In 1956 Oliver Butterworth, an English and Latin teacher in New England, published a children's book called The Enormous Egg. It tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Nate Twitchell whose favorite hen lays an unusually large egg that hatches into a triceratops that the lad dubs Uncle Beazley. Nate raises the throwback, and most of the story tells the trials and joys of caring and feeding for the lumbering, genial behemoth. Eventually it becomes too much for the boy and Uncle Beazley ends up being well-cared-for prize exhibit in a government zoo.
In 1964 the Sinclair Oil Company made nine life-sized fiberglass replicas of different species of dinosaurs for the New York City's World Fair. When the Fair was over the dinosaurs were donated to several museums and institutions throughout the nation. One of them, the triceratops, ended up in the 1968 hour-long T.V. special made of The Enormous Egg, playing Uncle Beazley. I watched that show when I was but a wee lad, and although the figure was completely unarticulated, it was so realistic a figure and the way it was shot was so artful, I swear I remember it breathing and blinking its eyes.
In 1972 I was in fourth grade, and I read the book. It included illustrations by the ubiquitous children's illustrater Louis Darling. I dimly remembered the show from almost half my lifetime ago. When the time came to write to an author for a class project, I chose Oliver Butterworth. I wrote about how I enjoyed the book, and what I could recollect about the show. He sent me back a card (it had a rather abstract picture of a couple of owls on it) and a letter written inside. He said about how the model of Uncle Beazley was now at a national zoo. My mom put the letter inside the first volume of our set of Childcraft. It has since disappeared, but I was always rather proud of this contact with an author.
Oliver Butterworth published two other books, one a sequel adventure of Nate Twitchell (no dinosaurs this time). He passed away in 1990. As of 2007, Uncle Beazley was still on display in Washington D. C.'s National Zoo, where he was still a sentimental favorite with kids and nostalgic baby boomers everywhere.
It would be cool to make a pilgrimage out to Uncle Beazely and see him "in the flesh". Looking at the pictures reminds me of how dinosaurs were visually rendered when we were growing up; really pretty different than today's versions. Tyrannosauraus Rex (note: not T-Rex, I never really heard that until Jurassic Park!) was always imagined standing straight up, like a guy in a suit, rather than the more horizontal lizardy way he is usually pictured now. Heck, when we went to the Witte Museum's Dinosaur exhibit a few weeks ago, many of the animatronic figures were covered in feathery hair! Who knows, we stick around much longer and they may be sporting derby hats and little cigars...
I always kind of wondered why triceratops were considered the "good guys," too. Sure they fought the villainous Tyrannosaurus Rex, but who says they wouldn't attack you? They're vegetarians, sure, but so are bulls, and I wouldn't go into a pasture with one of them. But then Uncle Beazley was raised domestically.
I guess everyone roots for "the little guy." Comparatively speaking, of course!
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