Barnum Brown, The Entertainment - Scenes from the life & times of Barnum Brown

by Diana Prechter & Kent Cole

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[NARRATOR] "Barnum Brown, born in 1873, was lucky to live during an unprecedented age of scientific discovery. By this time, most scientists accepted Darwin's theory of evolution as a fact. But not everyone did. Some folks disagreed. As the arguments raged, scientists kept discovering the stoney remains of ancient remarkable dinosaurs." SONG 1. Barnum Brown Introduces Himself Some said I was lucky or had X-ray vision or great wits to escape every storm. But lucky I am - not the way that you think. It's the luck that I got when I 's born. For the time and the place: The late 1800's, And for me in that very location... With pioneer parents in Carbondale KS, I developed my unique vocation. [Barnum's mother calls] "Barnum, Barnum, Barnum come home. He's a good boy but he sure likes … he sure likes to roam. He's a smart one does his chores - I don't mind when he's out the back door. Say's 'there's some treasure to find…'" By the hand I'd walk with mom or dad, not more than 5 years old. I would help them hold the can and we'd collect some coal. On the ground: stone mollusks would pique curiosity How could I find sea shells when I'd never seen the sea? [ the roar of dinosaurs interrupts] "Oh no - I was only 5 years old and certainly did NOT know about you fellows yet. Get back underground ! You've been hiding for over 66 million years. You can wait a few minutes longer!" So the first extra luck were those fossilized shells, the second: living in Darwin's own time. The third - at 16 Pa took me camping out West living 4 months outdoors was sublime! [ mother calls again…] "Barnum, your dinner is getting cold. Can you hear me, child?" [Barnum answers…] "Mom- I'm a young man now. Going to college next. Love you, mom!" In college I developed a predilection to study geology; and paleontology - life buried in stones - and the recent discovery of dinosaur bones. [ dinosaurs roaring again] "Okay, you terrifying giants - I see you: meat eaters, plant eaters, some flying, some floating, running on 2's or 4's, chasing or being chased; I see you slicing with teeth, grasping your prey, enormous feet traipsing through the mud, caught in tar traps, escaping death, succumbing to death. I see you covered with mud turned to stone. Submerged - hidden - thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years. And sometimes - just sometimes - found. So now, there's a new 'big game hunter' around. It's me: Barnum Brown."
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SONG 2. Behold, the Dinosaur "Dinosaurs, of course, are very very old. Ancient humans must have always found fossil dinosaur bones - and wondered." Giants and dragons abound. we know this 'cause look what we found! A tibia, a femur gargantuan. I think I will hang it in my front salon. Giants and dragons abound. Monsters must lie in the deep. It's quiet here just when they sleep. Loch Ness is the lake where the deep is its home, it's alive and you'll see it when you're out alone. Monsters must lie in the deep. You can see this strange thing is a stone. I think it's a magic wand or wishbone. Mine is a seashell I found on a hill Mine is the claw of a bozenkill! You can see this strange thing is a stone. "Dinosaur bones, when scientists uncover them, can look like the remains of a carnivore's birthday party." "steps---in---the---muck, he--got--________! Behold the dinosaur! It set science on its ear. Evolution. The bone rush. Darwin's theory of common descent was being tested by deep and deeper digging, layers of discovery. Behold the dinosaur! And - its unlucky hour. How big? How heavy? Did it fly or run? Feather or scale? Dragging a tail?
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SONG 3: The Dinosaur's Lament It's very quiet when you can't make a sound. It's very still when you're -- stuck underground. Can't cough or sneeze -- Oh Barnum please - please find me now. I might seem weak -- I might look tame. But anyone who knows us -- knows we once were ferocious. Now I'm in pieces, -- I can't make a stand. Unless you lend me a hand. [BREAK] Nothing can change my situation I'm here for eternity. But now I'm breathless with anticipation that someone would believe in me! Oh yes I'm old. -- I'm not very with it. But these bones 'll -- make a very fine exhibit. Oh Barnum please -- please find me now. I'm crushed underground. [INSTRUMENTAL SECTION] [BREAK] Nothing can change my situation I'm here for eternity. But now I'm breathless with anticipation that someone would believe in me! Oh yes I'm old. -- I'm not very with it. But these bones 'll -- make a very fine exhibit. Oh Barnum please - -- please find me now. I'm crushed underground. I promise to astound! Oh - please find me now!
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SONG 4: Ice Cream "Back in the American West, it's the 4th of July" "Families, friends, and the joy of eating homemade ice cream." Turn that crank and don't daydream. The party is awaitin' for the cold ice cream. It's the neatest gadget you've ever seen: The hand-cranked maker of your fresh ice cream. Put in the ice. Put in the cream. Add salt and sugar, a vanilla bean. Every 4th of July beauty queen knows there ain't nothin' better that your fresh ice cream.
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SONG 5: It's Summer in Montana [Barnum] "I spent many summers out West. It's the prime time for dinosaur excavation, taking advantage of the three seasons in Montana: summer, August, and winter. And the folks we met were so friendly!" It's summer in Montana - we're checking all our lists for hospitality we'll show to those geologists. We're hanging out Old Glory - cookin' up some pie 'cause it's 1902 4th of July. Make no mistake, we have tedious routines with no help from electricity or modern day machines. We take a break to "live it up" every once in a while to prove that we are fun and versatile! On July 4th, the women wear their best frocks or gowns. Cause today's the day the cowboys will come to town. They're roasting beef and chicken, baking loaves of fragrant bread - fresh berries and pickles on the picnic spread. With cakes and pies they sweeten that home cowboys desire. When evening falls, there's beer drunk by the fire. Folks lift their fiddles and guitars and join in song and there's lively dancing all night long. [Barnum] "Oh - those 4th of Julys! We had a plan and provisions and the bulk of summer discoveries ahead of us. It was just about my favorite time of year. And I always brought along a pair of dancing shoes just for the occasion. But the best summer: I brought my new bride Marion out west on our honeymoon."
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SONG 6. Marion's Song This morning I saw a yellow-headed blackbird a gorgeous fellow, he flew down near us. Twice more at that spot I've seen him running after some bugs. A different blackbird, smaller with a white wing the female is brown and - oh! you should hear the males sing but he sings only when on the wing. [CHORUS] I'll never forget how you courted me. Our eyes met and hearts interlocked. On that cold winter day when you married me, I came in white slippers guarded by fuzzy red socks. I was a student devoted to biology class, steadfast, worked for 2 college degrees and I passed. Your stories of field work had left me entranced… --- and of course you could dance. You waltzed me out West, the best year of my life. We camped in our tent, I caught you fresh fish on a safety pin. Remember sunrise on the Grand Canyon rim? [CHORUS] I'll never forget how you courted me. Our eyes met and hearts interlocked. On that cold winter day when you married me, I came in white slippers guarded by fuzzy red socks. [Barnum] "Marion, the love of my life, died suddenly of scarlet fever in 1910." [Barnum speaks, sadly:] Each morning comes and I think of you, the blackbird flies. I still sing my song knowing where I belong. I sing only when on the wing. [CHORUS] I'll never forget how I courted you. Our eyes met and hearts interlocked. On that cold winter day when we married -- You nearly forgot to take off those fuzzy red socks.
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SONG 8. Finding T. Rex "In which Barnum Brown tells the story of how he found the first Tyrannosaurus rex, “the tyrant king of the lizards.” We start in New York with a long way to go. Pack our rugged clothes and change after Chicago. … No shade trees. … Only grass for company. Hope our wagon won't break down, we're 30 miles to the nearest town. We passed Jordan, Montana and stopped at the Hell Creek precipice. As far as the eye could see, I imagine Cretaceous. ... The sides look like layer cake yellow, green, brown, grey and black; … sediments caught where a river once burst and a dinosaur might slake his thirst. [SPOKEN over very quiet music] "Yes - in the '02 and '04 expeditions to Montana - we had uncovered the dino find of the century: the first Tyrannasaurus Rex. It had a 4 foot long skull; jaws studded with 6 inch serrated teeth. The pelvis weighed over 4,000 pounds. It took 4 horses to haul it in the wagon. Distantly related to lizards, crocodiles and birds, T. Rex was swift, powerful, and could easily destroy any contemporary creature. 18 feet tall and 45 feet long, T. Rex now stands at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC." … In silt and sand. … Dinosaurs roamed the land. … Imaginations mesmerize. … Scientists hypothesize // about oversized // boney prize // and categorize.// Children fantasize // terrorized // beady eyes // paralyzed. // Newspapers publicize: MONSTER CREATURE DISCOVERED. MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD. Extra extra! Read all about it!
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SONG 9. The Scopes Trial "Over the next 2 decades, Barnum Brown continued to collect bones from all over the world. In 1925, he noticed that an acquaintance of his named William Jennings Bryan was in a tricky situation. Mr. Bryan was prosecuting John Scopes for having taught evolution in the public school in Tennessee. In 1925 a trial was broadcast 'cross the land; Clarence Darrow for defense. William Jennings Bryan in the stand. Their arguments were electrified, the neighbors did excite. Comprehension slowly grows and that's all right. Some folks think that animals are very unrefined. Towards Darwin's theory of common descent they remain disinclined. They can make a law and break a law to protect the humankind -- Comprehension slowly grows and that's all right. [Break] Surely Barnum Brown was following the Scopes trial news sensation, listening to each argument, considering implication. [continued] As a scientist we imagine that he remained resolute and might have agreed with Dudley Malone that there's never a duel with the truth! The jury called Scopes "guilty" after 9 minutes of debate. The laws in Tennessee stood firm, no science could liberate. All this was on the radio, the case was watertight. Sometimes laws change very slowly -- that's all right.
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SONG 10. I married a dinosaur "At about this same time, Barnum fell in love once more. Her name was Miss Lillian McLaughlin of NYC." [Song] A debutante and aristocrat, a budding writer, I knew that I was destined to marry a man of renown. I chased that man from Cairo, Istanbul, Calcutta - what a town! I married Barnum Brown! -- he dug those bones -- I kept his home -- okay, it was just a tent -- but I swept a lot. -- we traveled the world -- my life unfurled -- I married Barnum Brown! In wilderness and foreign land finding dinosaurs was grand their bones on weathered creeks or desert floors. Imagine floods and meteor; close your eyes and hear them roar: I married a dinosaur! -- great danger -- fun time -- mosquitos -- fine wine Imagine floods and meteor; close your eyes and hear them roar: I married a dinosaur!
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11. Closing remarks Barnum Brown worked for the AMNH for 66 years. He died in 1963, one week before his 90th birthday. Four years later, the Tennessee law forbidding teaching evolution in public schools was repealed. [holding dinosaurs…] And what happened to the dinosaurs? Sorry fellows. [casually drop them into the suitcase, but pull out the bird as I close the lid… fly, flutter and tweet the bird as the lights go out…]

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A series of songs and stories inspired by the life and times of the famous paleontologist Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History.

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released January 22, 2014

"The Wingnuts" is the band name for the husband and wife creative team Diana Prechter & Kent Cole of Austin, Texas.

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The Wing Nuts Austin, Texas

This husband and wife team from Austin, Texas tackles the loved, hated, or forgotten classics of English literature.

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