Tracking down the dinosaur man
Interview by Arthur Johns, M.A.
Q: Buddy, why do you sculpt dinosaurs?A: Everybody asks me that. My wife Kay and I wanted to do something to show people what these creatures looked like. People have a lot of interest in dinosaurs, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them. It’s caused us to really research our subject and made us better witnesses for the Lord. We found out that evolution is just a false teaching—creation by far makes the most sense. I think that’s why the Lord’s using and blessing our unusual business, because we’re giving the glory back to God for these creatures.
Q: Who comes here to see your displays?A: Just about everyone you can imagine. We have Sunday school groups, people from nursing homes, college student classes, boy scouts and girl scouts, high schools, and so on. It gives us a good chance to tell these people about their Creator.
Q: Can you give us an example of what happens when you talk about creation to the groups who come here?
A: Well, we were just getting done with a tour of the shop a couple of days ago. Students were standing by the table looking at the dinosaurs, and one little boy said, ‘I don’t know what to believe. Should I believe in cave-men or should I believe the Bible?’ It was just a wonderful chance right there to tell the whole group about the Creator. Something like 20 boys and girls in the fourth and fifth grade, and of course that’s just the age we want to try to reach. It’s wonderful.
Q: When you sculpt your dinosaurs, sabre-toothed tigers, and so on, how close do you think you are to what they really looked like?
A: I think we’re in the ball park. We can look at the skeletons and see where muscles and tendons were attached to the bone. So we can get the general idea of what their anatomy must have looked like. Of course we don’t know what the skin looked like. A few dinosaurs have been found ‘mummified’. So we know almost exactly what they looked like. But with many it’s just guess-work. As far as skin texture goes we could be way off. The colour also is up for grabs.
Q: Do you find that a problem?
A: It’s hard to find a critic. With taxidermy, sometimes I enter competitions and the judges get magnifying glasses to see if I’ve got the eye-pupils the right colour, whether I’m using the correct eyes, how the muscles fit in the ears. They compare them with animals we know today. But when you’re doing sculptures of dinosaurs nobody can say, ‘Well, his eye wasn’t like that’.
Q: How do you finance your work?
A: Out of my own pocket. It’s tough. We’ve probably got a couple of thousand dollars invested in this Stegosaurus right now. It costs us a lot. Everything that we’re building here is before we get the orders. Nobody’s going to buy something until they get to know me enough to believe that I know what I’m doing to build these things. I’ve been in the business of taxidermy for 13 years and won awards for my work. It’s been an excellent training for dinosaur building, because taxidermy’ s forced me into knowing animal anatomy.
Q: I guess you really love animals. I notice that among all the dinosaurs and other creatures you also have a live pet dog.
A: Yes, I mounted a deer head for one of my clients and the dog was a trade for the deer. The client said he had a puppy to trade, so I took him up on it. I named her Heidi. I love all animals, but I’d say a dog’s probably my favourite. I never had any brothers or sisters, and I just always grew up with dogs. So I can really relate to them.
Q: You seem to have a lot of books on dinosaurs.
A: I think the most important thing in my work is research. I’ve got more than 100 books to help me. If I’m going to do a particular dinosaur I’ll look in those books. Some will have maybe just a paragraph on what I want, maybe another book will have a page or two. A lot of them say the same thing. But maybe I’ll pick up one thing I didn’t know, such as how long one toe would be. I’ve actually found information like that, that’s why I have so many books.
Q: How do you start building a dinosaur?
A: I look first at the different artist interpretations. A lot of times I’ll sketch it on paper, sometimes I just sketch it in my mind. Once I have the research done I start to construct it. I take measurements of how long I want the arm to be, how long the femur bone is, length of the skull—and I’ll get it scaled down to the size I want it.
Q: How do you get the skin texture?
A : Sometimes I’ll take a corn cob and roll the clay in it and really get a good skin effect. Sometimes I’ll roll walnuts. This also gives a good skin texture. Then I might put in some scales. When I have my whole clay model done, I’ll seal it with paint and wax it, then I’ll either use rubber or fibreglass on my mould. Once I have my mould done I make my cast out of fibreglass. That’s basically how I do it.
Q: Do people contact you for information on dinosaurs?
A: We did a TV show and got letters from people from different parts of the country. One lady wrote to the TV station: ‘My husband is not a Christian, in fact he is an atheist.’ This woman was a Christian. She said, ‘You had a man on your program who talked about dinosaurs. I was so excited to find out this information. My husband can’t use this as an evolutionary argument any more, so now he’s talking about ape-men, all the evidences for ape-men.’ As soon as I got that letter I sat down and told her where to write to. I told her about Creation magazine. I said, ‘You ought to subscribe to this’, and I told her about Paul Taylor’s book The Great Dinosaur Mystery. I told her about the Institute for Creation Research. I put down some things about ‘Nebraska man’ being based only on a pig’s tooth, and I told her that all the fossils of so-called ape-men would probably fit into one casket.
Q: You must be excited to be able to reach such people.
A: Sure. It’s just like that little boy who came in to us and said, ‘I don’t know what to believe. Should I believe the Bible or should I believe in cave-men?’ Wow, it gave us a wonderful chance to witness to him, and we told him there were cave-men. We don’t have a problem there. We only have a problem where people try to say that man evolved from ape-like creatures. Man is created in the image of God, not the image of an ape.
Q: How do you react to people in churches today who believe in evolution?
A: One guy told my pastor, ‘I don’t know how anybody can’t believe in evolution, because it’s in the fossil record.’ I almost went through the ceiling! I said, ‘The fossil record, what’s he talking about? The fossil record is in favour of creationism. You don’t have evolutionary intermediate forms.’ I try to get people stirred enough so that they’ll research further themselves. I tell them, ‘Don’t just believe me. I could be lying to you, just like some professors are lying to you. Check it out for yourself.’ That causes them to get into the Bible. So many people don’t even know why they’re Christians. They’re going to church because grandma went to church. They’re dead Christians. I mean they might even be saved, but they’re certainly not living a victory.
Q: Do you find your own life exciting?
A: A lot of my excitement has come from what I’ve been learning through God’s creation. But I needed to get a handle on some things that were bothering me. Creation gave me the foundation I needed to strengthen my faith, so I’m able to tell other people. One guy came in to me a while back, found out I was doing dinosaurs and he thought, ‘Oh no, he’s a Christian’, and he thought ‘Probably evolution is in all this.’ When he came in and found I believed that God created the dinosaurs the guy just lit up and smiled. He said, ‘Oh wow, this is great.’ Now he is one of my best friends, he comes around all the time. It tells me that people need to be educated in this area.
Q: Has your Christian faith altered since you began this type of work?
A: I was what you’d call a really baby Christian. I’d accepted Christ as my Saviour, but I certainly hadn’t done much growing. Studying creation and the evidences I’ve seen has drawn me closer to God. It’s answered a lot of questions for me, and I’ve just got to share it with other people.
Q: Buddy, can you tell me, what are your goals, what are you aiming at?
A: I’d like to have our work in as many museums as we can, I’d like to build some larger models of dinosaurs. I really would like to get some type of degree in palaeontology, and that’s a goal I’m thinking very seriously about. I want to show people the evidences of creation, because it has strengthened my faith so much. I just know that it would help a lot of people, especially children. We see the possibility of building a museum of our own, because we have so many groups coming here. It would be really nice to have something professionally presented to these people.
Q: Have you thought about writing a book on your work?
A: I see the possibility of doing a book on dinosaurs on an adult level. We’ve got a lot of good books on dinosaurs and related subjects for children and I think it’s very important to reach these, but the adults need some too. I’d go into more depth on something about how dinosaurs fit into the Bible. I’d expose as much as I can, and at the same time give God back the glory that He so richly deserves. So there are many goals that I’ve got. It makes life exciting.
Q: Do you think the churches here in America really need to hear the message of creation? America has about 40 percent who go to church. Do they really need to hear the creation message?
A: Yes. I’ve had college students say they don’t know how to handle some of the problems. I’ve had professors who are theistic evolutionists. Some preachers don’t know how to handle creation and evolution. I’ve had game protectors not know how to handle it. I’ve had students not know how to handle it. Creation needs to be taught. I think evolution is a tool that Satan is using to weaken the Bible in people’s minds.
Q: Do you ever have disasters after putting so much work into a model?
A: We’ve had many failures. There have been a lot of times when I’ve done a complete sculpture, spent hours at it and take my mould and ruin it, and I’d be starting right back at square one. Boy you sure get discouraged. I told my wife a lot of times I just feel like quitting, it’s not worth it. I’ve spent thousands of dollars sometimes on some of these things and I ruin them.
Q: Why do you keep on with it?
A: Something just keeps pushing me on. I’m convinced the Lord’s in it with me, and I think the whole reason He is is because we’re giving Him the glory for it. We’re saying to people, ‘See this dinosaur, God made this and we’re just showing you what this extinct creature used to look like that God made.’ And we’re leaving evolution right out of the picture. I think that’s why God’s blessing us. Even if we didn’t sell another dinosaur, we’ve sold to several museums and that’s great. When I am dead those pieces are still going to be in the museums speaking for the Creator. That’s worth it for me.