I was flown to the middle of nowhere in the desert of upstate Utah. I had a 4x4, a camper’s backpack with all the fixings inside, and my GPS with longitude-latitude points. The campground was blocked and taped off as if it were a crime scene except with law or military personnel, only scientists of dinosaurs, rocks, people and cultures, artifacts, plants, birds, and the earth.
“Why am I here?” I asked Dr. Timmerman. He was the first geezer to introduce himself, a tenured professor of Paleontology from Montana State University.
“Because, what we have found, you’re the only one who can shed some light on it,” he said.
I felt honored and humbled, but I still didn’t know what he was talking about. I inquired, but his body language implied that he rather show me, than tell me. The other scientists seemed like they were waiting for me too. They introduced me with their credentials. A few were from the Smithsonian, a few from the Natural History Museums in London and New York, and about 10 others from various top tier archeology, paleontology, and anthropology schools from around the world. There were a few interns too.
The sun was out and no shadow was visible. I strapped into climbing equipment and a harness, then, slowly maneuvered myself down a canyon.
The discovery wasn’t what one would expect on a dinosaur dig. There were clear engravings in the rock of what was probably some sort of awning and what looked like a box on wheels. Next to the box were human or Neanderthal skeletons.
“Who, what, why, where, how?”
“That’s not your job, that’s our job,” Dr. Timmerman reminded me. “You just give us the story.”
“That is what I’m good at.”
“We know,” Dr. Timmerman said.
Around the group of Neanderthal fossils was a large pile of sauropod ribs. The interns gently chiseled one out of the rock. It featured indents of human teeth impressions. I stared at it, and the story that these scientists wanted came alive.
“What we are looking at is the world’s, excuse me, the universe’s first ever drive-thru. And from the variety of the Neanderthal teeth impressions, probably a very good one. Eighty five million years ago the land of where Utah and Montana are now was once a tropical place filled with volcanoes surrounded by a thin and fragile layer of the earth’s crust. Magma protruded through its pockets with a variety of geyser emitting tall squirts of steam almost as hot as the sun itself. These geysers were definitely a prehistoric version of Old Faithful. I guess what I’m trying to say was that we are standing on what was the earth’s first ever barbecue.
‘A barbecue?’ the scientists repeated.
A dinosaur barbecue to be exact, but not the one in Syracuse, New York. Carnivores did not roam these parts. Therefore, herbivores flourished especially sauropods and hadrosaurids. The earth that they were eating and pooping on day in and day out would increase in temperature only slightly to where the dinosaurs adapted to the change. Unfortunately, they did not realize that they were slowly roasting themselves. Sometimes the dinosaurs would die peacefully from breathing in the high levels of carbon and sulfur in the air produced by the volcanoes. A dinosaur would kick the bucket, and then, the homosapiens, at least 400 of them or so, would run and carry it to cooler ground.”
(I wasn’t about the explain how humans existed this long ago. That was not my job.)
Looking at the rock wall again, some of the human molds in the wall were holding theropod teeth.
“These ancestral men and women were the butchers and the chefs.”
The interns brought me a brachiosaurus’ rib. It was darker than the last.
“The different spots indicated that this dino was closer to the volcano and charred to death. The lack of bite marks on this particular rib versus the last told me that the people eating it at the time knew how to distinguish the difference between fatty and flavorful medium rare and tasteless and burnt well done. The skill of cooking such a beast only consisted of getting it off of the hot earth before it caught on fire and turned into ash. The butchering was where finesse was needed. Hacking into a dinosaur’s skin took days. Hard as a rock already, when cooked it became almost rock like.”
There were a few other ribs, but the majority of fossils were tails. The other body parts weren’t anywhere to be found.
“It took almost the same amount of people to gut and take out the cooked ribs as it did to move the dinosaur off the hot earth. The tail was much easier to hack off.
The open aired hut wasn’t much. It was made with trees, dinosaur bones, pterodactyl wings, leaves, wood, and rocks. They used this sled-like impression with the two circles attached as their transport device to haul the ribs from one village to the next. Unfortunately, only one rib could fit on this wagon contraption at a time, or else it would flip on its side.
The tails discovered had more bite marks than the ribs.
“These suckers consisted of the most flavor. The dinos didn’t know it at the time, but they were their own rotisserie, cooking its very own tail evenly by swaying it every which way. One bite of the dinosaur was enough. It was equivalent to eating two slabs of butter. Even a potato-looking person from Texas or the Midwest would have trouble eating seconds. It wasn’t gamey. The only animal equivalent to the taste of a long neck in present day would be a giraffe. It’s because of the constant eating of leaves. A diet of leaves, branches, and sap from trees makes a much different taste than a diet of grass and things that grew from the ground. The tender red meat was on the sweeter side.
I’ve always loathed people who say, “Tastes like chicken.” There are only two reasons why people say that. The first is that they don’t know what other animals and proteins taste like, or they don’t know how to critically analyze different flavors or textures. The second reason, which usually is the one that people go to, is that the food item was not cooked right. Frog is supposed to taste like frog, just like dinosaur is supposed to taste like dinosaur. It is a skill to cook dinosaur correctly and the best and only way is let Mother Nature do its course.
ATMOSPHERE: A hot and humid sesspool of savages ranging from 0-40 years old eating the best BBQ known to man.
SERVICE: You get the grub yourself
SOUND LEVEL: Loud. Dinosaurs growl and roar, the volcanoes and geysers erupt every so often
RECOMMENDED: A Brachiosaurus tail
DRINKS: River water
OPEN: Every day of the year
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No
Restrooms: Yes, anywhere outside