Have a Great ARTwalk Weekend

Another month, another Midtown ARTwalk, and we’re starting off 2017 full throttle. This weekend’s ARTwalk not only features the debut of a new commission for noted voice actor (and very dear friend) Clarine Harp, but the theme is “January Green.” This means giving a space for new voices, and the new voice this month is Christian Cooper, a senior at North Dallas High School. This ARTwalk features a charity houseplant sale and show of Christian’s work, and considering that Christian is going to be someone to watch in a few years, now’s the chance to snag some of his plants before anybody else does. The festivities start at 6:00 on January 21, and we’ll keep going until everyone else goes home. See you then.

Glen Rose Interlude – 1

As can be told from the last year, managing the gallery means a dearth of posts. This is a shame on one level, because it means that an ever-expanding collection of photos builds up on backup drives, just waiting for a few minutes between plant maintenance, enclosure design and construction, ARTwalk setup and teardown, home maintenance, relationship maintenance, Day Job essentials, laundry, mowing the lawn, and the regular nervous breakdown every third Friday. If I had the time to find a definitive and permanent vaccine for sleep, I’d be all set.

With that said, with things cooling down and the temperate carnivores going to bed for the winter, it’s time to start updating and revising. Let’s start with a little palaeobotany trip down to Glen Rose, Texas, best known for its dinosaur trackways but full of all sorts of other surprises.

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The original idea, such as it was, was to get out of Dallas for a day during Memorial Day weekend and hit someplace that presumably hadn’t been flooded with May’s torrential rains. This time, it meant hitting Glen Rose, almost directly due south of Fort Worth, and stopping by Dinosaur Valley State Park. Neither of us had been out that way for a decade, but the idea of nature trails, antique stores, and possibly finding some of the Paluxy River’s famed Cretaceous petrified wood. The wood could wait: the dinosaurs couldn’t.

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Besides the draw of Dinosaur Valley State Park’s hiking and biking trails and campgrounds, there’s the real reason why people travel from all over the planet: its famed dinosaur trackways. Back in the 1930s, the fossil prospector Roland T. Bird rode into Glen Rose on a hot summer day on his Indian motorcycle and stopped for a drink of lemonade. While cooling off, he inspected a recently constructed bandshell next to the county courthouse, which was constructed of local stone. Among the huge chunks of gypsum and petrified wood was a fossil track of a predatory dinosaur, and inquiry by Bird led locals to show him the river bottom, which was literally paved with dinosaur tracks and trackways. Not only were the first scientifically described sauropod tracks found in the river, but they kept coming across tracks on multiple planes of what used to be muddy beach: one of the great surprises was of a whole trackway, most likely of the big predator Acrocanthosaurus and the sauropod Paluxysaurus, as the former chased the latter across mudflats. Those trackways were cut out and archived decades ago, but the river bottom still had other tracks to see, right?

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Well, as luck would have it, the Paluxy probably had plenty of new tracks visible to the naked eye…if the bearer of that eye also had gills. The river was as high as I’ve ever seen it, and about as clear and attractive as week-old coffee. It was also as close to white water as it could come, so taking a boat on it, even if that were allowed, was a remarkably bad idea. That didn’t stop innumerable innertubers on the nearby Brazos, but if the idea was to view geology instead of lining the banks with beer bottles, this was a bust.

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Maybe not a complete bust: on the far shore was a smooth softshelled turtle (Trionyx spp.) taking advantage of a lack of humans to get in a good bask. It stayed on the bank for about ten minutes, long enough to get photos, but it didn’t take well to spectators. Enough people collected on the near shore that the noise or the motion spooked it, and it slid off the sandbank and disappeared into the roiling river. Considering that the genus Trionyx is at least 45 million years old, and probably a lot older, it may not have been a dinosaur contemporary, but at least it added some ambiance. Besides, softshelled turtles are famously cantankerous, and since this one was the same diameter as a garbage can lid, anybody stupid enough to catch it would learn soon enough exactly how hard it could bite.

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Not far from the river were two old friends: the Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus statues from the 1962 World’s Fair, where they joined other life-sized dinosaurs in an outdoor exhibition sponsored by Sinclair Oil. These days, they’re in exceptional condition: when I first viewed them in the fall of 1980, they’d been neglected for decades since they were donated to Dinosaur Valley State Park. The Brontosaurus had been constructed in segments in order to make it easier to ship by boat to the New York World’s Fairgrounds, and the sparkle used to cover the seams had fallen out, giving it a strange checkerboard look. Meanwhile, the Tyrannosaurus had suffered from the loving attentions of the residents of Glen Rose: in 1980, it had all of two teeth left. Apparently, having a fake dinosaur tooth was a status symbol among Glen Rose teenagers, so the rest had been shot out with .22 rifles and picked up. That changed in the late Eighties with a big restoration and location change, though, and they look today as if they could go for a walk.

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(thick northern Australian accent) “Now, this is a mature tyrannosaur! He’s about fifteen meters; that’s about 50 feet! Now, I’m gonna sneak up behind and jam my thumb up his butthole! That’ll really piss him orf!”

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Incidentally, there’s a very good reason why this tyrannosaur has a trapdoor for a cloaca. By 1962 standards, the World’s Fair dinosaurs were marvels of animatronics, and this trapdoor allowed access to the mechanism that opened and closed the tyrannosaur’s lower jaw. I’d known for years that other dinosaurs had similar mechanisms (the Triceratops had a head that moved back and forth, and the Ankylosaurus had a tail club that wagged), but I’d been told for years that the Brontosaurus was completely immobile. Imagine my surprise at Caroline spotting guide at the front of the corral that described the brontosaur’s neck moving from side to side. Nearly 55 years later, and you still learn something new.

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Another drastic change from late 1980: in a strange way, this was a more accurate locale for a big sauropod than anybody thought. In 1980, the scientific consensus still held that the big sauropods were swamp-dwellers that used water to buoy their massive bulks. The Paluxy dinosaur tracks seemed to confirm this: although plenty of sauropod front and hind footprints showed up in the river, not a single tail dragmark showed, up, supposedly confirming that the tracks were made under enough water to float the tails out of the way. What’s understood now is that sauropods held their tails out of reach of a wayward herdmate’s foot, and that most sauropods actively avoided swamps in favor of well-drained floodplains. Ironically, while the conditions most favored by tyrannosaurs are best represented today by southern Louisiana and the Florida panhandle, most of the big Jurassic sauropods would have been most at home in plains like the ones around Dallas and Fort Worth. If they could deal with the drastic changes in vegetation, that is.

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And on the subject of Texas climate, the seeming dead-fish eye on the Brontosaurus has a slightly disturbing story. This is the third head on this statue: when the big restoration project on both statues started in the mid-1980s, an effort was made to put a new, scientifically accurate head on the Brontosaurus, when “Brontosaurus” became a nomen dubiam for the previously described Apatosaurus. Unfortunately, as is often the case with a lot of science art, the proponents of accurate sauropods ran right into proponents of preserving art in its original form, even if it’s wildly inaccurate. Ultimately, molds were found of the original head, and this fiberglass replacement was made from those mold and reattached. The eyes, though, were made of clear resin, which has fogged and crazed from just a few years of Texas’s wildly high levels of ultraviolet light. Texas cars very rarely rust out due to our climate removing any need for salting roads in the winter, but the tradeoff is cracking car dashboards from heat and auto paint that turns into watercolors in ten years.

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Surprisingly for the whole foofarol about redoing the bronto’s head, nobody talks about redoing the tyrannosaur to match current theories. Namely, covering it with feathers. Here, I argue that this statue needs to be left alone to illustrate how dinosaurs were portrayed in the Twentieth Century…and put in a new accurate one just down the road a ways. You have to admit that seeing a “Roadrunner From Hell” tyrannosaur once you enter the park is a great way to make lasting impressions on first-time park visitors, right?

To be continued…

Glen Rose Interlude – 2

Want to know what you missed? Go back and catch up.


The main reason most people have for visiting Glen Rose, Texas is for dinosaur tracks. Whether it’s to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park or the oxymoronic Creation Evidence Museum up the road, it’s all about dinosaur tracks. Before one Roland T. Bird came into downtown Glen Rose for a glass of lemonade and found a dinosaur track incorporated into a WPA-built bandshell next to the courthouse, the town was one of a multitude of towns southwest of Fort Worth boasting scenic views and excellent diners, but nothing that would convince people to travel from the other side of the planet to visit. Now, Glen Rose has a plethora of antique stores and art galleries to give a reason to stay, just so long as you don’t spend so much time stomping around in the Paluxy River that you lose track of daylight.

Since the original plan to go slopping around in the Paluxy was capsized by the closest thing to white water that I’ve ever seen on it, this meant lots of daylight for other endeavors. The dinosaur trackways are on what used to be muddy beachfront, so they tended to catch lots of other items during regular rounds of sediment deposition. While I have yet to come across any reports of actual dinosaur bone preserved in Glen Rose, that mud preserved a lot more. In particular, the area is simply rotten with exquisitely petrified driftwood, most of which looks as if it came out of the surf last week instead of 120 million years ago.


Those familiar with the fossilized logs at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona might be a bit disappointed with Glen Rose petrified wood, or most of the stuff in Texas for that matter. The Glen Rose deposits rarely preserve whole logs: the vast majority of pieces resemble the chunks and bobs that wash up in the Gulf of Mexico today: the bark is gone, but the surf wasn’t strong enough to move big logs and stumps onto land, so most of what’s here are smaller pieces that were broken up elsewhere. However, it’s beautifully silicified, preserving knotholes and insect damage, and it’s considerably more forgiving of erosion than its mudstone matrix, so it once collected in large piles. A tough but workable stone, with obvious attractiveness and durability: when given that sort of resource for construction, of course the people Glen Rose put it to use.


Based on the buildings still extant incorporating local petrified wood, you’d think that the area would remain loaded with logs. Making a trip out to Glen Rose 15 years ago, I heard some of the backstory from the former mayor, who ran a now-defunct bookstore in the town square. According to her, most of the available logs and larger chunks that weren’t already incorporated into local buildings were picked up and sold for the rock shop trade in the 1950s, and the high quality of the wood meant that people were keeping a close eye on the buildings. She related how a gas station near the square, made almost completely out of local petrified wood, had shut down and the land purchased by a local church for possible expansion. According to her, the church was evenly split between those who wanted to restore the gas station as a piece of local history and those who wanted to sell the petrified wood to a wholesaler, and this was settled when the gas station “accidentally” came down in the middle of the night. The petrified wood was salvaged and sold, and half of the congregation hasn’t talked to the other half since.


Even acknowledging that (a) the story might be apocryphal and (b) I should have taken notes rather than depending upon memories from a decade-and-a-half ago, the gas station story is believable upon seeing the structures still standing. So long as Cretaceous rock remains in the Glen Rose area, additional petrified wood will eventually erode out and gradually migrate to the bottom of the valley, but all of the easy pickings have been gone since the Great Depression. With luck, though, enough will remain that some aspiring palaeobotanist should be able to identify and classify the local flora, and give as much of a view of the plant life of Creataceous Glen Rose as the trackways give of the fauna.

To be continued…

Have a Great Weekend

State of the Gallery

The big buy-stuff-and-get-drunk holidays are done. At the day jobs, everyone’s starting their first full week of work, and already planning vacations to get away from co-workers without the promise of violence. The kids are back in school, which in Texas means dodging the dolts who are terrified of thunder birds swooping down and stealing their children away, so they have to park in the middle of the street at rush hour and walk their kids directly to the front door. This being Texas, the weather keeps fluctuating between “black ice on the bridges” and “you’d think it was spring if you didn’t know better.” Yes, January is here, and preferably with as little pain as necessary.

With the new year comes the regular evaluation of where the Triffid Ranch is going, because we’re not sure ourselves. To answer the incessant questions: yes, we’re still at the old Valley View Center in North Dallas. Yes, we know the mall is going to be demolished. No, we don’t know when it’s coming down, or when we’ll have to vacate the space.With the incessant TV news segments involving someone who hasn’t been to the mall in 30 years, with closeups of the shock on their faces to discover that Wicks ‘n Sticks and Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby are shut down, you’d never know we had a thriving gallery community out here. Tell some people where we’re located, and they react as if they’ll be hit with demolition charges and buried in loose bricks the moment they step inside.  (I had to explain that to a niece who had to comment that “the mall is coming down” as if we’ll be caught in the destruction the next day, explaining that just because the mall will eventually be brought down, but it won’t be brought down today.)  This isn’t being helped by coverage in the Dallas Morning News by the self-styled “James Lipton of Fandom,” where you have to wonder exactly how many times he had his head flushed in mall toilets during his high school days that he’d dedicate so much time and effort gloating about the mall’s demise. (As someone who also once had a career at a weekly newspaper involving writing about nothing but science fiction movies and comic books, yes, it sucks that nobody can afford to pay for that coverage any more. Get over it.)

So here’s the situation as we know it so far. Yes, Valley View Center is facing demolition. Everyone knew that going in, and we specifically knew that when we opened the gallery nearly two years ago. No, we don’t know when demolition will start: that information hasn’t been shared with us or any other gallery owner. Yes, some galleries have cleared out, but most of that was because of the hype about the demolition last summer, where patrons worried about flying bricks stopped visiting. Right now, what we know is that the AMC Valley View 16 cinema, which I’ll add is the best first-run movie theater in the Dallas area for the price, signed a new lease for at least the next six months, and demolition can’t be completed so long as the theater remains. The old Foley’s building at the southwest corner of the mall is beginning demolition, but as that space had been empty for years, this doesn’t affect anything with the main mall and won’t for a while. For the duration, until we specifically hear word otherwise, the Triffid Ranch will remain at its current location, and we’ll be continuing with events at that location until we get that final word.

On that subject, the next Midtown ARTwalk is scheduled for Saturday, January 21 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., with this month’s theme being “January Green“. This one will be a bit different: besides premiering a new commission for famed voice actress and dear friend Clarine Harp, this show features guest horticulturalist Christian. A local high schooler, Christian first came out to the gallery last year to see Nepenthes pitcher plants in situ with his large and very enthusiastic family, and then invited me to see his collection of rescued plants. Folks, seeing Christian’s work with cuttings and plants previously rejected as being “too rough for sale” made me remember what I was like when I was 17…and makes me want to invent cheap and effective time travel to go back and kick my previous self’s lazy butt up around his shoulder blades. January Green is an exhibition and sale of Christian’s best houseplants, and all sales will be matched by the Triffid Ranch with a donation to the charity of Christian’s choice. Yes, he’s THAT good.

As for the rest of the year, the show season is going to be a bit sporadic, and only partly because of the mall situation. For those unfamiliar with the glorious fiasco that was the Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve event last month, we didn’t dodge a bullet by not attending. We dodged Slim Pickens riding the bomb. We missed this, but after last summer’s InfiniCon, combined with more and more local conventions and shows having issues with attracting attendees, it’s a matter of cutting back on outside shows and concentrating on the gallery. That said, All-Con on March 16 through 19 and Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 5 through 7 are still essential. As for the next Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the end of the year…if they want to put up with me, I’ll be honored to show off plants. Until then, ARTwalk is always open, and expect a special surprise involving the Dallas Arboretum in March. Details WILL follow.

Have A Great Weekend

Forget New Year’s resolutions: how about a plan of action for 2017? (For those who don’t recognize the clip, this is from the 2013 film Pacific Rim, the best documentary about working with heirloom roses ever made.)

Have a Great New Year’s Weekend

And now probably the most appropriate soundtrack for the 20-kilo kidney stone that was 2016: