The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

2002.10.09 Monsters under the bed

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The world is such a safe place these days. You don’t agree? Terrorists, anthrax and nuclear bombs have you on edge? It could be much worse. At least there aren’t any bat-winged pterosaurs, griffins and cyclops lurking in the dark.

Science writer Michon Scott has poured through dozens of books to pull together a comprehensive listing of oddities from the past. His work, called “Strange Science,” outlines what he calls the rocky road to the modern study of prehistoric life.

The ancient Greeks were doing quite well in figuring out the past, Scott says. They knew that species changed over the years. They knew that some of the fossils they were finding were once animals that lived in very different environments. That is, if a fossilized fish were found in the neighborhood, it indicated that the area was once under water.

It was a different situation a few hundred years later in Europe. People were jailed, tortured and even burned to death for the heresy of suggesting that the world was more than a few thousand years old, for stating that a fossil represented a plant or animal that lived millions of years earlier.

That’s when mystery, superstition and monsters ruled.

YOU HAVE to remember that most people in medieval Europe never traveled far from home. There were no newspapers to report on world events, no radio and television to offer glimpses of the enormous planet.

And so something as familiar to us as an octopus became the fierce hydra or devil fish with multiple heads. Chop one off and two more would grow.

It wasn’t until the 1600s that fossilized shark teeth were correctly identified. Before that they were the tongues of serpents turned to stone by St. Paul.

Dragons were still much feared by Europeans in the 1600s, but in China they were very useful. Dragon bones (actually dinosaur fossils) were used to cure heart and liver problems and to ease constipation.

The ancient Greeks might have been on the right track to understanding past life, but they had plenty of detours. For example, they returned from visits to the Gobi Desert with fossilized bones of beaked dinosaurs, but they saw them as a griffin, a lion-sized, four-legged, winged animal with a sharp beak that viciously guarded a hoard of gold.

Sixteenth century Europeans thought that elephant bones were from the dreaded cyclops with a third eye. Other bones were thought to belong to the elusive unicorn. The flying reptiles of the dinosaur era became fierce, giant bats. But hold your tongue if you thought that humans evolved from apes. In 1619, Italian philosopher Lucilio Vanini was burned alive for making that suggestion.

IT DIDN’T help any that a host of con artists helped push people off track. In 1845, a man pieced together five fossil whales to form a sea monster.

During the American Depression, some Texans started carving dinosaur footprints to sell, and they decided to add some “fossilized” human footprints. According to Scott, there are people still falling for this fraud and trying to use it as proof that humans coexisted with dinosaurs.

That’s just a recent chapter in a long history of jokers and villains who carved fossils, attached jaw bones of apes to human skulls, and concocted realistic mermaids.

These beasts from the past are enough to bring back the fear of  the monster hiding in the closet or the creature waiting under the bed.

Michon Scott knows there have been plenty of mistakes made over the centuries, but he’s not foolish enough to think we know it all now. Some day in the future, he says, others will look back and get a laugh at our latest and greatest theories.

And just to play it safe, don’t let your foot hang over the edge of the bed.

    – Oct. 9, 2002 

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