Local staple Tim Rumsey walked to work most days from 1987 to 2000. He began as a form of exercise but kept at it for his love of local lore harvested through his interactions with people on the street. He began documenting his musings and eventually filled 53 pocketbooks with his observations. Here is just one tale.
By Tim Ramsey, MD
I saw a dinosaur walking across the St. Clair – 35E overpass this morning. It was size-enough to navigate the sidewalk. Determinedly heading uphill like it was on its way to work. A briefcase would not have been any more out of place, well, other than another dinosaur carrying a briefcase to the office.
Okay, so it was an adult eastern wild turkey. Likely male. An upland, ground bird who could easily be described as ‘odd looking’. Beautiful feathers, sure. And, a bright red wattle. “But what’s with that beard,” one might say. Or even, “they look like dinosaurs.”
Well, they are dinosaurs!
Wild turkeys are dinosaurs. Listen to Dr. Steve Brusatte in William Morrow’s The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, published in 2018. “Birds are a weird group of dinosaurs that evolved wings and developed the ability to fly,” Brusatte writes. And, “Evolution made birds from Dinosaurs.”
Back to our briefcase toting Tom. I next saw him a half block uphill from the aforementioned overpass. At 5 p.m., he was fanning and flashing cars passing by to distract them from four females behind him. Protecting them as well as bragging.
The next morning he was pecking the ground for seeds, bugs, or berries. Solo this time.
Let’s get this straight. Turkeys are dinosaurs?
Dr. Brusatte again: “. . . dinosaurs are still among us today . . . [but]the vast majority of dinosaurs died 66 million years ago.”
Of the triceratops, T-Rexes, and giant Sauropods from Brazil, Brusatte writes,“The reign of dinosaurs ended and a revolution followed …“but a few stragglers made it through…the descendants of these remarkable survivors live on today as birds…”
Yikes! I’m still wondering a bit.
Early July 2022
This was hard. A quick exit off 35E to St. Clair. 7:30 p.m. One of the female turkeys lay still and battered off to the side of the exit ramp. Two feathers bent over in the light breeze.
July 9, 2 p.m.
On foot, I saw Mr. Turkey alone, or so I thought. We were five feet apart. Both of us are not moving. I said “hello,” out loud and his head snapped away from me to his left. I looked to the left. There on the brown, burnt-out boulevard were mom and four chicks. All pecking the ground. Dad walked slowly into the urban woods; mom walked slowly into the urban woods. Four chicks did the same. I lost them all in the underbrush.
One last blast from The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: “The realization that birds are dinosaurs is probably the single most important fact ever discovered by dinosaur paleontologists.”
The bird-dinosaur link was scientifically proven in the 1970s by the study of remarkably preserved fossils of feathered dinosaurs from China, The Liaoning Fossils. These “fossils sealed the deal by verifying how many features are shared uniquely by birds and meat-eating theropods like T-Rex and Allosaurus; not just feathers, but also wishbones, three-fingered hands that can fold against the body, and hundreds of other aspects of the skeleton. There are no other groups of animals, living or extinct, that share these things with birds or the theropods.”
July 19, 2022 – 1:30 p.m.
On this very day, on a break from writing this recollection, I took a walk. Three blocks from my home I encountered two female wild turkeys and eight chicks. When they sensed my presence, they all scrambled into the bushes and woods. I saluted them thinking, “Long live the dinosaurs!”