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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Barry Saunders column

August 3, 2014

By Barry Saunders, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Aug. 03--It's OK to admit it, because you're not the only one.

Pretty near everybody in the state -- nay, the country, no, better make that the world -- is asking the same thing, and it's not "Will Jay-Z and Bey stay together once their concert tour ends?"

No, many of you are asking, "Why did the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences pay $10,000 for a replica dinosaur?"

A footlong, 9-inch-high replica costing as much as my first three cars combined was in the news recently after a couple of crime-spreeing 21-year-olds -- Boobie & Clod? -- pilfered it from a display at the downtown Raleigh museum.

About those shorts ...

How Logan Todd Ritchey of Raleigh and Alyssa Ann Lavacca of Holly Springs thought they could pull off such a heist with surveillance cameras recording our every scratch is inexplicable.

Inexplicable, also, were those distinctive shorts Clod wore.

Even without the unblinking security cameras, apprehending the duo would've been a cinch:

Cop: Did y'all see a fella wearing some ridiculous-looking, Frankie-Avalon-in-"Beach Blanket Bimbo"-shorts?

10,000 witnesses: He went thataway!

The scientific name for the dinosaur is Edmontosaurus regalis -- not easy to spell, but easier to spell than coming up with an explanation for why the two stole it.

Of course, trying to figure out why 21-year-olds do anything can give you a headache.

What were they thinking?

Were they going to put Edmont on a mantle in a future lovenest and gaze lovingly at it as a testament to undying love?

Don't laugh. If you've ever been either, you know that 21-year-old males have done far weirder, dumber things for 21-year-old females, and it would presumably be hard for a woman to leave a mate who screams, "But dumplin', I stolt a dinosaur for you!"

That's why a museum official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said upon learning that I was writing about the incident, "Be kind to those poor kids. Love makes you stupid."

True. That's why they sealed, for the camera, their theft with a celebratory kiss.

Another possible explanation for the theft is that they were going to hold poor Eddie hostage and demand a ransom from the museum.

That would make a little more sense because, at least that way, you could see where they had thought -- although not very deeply -- about some pecuniary gain. When asked why they did what they did, Jon Pishney, another museum spokesman, said, "I have no idea. I don't know what they were thinking."

Many people, it appears, aren't regarding this incident with the gravity it deserves. The consensus among four readers with whom I dined at a downtown restaurant soon after the two were caught seemed to be that it was a harmless prank that merited no more than a few hours of community service, if that.

Another reader -- let's call him Fred -- asked, "Can you find out how to get me a job selling $10,000 dinosaurs? I could buy one at Toys R Us for $20 and flip it for $10,000. No one really knows what they look like. I wonder what other deals the museum got if it spends $10,000 on a little dinosaur model?"

Surely, the uncynical among us assume, there must've been a good reason for the museum to pay that much. Maybe, I surmised, the maker of the dinosaur model had made it "anatomically and organically accurate."

To that, Fred replied, "Anyone concerned about the anatomical correctness of a baby dinosaur doesn't need to be working around children."

Touche, homes. Touche.

What, I asked Pishney, was so special about the dinosaur, which -- when it lived -- was estimated to be 20 feet high, 42 feet long and weigh 8,000 pounds?

"It was developed in collaboration with paleontologists, scientifically made" of a polymer resin, he said. "It's not a toy. It's kind of like a work of art."

For all of you still pooh-poohing the price of the purloined piece, Pishney said he wanted to emphasize one thing: "This exhibit was paid for by private funds, an anonymous donor. No taxpayer dollars," he assured, were used in the making or acquisition of the Edmontosaurus.

An anonymous donor? Someone gave the museum $10g to build a 12-inch model? Hmmm.

That's when I contacted Fred and told him, "No, sir. I cannot help you get a job selling $10,000 dinosaurs -- because I'm fixing to get that gig for myself."

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or


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