Watching a movie or television show with my husband can be vexing. He’s a scenic painter, on the hard labor side of the movie-making equation in Hollywood South, as Louisiana is often called these days, now that tax credits have made our state the number-one filmmaking destination in the country.
Not very long ago I was packing my daughter’s Hello Kitty lunchbox when I heard a squeal of brakes and a metallic crunk from the road out front. In the morning commute, a young antlered buck had been walloped in the street by a small car. The deer was still alive but lay on its side against the curb behind the parked car my wife would soon use to drive our daughter to school.
The greeting on the face of the valentine, You Dumb Bell, says more about my mother than about the recipient—my father, the putative “dumb bell.” The valentine is in the shape of a dumbbell, the weight used for exercise and made popular during the time my mother gave the valentine to my father, the early 1930s.
Because there wasn’t enough income to pay a full-time hand, all animals requiring daily care had to go. Mountain lions would eat the Boer goats if they went unsold. An emu, whom the old foreman Cruz had jailed in a derelict tennis court, I freed to earn a living in pasture. So long as they had water and grass, the cattle more or less took care of themselves until roundup.
That left the llama.
A boy stood along the highway, his desperation made plain by the way he leaned into the oncoming traffic, flapping his arms while gripping a plastic water jug covered in dust. After the cars rushed past him, ignoring his calls for help, the boy spun around in defeat, his legs nearly buckling beneath him. The drivers knew who he was—or rather, what he was.
One hot day in June 2002, a young man named Chris Gladden was fishing with his father when he discovered the complete fossilized remains of an ancient marine reptile called Clidastes. The fossil has the potential to be the most important of its kind known to science. More than a decade later, hardly anyone outside the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa knows that it exists.