Sept 28, 2023

It’s been a quiet month & a half since I came home from the summer field work in Montana. Mostly been working on home projects and visited Elizabeth’s Uncle T in Canada. Haven’t worked on any fossils since I returned home nor am I teaching at Franklin College this semester. Turns out I did not have any students sign up for the fossil preparation lab class this term. I am disappointed and okay with this at the same time. Disappointed to not have continuing interest at the College but we are doing some traveling this fall that would have crimped my time to teach in the classroom.

I did a school visit last week and talked with 6 science classes at a local middle schools here in Martinsville. It’s my second year sharing with these teachers and their classes. It was a good day and had smart questions and enjoyed the visits. A smaller group from these science classes is coming to visit the fossil workshop tomorrow so a few students will get a closer view of what we do here. I’ll try to grab a photo or two tomorrow and then add it here later…

The big news here is Sparky the Sinclair gas station dinosaur did get placed up on the exterior of the workshop this week. It was quite a process with a few starts and stops but the bottom line is that he is up atop his new perch and seems quite happy about it! Started with my initial idea of placing him on the roof of the building at the very peak. Here’s the stand I designed for him and installed up top –

First effort; not exactly a failure but clearer heads prevailed.

Notice the electric line precariously close to the stand up on the peak? I did too but chose to ignore it knowing I could somehow lift the dino up there and not touch this live electric line! A friend and my dear wife greatly encouraged some “recalibration.”

Plan “B” was hatched. I built a stand that would mount to the front of the shop, up high, bolted it through the brick wall with carriage bolts into wood supports beyond then added angle brackets also bolted in place; looked good and I think it’s high enough to allow truck to pass by underneath (I think?). Here’s the second effort –

New new perch location, lower and not so near the electric service line.

A friend agreed to help lift the dino into place with his tree trimming bucket truck but was leaving on a well-deserved family driving vacation and would be gone for at least 3 weeks. Could Steve wait 3 weeks? sure, but will he?, Nope. So I called a friend in town who originally helped me unload Sparky the day I got home from Montana and Joe mistakenly said sure! Here’s Joe back in August playing instead of helping unload Sparky –

Joe and Sparky

Joe and Shannon came over at dusk and I’m not saying this caper was committed in the dark of night, but it was committed in the dark of night! We talked over different options about how to possibly lift up the dino to the perch that’s 13’-6” above the ground. Joe wisely threw out my first couple of ideas and he came up with the great idea to stack two pieces (bucks) of scaffolding on top of one another then use m y truck as staging area to lift up the dino and place him on the top of the scaffolding then we “just” lift him from there up onto the wall mounted perch. Nothing to it!

Here we are setting up the scaffolding.

Let’s just say it was tremendously harder than we thought to lift him up. We debated at length how much we each thought he weighed; my guesses were around 150-200 lbs, Joe said no way, he’s only as much as a bundle of shingles, 80-90 lbs! He is hollow and made of aluminum but is awkward at 8’ long with a head sticking up about four feet and a long tail going the other way…. Don’t know his official weight but lifting it up over our heads while standing in the back and on the tool box and on the very top of my truck was no easy feat! We three did manage to get him on his side on top of the scaffolding, but the mission was only beginning. We struggled to right him, getting him rolled over onto his feet. I got out an extension ladder and worked from it while also having one foot on the scaffolding to get the best vantage point to pick him up without me going overboard.

We were tired and hot but we got him up on the scaffold!

Now “just” need to lift him straight up about 16” then move toward the garage and the deed will be done. (A side note here; Joe’s wife, Shannon, was present and fully committed to the project, helping whenever and wherever asked to help. Including at one point pushing against the side of the scaffolding while we were above her trying to lift the dino and she was quite concerned if we failed that the the whole deal, dino and all, would come crashing down her direction. – for sure! She was a trooper.) I had an idea to place blocks of wood under Sparks’s feet while rocking him back and forth to artificially raise him up so we’d have less distance to finally pick him up and move him to the wood perch. Joe would lean him toward himself on back to feet while I slid a 6×6 under the front two feet, then I’d do the same, leaning him my way while Joe slid wood under back feet. We alternately did this step about 6 times, each time raising him up another 6”! Worked well until we ran out of 6×6’s. Then we started using 2×6’s and 2×4’s and things got a little less stable. Take a close look at the photos –

Examining the situation to decide what to try next
Sparky up on scaffold, then sitting atop stacks of wood to raise him further up toward the heavens!

Let’s just say the final few inches were the hardest. I had on foot on a ladder and the other on the scaffold top ready to try to lift him up while Joe insisted he could lift the tail end up while straddling the edge of the scaffold from a seated position. I offered a second extension ladder but he didn’t need it, he was sure. There was considerable grunting and groaning going on from both of us while trying to get into positions where we could do the final lift. Joe: “I think I’m cramping up and I can’t do this.,” Shannon: “we need to stop and just call the local fire department ladder truck – they’ll understand that we can’t raise it up and can’t lower it down and they’ll come help!,” Steve: “I don’t know what to do but I’m sure it’ll be okay.” (making no one feel any better!). Finally Joe agreed to accept a ladder assist next to him to partially work off of. Ladder was set up, we each got under our side of the dino and after a partial lift and set back down on the teetering blocks of wood on top of the swaying scaffolding next to two crazy people on ladders we made a final lift and up he went, over he slid and just like that, Sparky was up on his perch. Only two hours after we started!

Note the pile of wood that tumbled over as we lifted Sparky up!
Ta-Da! It is done!

We had accomplished the unthinkable, the undoable, and we did it! in the dark of night, Sparky took his rightful place on the dino workshop.

The next day with his hat and glasses on; looks like he belongs and has always been there!

Here’s a link to a couple of videos from the final push – you can hear the fear in Shannon’s voice and the ill advised faith in mine!