A Passion for Life
The last thing I normally like to do on a Friday night is attend a work-related event, but there are times when I feel I need to represent the newspaper and such was the case last week when I covered the Dino Feast at the College of Eastern Utah. I attended last year and still remember the fascinating experiences shared by the scientist discovering mammoths in the frozen Siberia.
Friday's banquet began like any other with a good meal, interesting conversation with some people I had not met before and the usual silent auction items to raise funds for the cause.
However, within seconds of the speaker's introduction I knew we would be in for a treat. Local CEU museum co-director Reese Barrick introduced a former colleague and mentor and it was then that Dale Russell began his lengthy discussion of discovering dinosaurs on the African coast of Morocco.
I guess the last thing a nonscientist thinks of on a Friday night, after a long week, is the time when there wasn't an Atlantic Ocean. I have never been too knowledgeable when it comes to science, the evolution of the world's land masses and the discovery of dinosaurs, but within minutes I was following along, glued to Russell's discussion. Now he was a scientist speaking with great passion about a lifetime of research and discovery.
The impression that Russell left with me was incredible, because he had that passion. I love people who get excited about their work or their interests. I get energized from people who can talk fast, inspire people with their words and genuinely show some emotion.
I am a pretty fast note taker and I have to admit that Russell talked way too fast for me to catch his every word. I was lucky to catch every 20th word, but after about 20 minutes I decided to just jot down the key points or statements that brought his passion to light, rather than treat the presentation as a news story.
It was after I made that decision that I heard several things I had not remembered before. For instance it was a meteorite that probably caused the death of most dinosaurs in the world. That meteorite is believed to be the reason for at least 70 percent of the species on the planet to disappear. I also listened intently how Russell uncovered North Carolina dinosaurs on the coast of Africa's Morocco. He talked extensively about the opening of the Atlantic Ocean and how continents drifted to their current formations.
Russell shared statements like "Life is never static, it is fun to discover the past and appreciate knowing where we are going. We need to arm ourselves with a better peace of mind. It's not impossible, but it gives up hope for a better future,"
His energy and enthusiasm was filled with words like oozing, fabulous, flaming, fascinating, marvelous, and he once described a dinosaur discovery as a "mosaic of sauropod characteristics."
Russell's talk reminded me of a former good friend who has since passed away from Northern Montana College, Harrison Lane, who taught Montana history for many years at the school. I served as the public relations director for a few years there and had the opportunity to work with Mr. Lane on several occasions. He knew the Lewis and Clark story as it related to Montana history inside and out and his knowledge of the American Indians was unmatched by any other historian. Over the years I spent hours listening to Harrison speak about these movements and about the early history of the Montana plains. He too, had that passion for knowledge and excitement in delivering the message.
Their abilities to transcend knowledge and their passion for discovery is truly a gift and one that I won't quickly forget. My only wish is that I could remember more of the details.