Asteroids and Dinosaurs | Pat Cashman

I can still remember the day Mark Hughes decided he would spend the rest of his life indoors.

We were students in the 7th grade. Our science teacher had just said something so startling, that Mark looked up in alarm from the spit-wad he’d been carefully crafting at his desk. He stared transfixed at the teacher – Mr. Pye. (Yes, he was Mr. Pye the Science Guy – but back then, nobody saw the possibilities.)

“In 1908, an asteroid crashed into Siberia,” said the Pye Man. “It wiped out hundreds of miles of forest land – and if there were any humans around, they would have been toast.”

Mark gulped hard as the teacher narrowed his eyes and looked straight at him. “And when I say toast, I don’t mean French or Zwieback.” Mark knew exactly the kind of toast Mr. Pye did mean:

Charcoal black with rising curls of acrid smoke. Mark’s mom, who was not gifted in the kitchen, made it for him every morning.

After school, as we walked home, Mark kept looking warily up at the sky – as he darted beneath store awnings and tree branches whenever possible.

“Once I get home, I’m not coming back outdoors again – ever!” he declared. “I don’t want to get hit by an asteroid. And I’ll bet a comet would hurt even more.”

I reminded him that a fiery rock plunging toward our planet at blinding speed wouldn’t have any trouble crashing through the roof of a house – especially one with composition shingles. But Mark was unconvinced. ‘My bedroom is in the basement,” he said. “Maybe the asteroid would be going pretty slow by then.”

I’d been in Mark’s bedroom. The risk of an asteroid slamming into it was low. The risk of botulism, much higher.

Mark didn’t show up for school the next three days heading into the weekend. His mom called in to the school reporting that he was in his bed with a mysterious ailment. I figured he was under his bed.

I thought of Mark a couple of months ago, when I heard the news that an asteroid made a close pass to the earth in January. It zipped by at just a third of the distance between the earth and the moon.

That would be the equivalent of a flying golf ball just grazing the top of a man’s hairline – unless the man was Dr. Phil, whom the ball would miss altogether.

Recently, a bunch of scientists announced that they now believe a long-ago asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, when it triggered fires and earthquakes worldwide.

However, there is one holdout scientist who insists instead that the dinosaurs died from a combination of spicy foods and poor posture.

By the way, many dinosaurs are named after the locations in which their skeletal remains have been found – such as the Afrovenator (Africa), Californosaurus (California) and Dallasaurus (Dallas).

Less well-known are the dinosaur remains found in our own greater Bellevue area. These include the once-feared Medinasaurus, Crossroadsaraptor – and the king of all, Factorius Rex.

At least Mark doesn’t have to worry about them.

Bellevue Reporter Columnist Pat Cashman can be reached at pat@patcashman.com.

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