media everywhere, Willard Scott for sure! He is going to come, look at my dinosaur, wish happy 100th birthday to some old lady and report on the weather. Tom Brokaw for sure! He is from SD and we all stick together. He will be so proud!
Finally, we arrive at the field. My father crawls down the steps of the tractor. His face covered with dirt, dust covers him from head to toe. I look down....I am quite similar. My toes are black with dirt, clumps of mud in my hair, I smile at this. I look just like my dad. I sit a little taller, and the smile builds on my face.
As he comes walking over, I can hardly keep from crying. My dad is my life....I can't wait to make him proud..... He walks over; I can see he is tired. This will make him happy! That's it " I can't wait " I jump out of the truck and run up to him. He sees me and smiles; he always smiles when he sees me. "Daddy, I have to show you something!"
He doesn't ask how I got so dirty, rather, he holds out his hand. I look at his hands, giant hands! Mine were so little, I would stretch my hand as far as I could to hold his entire hand. But I can't, so I wrap my tiny fingers around 2 of his, and I pull him to the truck. He walks over to my mother's side. Talk talk talk " who called, got to go to the store, pay this bill, do that...... Adult talk, I roll my eyes...it is too much! All of our problems are solved by the contents of this yellow pail.
I had been invisible too long; I take my little yellow pail, and walk over to my dad. I grab his belt loop, tug, tug..... and the gentle giant looks my way. "Daddy, look what I found! A dinosaur! See? Look " a small one " but a dinosaur! Just like in the Black Hills!!!
He looks at my mother, smiles, and his attention turns back to me. I hold out my pail with me little hands, he takes it gently. I take one of the bones in his hand, turning it in his palm, reaching it up to his eyes, examining it closer. He sniffs it, looks through it...taps it on his arm.... "I think that, is a Dinosaur bone." He exclaimed through his smile. By this time, I'm dancing around his feet. My happy dance, that dance that, comes over you when nothing can go wrong...when everything on earth is right, when it is your moment, when this moment in time, is perfect..."
I look up at him, I am panting now, I can't control it! I'm going to break apart soon if I have to contain this any longer.
But I stop...I need confirmation. If my dad says it " then it is real. My toes are tapping, my fingers pulsating and I look up....my blue eyes waiting for reaction " "Really Daddy? I ask in the most timid of voices, barely audible.
He bends down, his giant hands under each of my arms and lifts me from the ground, puts me on the hood of the truck and stares at me right in my eyes. This was a ritual with my dad and me. If I looked straight into his eyes.....everything was ok.
I reached out my arms, wrapped them around his neck and pulled him close...."Really Daddy?"
"I think it is a Chicken Dinosaur!" he says. A chicken dinosaur? Wow! I found a chicken dinosaur!!!! I am not only the youngest paleontologist " but the first to discover the Chicken dinosaur!
I wiggle my way off of the truck and let my happy dance take control....I'm dancing, twirling, gyrating like Elvis. Pepper jumps off the truck, jumping and barking next to me. My parents are laughing, and my dad....he is proud of me! The world, at that point and time is absolutely perfect....
I never did meet Willard Scott and my career in paleontology never came to fruition.
However, that day does live on.... That is the day that I discovered something much more valuable than dinosaur bones. I discovered that fame, success, happiness does not have to come from outside of you. That the little things, the simple things in life, are what people will remember, and what will live on and on. Everything else will come and go, but the feeling of that moment. And that what I felt that day, the little dance that I did, left its imprint on that piece of land in SD, and an imprint on my heart.
That evening, my mother was drying me off after a warm bath. I sit in front of her, wrapped in a towel and she brushes a comb through my hair. I decided, I would leave more than bones when I die. That my imprint would not have to be discovered, but that it would just be... in this Gringa's Jurassic Park.
Copyright 2010 Marsha L Ackerman