Legends make the best history of all

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 4, 2010

When my parents turned off the lights at night, little did they know they were turning on my wildest imaginations.

As a kid I believed that monsters, dragons, even dinosaurs lived and breathed in my bedroom.

Some of my early memories are of lying in bed at night, concocting scenarios where I time-traveled and explored these fantastical worlds.

Tyrannosaurus Rexes fought with mastodons. Polar bears and flying creatures that only my brain could dream up also coexisted. So too did three-headed, fire-breathing dragons.

Many nights were spent dreaming and wishing such a world existed outside of my tiny little brain.

Those memories flooded back last Friday when I received a phone call from Pam Frank, whose first words were, “I know you are not going to believe me.”

“My father-in-law kept dinosaur bones in his bathroom,” she continued.

After Pete Frank’s recent death, the family was sifting through many of his personal items when Pam spied the bones on the top shelf of her in-law’s linen closet.

The seven or eight large fragments sat for 35 years among family treasures, a ceramic Halloween pumpkin and vast assortment of candy canes and other Christmas decorations.

Pete Frank found the bones along the banks of St. Catherine Creek while searching for a lost calf. The large pieces in the closet were all that Pete could take back single-handedly with him from the field.

My suspicions remained the entire time Pam recounted over the phone the story of how her father-in-law took the bones to LSU and how scientists identified the fragments as bones from a mastodon and from the Tyrannosaurus Rex family.

Cynical journalist that I am, I quickly logged onto the Internet to confirm my doubts that such dinosaurs existed in this part of the country.

Still, I ended up at the back door of the Frank house a couple of hours later.

“You didn’t believe me did you?” Pam asked. “You had to come see for yourself.”

I did not believe, and I had to see for myself. When I did, there was no doubt in my mind that what the Franks had in their bathroom were dinosaur bones.

When the story hit the Internet Wednesday, several commenters were quick to poke holes in the Frank family’s story. Like me, a few Web site readers were quick to go the Internet to confirm their disbeliefs. T-rexes and mastodons didn’t exist in the same time period, some asserted.

Later, others expressed their dismay that such dubious comments diminished an amazing story shared by one of our local families.

What kind of bones were they? Are they really Tyrannosaurus Rex and mastodon?

It really doesn’t matter much to me after hearing the Frank family stories of their children showing off the bones to friends and of dates being pulled into the bathroom for a look.

Is it important to know exactly what Pete Frank found on the bank of the St. Catherine’s creek? Maybe.

While their origin hundreds of thousands, even millions of years ago, could be scientifically important, the most fascinating thing to me is the most recent history of these bones.

After 35 years, the bones are now a family legend living in the imagination of everyone who gets an opportunity to take a peek.

This 41-year-old kid is glad he got the chance.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.