Sunday, October 29, 2017

Museums from Womb to Tomb

Oklahoma City may have the usual museums centered around the west, its history, the native Americans, military, etc. but I skipped all of those.  I was determined to find something different and I sure did.  The Alfred Murrah Building Memorial was the start then I read about something called "The Womb".  

I went looking for it and discovered this building that gave me little or no information but lots of interesting psychedelic designs....

...and a padlock on the front door with no sign saying when or if they would reopen.  I still do not know what "The Womb" is about but if anyone knows....

Next stop, "Skulls Unlimited".  I thought it might be something related to Halloween ...

...but it was really, and seriously, about Skeletons, lots of them.

I discovered the museum by accident--a tiny brochure on the bottom shelf in an information center along the Interstate.  I tucked the brochure in my purse and almost forgot about it but, well,  it pays sometimes to clean out your purse.

I drove several miles out into the country to find a rather nondescript building that, on the outside, gave no hint as to the amazing displays inside.

The evolution of Skulls Unlimited began in 1972 when, at the age of seven, Jay Villemarette found a dog skull.  When Jay's father saw his interest, he encouraged Jay to find and collect other skulls.   

In 1978, Jay entered his growing collection in his 6th grade science fair, receiving a 'Superior' award.  That following year Jay won fifth place in the Oklahoma State Fair.  After graduating high school Jay began selling skulls in his spare time and eventually turned this unusual hobby into a business.

In 1990, Jay opened Skulls Unlimited's first retail location in Oklahoma City.  Today, Skulls Unlimited has a worldwide reputation for having ......the largest variety of natural bone and replica osteological specimens.

The pictures in this posting are only the tiniest example of what is on display in this private museum. I have seen many dinosaur bones, prehistoric fish bones, fossilized insects, etc. but I do not recall ever seeing such a collection of modern animals and people.  It was both beautiful and educational.

Animals that possess a vertebral column or 'Backbone'.  This includes mammals, birds, reptiles,  amphibians, and many species of fish.

Diana Monkey

Foot binding was a practice performed on Chinese girls that dates from the early  10th century to as recent as the early 20th century.  This process involved breaking bones in the young girl's feet.  Next the foot was tightly bound to prevent it from growing. Once healed, the girls were not likely to be able to walk.  Although debated, it is believed that foot binding was performed due to a fetish for small feet.  The skeletal feet on display here compare a deformed, bound foot to a normally developed woman's foot.

Trephination, also known as trepanning, is a surgical procedure in which a hole is drilled or cut into the human skull.  This procedure exposes the brain and allows access to treat injuries and disease.  Evidence of this has been found in prehistoric human remains as long ago as 6500 BCE.  Most ancient trephined skulls exhibit signs of bone healing, suggesting that the patients survived. The skull is a modern and successful Trepanning.

Over 2000 years old, these deformed skulls originate from Peru. 
 The act of elongating the skull was achieved by binding the head of a child 
with cloth, rope and boards.  As the child's skull grew and developed it would elongate.
Both trephination and head binding date back nearly 9000 years.

(The whale skeleton above shows two small vestigial bones in the rear area before the tale.) 

Vestigial Bones

Whales and dolphins possess small remnant bones that are once part of the pelvis.  Called Vestigial bones, these bones are evidence that whales as well as some other marine mammals such as manatees, had a land dwelling ancestor that walked on four legs.  As these mammals adapted and evolved to an aquatic existence, the need for these rear legs diminished.  Over millions of years the limbs atrophied and eventually disappeared, leaving only these vestigial remnants behind.

(Here is a better view of those two bones.) 

White handed Gibbon

Lowland Gorilla

Human Evolution is defined as 'change in the genetic material of a population of organisms.  Over time, evolution can result in the emergence of new species.  Human evolution refers to the processes that led to Homo Sapiens being a distinct species.

A human and a Bonobo.  (Cousins)

One mechanism of evolution is natural selection, the process where helpful traits that increase the chance of survival and reproduction become more common in a population.  This occurs because individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to adapt, survive and reproduce, thus passing along those helpful traits to the next generation.  Individuals with harmful traits are more likely to die.

(The skulls in this exhibit are replicas, sculpted from one of a kind archaeological finds.  The original specimens reside in various museums around the world.)
Adaptation is a process of nature in which an organism becomes better suited to its habitat.  Over time, small mutations can accumulate and result in substantial changes in a population.  Natural selection of mutations that are best-suited for survival, lead to evolution.
It is a measurable, observable scientific fact that evolution occurs.

A Labrador Retriever

American Buffalo

This Rhinoceros foot ashtray is a relic of the past.  At one time, hunting trophies like this were popular and easily obtainable.  Today, many species such as the black rhino, are endangered due to over-hunting over the past 100 years.  All endangered species dare now protected and are no longer allowed to be hunted.

The skull of a giraffe

An Argali Sheep

A Beaked Whale

Killer Whale


Alligator or Crocodile?

Aren't snake skeletons the prettiest?

The following skeleton was of special interest to me.  My Aunt Louise suffers from Kyphosis of the Spine, due in large part to an auto accident some 10 years ago.

Kyphosis of the Spine
Kyphosis, also called hunchback, is a condition where the upper spine curves causing a slouching posture.  It can be either the result of arthritis, osteoporosis or trauma.

All descriptions in Italics are from the literature presented at the museum.  The photos were shot through glass and there was a lot of reflection from the lights so they are not as clear as I would have liked.  I definitely suggest, if you are ever in or near Oklahoma City, that you visit Skulls Unlimited.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Memorial

  The skyline of Oklahoma City looking across the Memorial Mall at the 168 empty chairs that represent those who were killed on April 19,1995.

"This American Elm was surrounded by a parking lot filled with burning vehicles on that day.  It survived the impact of the explosion and became known as the Survivor Tree, an important symbol of resilience to the family members of those killed, and also the survivors, rescue workers and people around the country.  Photographs of this tree date back to the 1920's when it stood in the backyard of a family's home.

 The Reflecting Pool

The morning had just started.  There were meetings taking place discussing state and  federal matters,  the day-care center was open and the children had arrived when an inconspicuous U Haul truck, parked beside the building, exploded.

"It was as if it was raining blood."


"All we know is these kids are hurt and somebody needs to tell them it's okay."

"We started digging with our hands.  You could hear her cries."


"Survivors' injuries range from minor to life threatening.  Some walk away with only scratches and bruises.  Many suffer permanent losses of vision and hearing.  Some receive multiple fractures or lose limbs.  Many require months of hospitalization, reconstructive surgeries and years of physical therapy.  
One federal employee suffers 40 broken bones, a punctured lung and shattered teeth.  She miraculously survives and endures years of rehabilitation."

The pictures of the damage were from newspapers of the day. 

"The bomb blast registers on a U.S. Geological Survey Richter scale 35 miles south of Oklahoma City and is felt across central Oklahoma.  Many people tune in to breaking news and expect to hear about a natural gas explosion or plane crash."

(Please be Aware--The following is very disturbing,  difficult to read and imagine, but illustrative of the horror of that event.)


Before the bombing, Daina Bradley, with her two small children, her sister and her mother, walks into the Social Security office.  Like thousands all across the country every day, they are there to pick up a Social Security card for a new son.
After the blast rescuers find Bradley trapped--her right leg pinned under a fallen concrete beam.  They supply her oxygen and begin removing debris in an effort to free her. ...The dig for nearly two hours.  Despite all attempts they determine it is impossible to move the beam.  To save her life, they must amputate her lower leg.
Orthopedic surgeon Andy Sullivan clears space under the leg and places a tourniquet....and begins the procedure.  His emergency tools fail.  He improvises and successfully completes a very difficult, through-the-knee amputation with his pocket knife.
Once free, Bradley is rushed to University Hospital.  She survives. Her two children and her mother are killed in the blast.  Her sister is severely injured.

 Seventy five minutes after the bombing, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Charlie Hanger notices a car with no license plate on I-35.  Hanger stops the car and becomes suspicious of the driver when he discovers a concealed handgun.  He charges Timothy McVeigh with a weapon offense.  It is two days later that McVeigh is charged with malicious destruction of federal property by means of an explosive.


On the day of his arrest McVeigh is wearing a t-shirt that bears the Latin phrase on the front  that reads, "Sic Semper Tyrannis"..."Thus always to Tyrants."  The same phrase was yelled by John Wilkes Booth when he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

The back of the T-shirt is printed with words used by President Thomas Jefferson: "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants." 


168 innocent people Killed
600 Injured

My reflections:  The reason McVeigh gave for the bombing was as revenge for the Waco disaster.  He thought this would start an uprising against the government. 
As I walked through the museum and memorial I thought there had to be a way to stop this needless (and homegrown) terrorism.  I have the following suggestions:
1.) Terrorists (political, religious, disgruntled employees, jealous husbands, etc) are to instantly lose their names when they become suspects.  The names should be changed legally to John Doe #1 (Timothy McVeigh) to John Doe # 456 (Stephen Paddock). Their names may be legally changed back if they are ever found to be not guilty.
2.) Their true names and photos are never to appear in any media.  Since publicity is what drives many of the terrorists I believe we should not give them any at all.  Any media source that publicizes name, photo or any diatribe from the suspect is charged with 'aiding and abetting a terrorist.'
Okay, I know this is probably unconstitutional but if we truly want to stop the mass killings then we need to consider how many are copycats that want publicity for their causes.
And speaking of drastic, consider this--(it would only affect gun violence and not bombings but most mass killings are with guns).  There is an invention that the NRA does not want on the market.  It is a device that fits on a gun and prevents the gun from being fired except with only one specific fingerprint.  I think all guns should be manufactured with such a device--and the fingerprint should only belong to a woman! After all, how many mass murders have been performed by women? 
(You are welcome.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nebraska--to Marysville, Kansas

Before turning south on my return to Tucson for the winter I had several more stops to make.  One stop was all the way across Nebraska to Lincoln where I planned to look up some very special people that I had not seen in years. 

Here are three of the cutest, cleverest, brightest kids I have met to date.. 

...Isaiah, Zachy and Sean....

...and their equally cute and clever parents, Patrick and Rachel.  I worked with them in Monterey 15 years ago and even though we kept in touch over the years I especially wanted to meet their boys.

Rachel had arranged for me to park at the church across the street from their house which gave us a little more time for catching up on our news.  It was terribly hard for me to finally drive away--these folks were so welcoming. And their boys absolutely touched me--each so smart, creative, and brave in ways that I will always remember.  Daisy thought they were pretty neat, too.

Yep, I'm in Kansas.

The 34th president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower grew up in Dickinson County, Kansas.
"When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing and, as we sat there in the warmth of the summer afternoon on a riverbank, we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up.  I told him that I wanted to be a real major league baseball player...and he said that he'd like to be president of the United States.  Neither of us got our wish."  D.D. Eisenhower

I wandered off the main highways in Kansas and found some lovely little mid-west towns that time forgot.  One special feature of several parks that I came across was free overnight parking plus free dump stations.  I took advantage of both.
In the park above, while dumping my tanks I failed to securely latch the door, and Daisy got out.  Her bolt for freedom lasted about an hour as I chased, bribed, ordered and cajoled.  I was exhausted and very out-of-breath before she got hungry enough to meekly climb back into the RV.

If she had broken loose in the park in Marysville, Ks I would never have coaxed her back.

The park had free parking, free dump, free water and lots and lots of free and independent squirrels...

Posted at the park:

CITY MASCOT:  (a) The black squirrel is designated as "Marysville City Mascot" and hereafter shall be accorded all the rights and privileges inherent to such designation, including the freedom to trespass on all city property, immunity from traffic regulations, and the right of first choice to all black walnuts growing within the city.  (b) Anyone who knowingly or willingly maims or kills a black squirrel or, who without permission from the governing body, entraps a black squirrel within the city shall be guilty of  a misdemeanor, the conviction of which shall be punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

BLACK SQUIRREL DAY:  The mayor of the City of Marysville, annually at nut gathering time, shall, with the advice and consent of the city council and the business community, proclaim a "Black Squirrel Day" on which day city employees and officials shall devote their errors to the planning of and participating in this day of celebration, parading, pageantry, feasting and other nutty or squirrelly activities appropriate to the day.  Ord. #1027, August 28, 1972)


There was also an abundance of red-tailed squirrels as well. 

There is a legend behind the origin of the black squirrels....

In the year 1912, The McMahon Carnival came to town and, as an added attraction, they displayed a cage containing some black squirrels.The squirrels attracted the attention of a young native lad who felt sorry for the caged animals.  A member of the band that furnished music that day reported that he witnessed the lad opening the cage door and releasing the squirrels.  The rest is history.

Black Squirrel Day was set for the last weekend in October but I had to get to Ft. Worth for Aunt Louise's 97th birthday party.  I will just have to come back some day.