Dinosaurs in the Yard

by Brandon Eckerd

I am back home for spring break, which is a mixed feeling. On one hand, I don’t have to go to class. On the other hand, my life will be consumed by three presentations, two lab reports and a flow sheet for a snake necropsy. Putting aside the immediate and unrelenting pressure of my education, I had to go into my closet today and came across some of my old toys as a kid. Mostly dinosaurs, snakes and other critters, each had a name but I cannot seem to recall them. I remember playing with them fondly.

I was never much of an athlete, much to my dad’s dismay, and I found more joy in playing with toys than practicing my pitching. I would make mud lakes for my dinosaurs, chasms between couches and forests of tree branches in the backyard. I found my greatest joy in creating a world for my toys. Something that would feel “real” to me and to them.

I didn’t play with my dinosaurs like they were dinosaurs. It wasn’t about a T. rex hunting a stegosaurus or anything like that. My dinosaurs were more civilized than that. I had mayors, police officers, heroes and villains. I had baby dinosaurs that went on adventures throughout my yards: a cowardly triceratops, a brave brachiosaurus and a clever tyrannosaurus. They were heroes, opposing either catastrophe or the foul plot of a spinosaurus. My sister would play along, adding her own characters and taking the roles of many of the more herbivorous denizens (I was a bigger fan of T.rex and raptors at the time, ironic since the sauropods and stegosaurs are my favorite groups now, but I digress.)

I am a proficient writer; that is not a boast, it is a skill I have developed over the course of my schooling. I like to believe it could be traced back to the toy dinosaurs I had as a kid. I was using my imagination. I was creating a setting, characters and conflict for them to face. I was writing a new story, every day, even if it wasn’t being put down on paper. I was basing the interaction between my dinosaurs based on how their personalities would interact: who would get along, who wouldn’t. There is something special about figurines. They allow us to create a character, or take a beloved character from something else, and from there, well that’s how a new story begins.

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