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Drive-By Dinosaurs

Oklahoma’s roadside reptiles



 



No signs mark the spot. There is no interpretative center, no historical marker, no souvenir kiosk. The bleached bone stands, as tall as a man, on a cement pedestal overlooking the curve of Highway 325 east of Kenton, not far from the shadow of Black Mesa.
 

The minimalist masterpiece marks the quarry where the state’s first big dinosaur discovery was unearthed in 1931, when the blade of a Cimarron County road grader uncovered a massive rib bone. It was one of a series of discoveries of remains from five distinct dinosaur species, and included the recovery of an intact femur of an apatosaurus. Weight: 425 pounds. Length: 5 feet, 11 3/4 inches. Diameter: 24 inches at one end and 21 inches around the other.

A nine-year Works Progress Administration dig, led by J. Willis Stovall of The University of Oklahoma and halted by World War II, removed 18 tons of bones and fossils to the archives in Norman, 375 miles to the southeast. The best are now featured in the Sam Noble Museum’s Hall of Ancient Life.

Back beneath the skies of Cimarron County, the true-to-size cement cast of the femur drawn from the pit is mounted on its end, standing in wordless salute on the north side of the highway. The original has been replaced over the years, worn down by the elements, vandals and its sporadic use as target practice. It is the state’s oldest monument to its prehistoric past.

A tour of western Oklahoma reveals other roadside salutes to dinosaurs, with inspiration ranging from civic pride to salesmanship to philosophical beliefs to “just because.”

 

The prize find from the dig near Kenton was the giant femur and fossilized bones that formed an apatosaurus skeleton that was 80 percent complete.

Norma Gene Young (1925-2010), longtime publisher of The Boise City News, was determined to memorialize the creature that once surrounded those bones. She donated proceeds from self-published books on local history to commission a $20,000 life-sized creation from Texas-based sculptor Joe Barrington.

The 9-ton iron landmark – 65 feet long and 35 feet high – looms over Highway 3 on the north side of the rambling museum, its long tail and neck designed to sway in the face of strong winds.

It has come to be known by the name coined by a Boise City grade-school student: Cimmy, the Cimarronasaurus.

 


 

The statue of a child riding a stegosaurus installed at the corner of 11th and Oklahoma, in front of the Woodward Christian Academy, was inspired not by local fossils, but by a carving in the Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia, an ambiguous artwork that creationists cite as evidence that people and dinosaurs co-existed.

The signs mounted outside the gate surrounding the sculpture explain its story:

Evolution is a fairy tale for Adults
A Dinosaur like this roamed the Earth 5,000 years ago
About 6,000 Years Ago God Created the Earth, You, and Oil & Natural Gas


Commissioned by Randall Gabrel, the Academy’s headmaster, the work was created by Joe Taylor, director and curator of the Texas-based Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum, who bills himself as a “creationist paleontologist/paleoartist.”

Stegolex was built of lacquer-coated foam, which was then painted and sealed. The work was dedicated Oct. 29, 2012, as part of the Woodward Christian Academy’s grand opening, which also featured guest speaker Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum of Kentucky.

Gabrel also owns B and G Productions, an oil and gas company founded by his father, longtime college football coach Pug Gabrel. He believes in a literal translation of the Bible, which he promotes by featuring a rider on the back of the dinosaur.

“It’s just a kid – not Jesus as a child or anything,” he says. “I doubt that people actually rode dinosaurs. It’s just a kid to show they both were alive at the same time. I think humans saw living dinosaurs.”

How do creationist views reconcile with being an oil and gas man?

“I think that oil is – some oil is – made of dinosaur bones, like they say,” says Gabrel. “But there is just too much of it. I believe oil was put there by God when he created the world, for our use.”

Regardless of its historical accuracy, Stegolex is likely the most famous of Oklahoma’s outdoor dinosaur tributes, with recent mentions in national and international media coverage of Oklahoma, in stories ranging from climate-change skeptics to roadside wonders.

 


 

Originally more of a hunter-green shade, the turquoise Big Green Dinosaur was created out of tire rims by folk artist Jim Powers. The Gage native returned home after a military career and ended up purchasing a salvage yard, which inspired his creative side. Several of his pieces were purchased for exhibition by Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which dubbed him the “Junkyard Picasso.” Although he died in 2006, his Big Green Dinosaur continues to hold court at the intersection of Highways 15 and 46 in his hometown.

 

The state’s oldest gas station in continuous service is the Kemnitz station on the courthouse square in Perry, dating to 1937. Originally affiliated with Mid-Continent Petroleum and Apco, the family-owned station now carries Sinclair Oil, and was presented with a new station dinosaur in 2016 as part of Sinclair’s centennial celebration.

Sinclair Oil’s ad team hatched the idea for a dinosaur-themed campaign to promote a line of oils and lubricants refined from deposits of Pennsylvania crude, touted as 270 million years old. Of the dozen different dinosaurs used in advertising, the fan favorite was the apatosaurus. The company trademarked the familiar long-necked dinosaur in 1932, and gave it the name Dino.

 

The life-sized brachiosaurus, billed as 65 feet long and 33 feet tall, made headlines when it was put on display outside the new location of Statuary World in 1996. Designer Clay Seibold worked with Agustin Olivares, Victor Trejo and Cirilo Ramirez to shape rebar to form a skeleton, covered it with used chicken wire, three layers of fiberglass and resin and paint to seal the skin. “He’s gonna really be a showpiece,” Seibold told a reporter from The Oklahoman the month before the dinosaur was installed. Twenty-two years later, the creation continues to tower over the playground sets and yard ornament displays overlooking southbound I-35.

 


 

The Chickasaw Country Travel Guide touts The Dinosaur Roadside Ranch, located off Highway 81 in a farmer’s field five miles north of downtown Rush Springs, as a key attraction. Although visitors are not allowed within the fence, the work “is accessible daily to all bypassers for roadside viewing.” The collection’s masterpiece: a horse trailer transformed into a dinosaur, which had once enjoyed a career as a parade float, featuring moving parts.

 

The feel of the Great Plains – images of wheat fields and windmills, Route 77 signs, architectural elements evoking oil derricks – is integrated into the design of Oklahoma City’s first new public library in 30 years. The Patience S. Latting Northwest Library opened on May 22, 2012, featuring outdoor artwork including a 7-foot saurophaganax, created by California-based artist Solomon Bassoff. The steel armature, covered with sculpted cement, portrays a dinosaur in red Converse and yellow polka-dot socks, juggling a tumbling stack of natural history books, his glass eyes trained on the traffic on NW 122nd Street. The library notes the artwork is “intended to encourage library use, to touch hearts and inspire minds of library guests for generations to come.”

 

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Calendar

April 2019

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
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Celebrate Easter with a trip to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park! On Saturday and Sunday, get $5 off an All-Day Pass with our Eggcellent Easter Special. All-Day Passes include Go-Karts,...

Cost: $23.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
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Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The OSU Symphony Orchestra will conclude the 2018-19 season with Schubert's monumental and majestic Symphony No. 9 in C ("The Great"). The concert opens with The European Anthem,...

Cost: General Admission: $10; Students & Seniors: $7

Where:
Oklahoma State University Department of Music
132 Seretean Ctr
Stillwater, OK  74078
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Sponsor: Oklahoma State University Department of Music
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Dr. Thomas Dickey
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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is giving back to the local neighborhood with Feed Your Smile, a fundraiser supporting Concordia Life Care Community.  Show this flyer on your smartphone or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
8500 N Rockwell Ave
OKC, OK  73132
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Sponsor: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Telephone: 405-792-5112
Contact Name: Katy Fabrie
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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

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RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

"Deliberately silencing the internal chatter and not overthinking. Conscious, but not over-trying. With this approach, things just seem to happen—it’s where all the substance is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Individual Artists of Oklahoma
706 W. Sheridan Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Individual Artists of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.412.2541
Contact Name: David Smith

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Shop over 200 vendors at this indoor event with everything from vintage furniture, retro and mid-century decor to handmade goods, antiques, industrial finds and architectural salvage!

Cost: $5 at the door, 13 and under free

Where:
Heritage Place
2829 S. MacArthur
Oklahoma City, OK  73128
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Sponsor: Junk Hippy
Contact Name: Kristen Grandi
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A Sporting Chance will host the 25th annual Track and Field Meet at Branson Junior High in Branson, Missouri. A Sporting Chance provides year-round sports and recreation programs designed for those...

Where:
Branson Junior High
263 Buccaneer Boulevard
Branson, MO  65616
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Sponsor: A Sporting Chance
Telephone: 404-314-2188
Contact Name: Hannah Schachinger

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RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

This one-day festival is rooted in the printing of large-scale woodblocks carved by local Oklahoma artists. We bring in a 5-ton steamroller and print pre-carved blocks throughout the day on Tyvek...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Contact Name: Evan
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is celebrating teachers! On Saturday and Sunday, teachers with a valid ID will receive a FREE All-Day Pass and $5 off for each family member! An All-Day Pass includes...

Cost: Teachers receive a FREE All-Day Pass; family members get $5 off

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
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America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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Get a sample of the nightlife of Spain at Tulsa Botanic Garden's "Viva La Vida." The Garden is bringing star chef Jamie Bissonnette (Toro restaurants in Boston, NYC, Bangkok and...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

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2nd annual gathering of "The Big Lebowksi" fans at The Dude Abides OKC All Oklahoma City Urban Achievers, Abiders and Coen Brothers fans are invited to join us at Fassler Hall OKC and...

Cost: Free, contests have entry fee

Where:
Fassler Hall
421 NW 10th
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
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