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from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

The introduction to this next story is about an experience I had ten or so years ago at the Portland Museum of Science and Industry. My daughter was a volunteer at the museum at the time and, often, when I visited she invited me along to help at the museum too, which, of course, I did.

A popular exhibit at museums everywhere is one that displays models of the large reptiles that roamed the Earth millions of years ago. During one of my visits to my grandchildren in Portland, Oregon, the local museum had such an exhibit. There were so many different reptiles in the exhibit that, for my convenience in stories I hoped to write, I assigned each a popular and easily pronounced-and remembered-name. The names appear in this story: there was Albert the Apatosaurus, Pete the Pentaceratops, Palmer the Parasaurolophus, Sally the Stegosaurus, and Alice the Ankylosaurus. The exhibit also included a Petrushka the Pterodactyl and a Tallyrand the Tyranosaurus.

The museum's Albert the Apatosaurus had a baby daughter, Alexandra, and she slept in a doughnut-shaped nest after the museum closed for the night. As you can imagine, a doughnut-shaped nest, for even a toddler apatosaurus, is not the size of the bakery doughnuts with which you and I are familiar. Alexandra's doughnut-shaped nest was about ten feet across. The model had eighteen-inch diameter inflated tubes that enclosed a soft brown plastic floor.

When children touring the museum saw Alexandra's nest they rushed to climb the tube, jump down inside, and land hard on the soft plastic floor. With hundreds of jumping children each day, four or five at a time, the soft plastic soon scuffed and frequently needed repair. Alexandra didn't care to see her nest abused like that, and I felt sympathy for her. Fortunately, I was able to help; my job was to be the museum's official Fixer of the Apatosaurus Nest's Floor. My tools and supplies were a large roll of aluminum-colored adhesive tape, a tape measure and shears. Twice each day I inspected and repaired Alexandra's nest.

'Stand back for one moment, please.' I would say as I approached and identified myself to the jumpers. 'It is time to inspect the dinosaur's nest.'

The youngsters gathered round as I removed my shoes, stepped across the inflated tube into the nest, lowered to my knees, bent, and carefully inspected the nest's floor. With elaborate gestures I inspected all surfaces and seams, measured the damaged areas with my ruler, cut the proper length strip from my large roll of duct tape, and pressed it into place.

Children and mothers and fathers and grandparents came from nearby exhibits to observe the Apatosaurus Nest Floor Fixer at work. When the repairs were done I rose, stepped back over the side and out of the nest and waved to the jumpers, saying, 'OK, have at it!' And they did.

My grandchildren were proud to see grandpa at work repairing a baby Apatosaurus's nest so that it would remain a safe and comfortable place to sleep after the museum closed for the day.

Several times, as I made my way back from the nest to the shop in the basement below the museum I happened to glance up at Alexandra's dad, Albert. I think I saw him wink at me, as if to say, 'Thanks for fixing Alexandra's nest.'

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