Friday, October 23, 2015

Young Fears 23: Struthiomimus

Each October I like to run a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. All this month, I'll be telling anecdotes about things which frightened me while growing up.

Everyone knows that children like dinosaurs. Whether they're giant lizards who fight each other in Disney's Fantasia or friendly giants such as Danny's dinosaur (re: Danny and the Dinosaur) you're exposed to a lot of dinosaurs while growing up regardless of any expressed interest - rubber toys, colouring books, stuffed animals, etc. And yet, although I had my share of dinosaur stuff while growing up, they weren't a source of great fascination to me. Yes, I loved my toy triceratops an awful lot, but I didn't explore dinosaurs on my own time. On some level, that's because they were, after all, giant monsters, which are scary; on another level, they were animals you couldn't see, only read about - and that seemed rather boring.

When the Royal Tyrrell Museum opened in 1985 it was a pretty big deal in Alberta. Although there seem to have been a lot of tourism initiatives around that time for Albertans to get out and enjoy the many natural wonders of our beloved province, a museum - a building, a real destination - was something else.

Now I should say that I have no recollection of being frightened by museum displays as a child. Heck, I went to see the wax museum in Victoria at a tender age and it didn't leave a mark on me. This is not the story of a frightening display; this is the story of a frightening magazine cover. You see, the museum's opening led to so much publicity that their dinosaur statues seemed to be everywhere. One day I went into my parents' room and reached into my Mom's stack of magazines to find something. And there, on the front cover of some Alberta tourism magazine was the dreaded Struthiomimus, nature's cruelest jester. The glassy stare in his eyes, the curious crane in his neck and the beak-like shape of his jaw electrified me. Oh boy, that dinosaur looked convincing! And therefore, terrible.

My family went to the Tyrrell not too long after its opening and, although the statue freaked me a little in-person, I did my best to get through it. I've visited the museum about once per decade since then - and each time glared at that statue. But I never turn my back on it.

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