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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Dave Free on 11 May 2007 - 2:49pm.

Bright sunlight was shining in the window when Jeremy opened his eyes. He raised his arms above his head to stretch and the smell reminded him that it had been several days since he had been in the shower. Slowly he rolled his legs off the bed and sat up on the edge. He heard noise in the kitchen. What time was it? What day was it?

He stood up and stumbled toward the kitchen. Mom was the only one there.

“Hey sleepy head!” she said when she saw him.

“Hi,” Jeremy replied, “what time is it?”

Mom looked at the clock on the stove. “Nearly noon,” she replied.

“On what day?” Jeremy asked.

“Wednesday,” mom replied, “you slept for twenty four hours straight.”

Jeremy jumped up. “Did anyone go get Fuji?” he asked.

“Sit down!” mom commanded. “Elena and dad brought him in yesterday after the sheriff left. He has a nice nest in the barn and has eaten every bean in the house. He went with your dad and the girls to see the damage at the bowl.”

Jeremy sat down, upset that he had forgotten about Fuji but glad that the others had stepped in. “I thought we were supposed to go see the Sheriff this morning,” he said as his mom put a plate with two fried eggs and a piece of toast in front of him.

“We were,” mom replied, returning to the counter. “But you were sleeping so soundly your dad called him and postponed it until this afternoon.”

Jeremy inhaled the eggs and toast, thanked his mom and excused himself to take a shower. By the time he was dressed and returned to the kitchen dad and the girls had returned. Dad looked at him in amazement and shook his head.

“How did you ever do it?” he asked. “A helicopter, a truck, the entire cliff, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Any sign of water?” Jeremy asked hopefully.

“Nothing yet,” Elena replied. “We walked around on the pile of rubble and tried to find an entrance to the cave. There’s nothing.”

Jeremy sighed. “Sorry dad,” he said.

Dad looked up at him, confused. “Why?”

“There’s no water to grow the shrimp,” Jeremy said quietly.

“That has been the least of my worries,” dad replied. “I’m just glad we’re all safe and Putts’ men are behind bars.”

“Speaking of those bars, we better get started for town. The Sheriff will be waiting for us.”

Fuji greeted Jeremy as he came out the door with a snort. Jeremy wrapped his arms around the dinosaur’s neck. “Hello boy! I missed you too!” Blue barked and jumped up on Jeremy looking for attention. “You too Blue! I missed you too.” Jeremy rubbed Blue behind the ears then led them both to the shed.

The four-wheelers were now parked behind the shed and there was hay spread on the concrete floor. “You guys will have to stay in here while we go to town,” Jeremy said as he pulled the overhead door down behind them. Fuji snorted and shook his head.

“We won’t be too long and we’ll bring you back some beans,” Jeremy said. He patted Fuji on the neck, patted Blue’s head and went out the side door closing it behind him.

The “report taking” at the Sheriff’s office took more than two hours. First the Sheriff had to find Amelia Avery. She was the town gossip on her own time and got paid to be the court recorder whenever one was needed. With such important criminals in his jail, the Sheriff decided having a recorder was an absolute necessity. Amelia was at Sally’s beauty salon in the middle of her weekly hair appointment. She wasn’t too excited about leaving with her hair only half teased. When she finally arrived Jeremy concluded that the second half of the hair appointment must be the most important because the first half didn’t look so good. He decided not to mention that in his statement.

When Amelia was finally in place and ready, the Sheriff turned to Jeremy and said, “Alrightee young man tell us what happened.”

Jeremy began his story and told every detail he could remember. He avoided any mention of Fuji or the cave and just said he “ran fast” when he was really riding Fuji. The sheriff just nodded and listened. He seemed particularly interested in Jeremy’s use of the automatic weapon and the grenade.

Elena gave her statement next. She described sitting up on the wall trying to signal the sheriff for two hours. The sheriff picked up the story from there and told how “old Hank Clark” saw the signal while he was in his garden picking tomatoes. Hank had served on the USS Enterprise during WW II and recognized the SOS signal immediately. The sheriff failed to mention how he had ignored Hank’s report until black smoke became visible in the same general direction.

Mom and dad gave their statement next. Dad started out talking but within a few minutes mom had taken over and wasn’t leaving out a single unnecessary detail. She described how they had made a water cannon by diverting the pump used to pump hot water from the springs to the house. She mentioned how much money they saved each year by using the hot water from the springs, even though it was hard water, and was just beginning to describe what a difference the water softener made in keeping their whites brighter when the Sheriff reminded her that he was mostly interested in how they had subdued Stutts men. Dad took over from there and in a few minutes told how he had blasted both Bull and the Jackal with two hundred and fifty gallons per minute of steaming hot water. The thugs had been blasted backward dropping their guns and then scrambling to escape the blast. Dad had kept them under fire until they were both laying face down with their hands behind their back.

“The really great thing,” dad concluded, “was we didn’t have to clean them up afterwards like we did with Petey. They were already scrubbed clean.”

The sheriff chuckled and signaled to Amelia to quit recording. “Well folks, I think that’ll give me what I need,” he said then added, “If we’re ever invaded, I’m coming to live with you.”

Jeremy and the others chuckled and got up to leave.

“Sheriff,” Jeremy asked, “there is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

The sheriff looked at him expectantly.

“Petey said Stutts had a map with hieroglyphics on it. Did you find it?”

The Sheriff shook his head. “Probably went up in flames with everything else in that pickup.” He said. “We’ve torn the Hummer apart and there is nothing in it.”

Jeremy nodded.

“Thanks again for all your help Sheriff,” dad said and offered his hand to the Sheriff.

The Sheriff shook it and said, “Just doing my job.”

When they were finished at the sheriff’s they strolled down the street to the mercantile. Several of the town people that used to avoid them because they were new and different now came right up to them and shook their hands. Apparently news had spread quickly that there really were dinosaur bones and that the “shrimp ranchers” had brought down an international smuggling ring.

The clerk at the mercantile was all smiles and fell all over herself to rush to the back to see if there were any more pinto beans that weren’t out on the shelf. They ended up with twenty, sixteen-ounce bags of beans--enough for about a meal for Fuji. Dad asked if anyone wanted an ice cream. Madison wanted a multi-colored, Bullet frozen treat. Elena chose an ice cream sandwich and Jeremy went for a sundae on a stick.

Everything was great, but Jeremy wasn’t happy. The next few days were a blur. The Las Vegas Sun ran a small article on the capture of one of the FBI’s most wanted by a family in southeast Nevada. Then a reporter from NBC called the sheriff to check on the details. When they heard the story they wanted to send a crew right out to the scene. The sheriff was due to run for office that fall and figured the publicity wouldn’t hurt. Before the end of the week two of the major networks had been out to the bowl to tape the burned-out helicopter and truck. They also came to the ranch house and interviewed the family.

Keeping Fuji hidden during all the commotion was not easy. Jeremy would rise early and take him out for a run. Then he’d find a shady wash or hollow far from the house and leave Fuji there while he returned to the house on foot. Later in the day, he would go back and bring Fuji home to the shed. Fuji loved hunting lizards and supplemented his bean and hay diet with as many lizards and horny toads as he could catch.

A week after the capture of Stutts, Jeremy was walking home from running Fuji hoping that once things returned to normal he wouldn’t have to make this walk each day. There was a Jeep parked in front of the house. More reporters! Jeremy thought to himself. He slipped in the side door hoping to avoid another interview. His dad called to him from the family room.

“Jee is that you? Can you come in here a minute?”

Jeremy grimaced but put the down the glass he was about to fill at the refrigerator and walked into the family room. The man talking with dad didn’t look like any of the other reporters. He was wearing khaki cargo shorts with big pockets on the sides. His legs were tan and his hiking boots were actually dusty and looked well used. His tshirt said “Geology Rocks.”

“Jeremy, this is Dr. Sanchez, he’s the professor at the university that I exchanged emails with when we first discovered the dinosaur bones.”

Dr. Sanchez stood as Jeremy entered and held out his hand. “Hey Jeremy!” he said with a smile.

“Hey!” Jeremy replied shaking his hand. He already liked Sanchez more than any of the stuffy reporters that had come to visit.

“Turns out Dr. Sanchez knew Stutts,” dad said as Sanchez and Jeremy sat down.

“Really?” Jeremy said, unsure now if he should like Sanchez after all.

“It’s true,” Sanchez said. “In fact we were good friends. His real name is, or was, Peter Stuttgart the third. We went to school together and spent a summer in China on a dig. We stayed in touch over the years. Every time one of us would find something significant we’d email each other. You know, kind of brag it up. But about three years ago everything changed.”

“What happened?” Jeremy asked.

“I don’t know exactly,” Sanchez replied. “One of the last emails I got from him came from a little pueblo somewhere in the Sonoran desert of Mexico. It included a vague reference to something he had found that would change life as we know it. I laughed it off thinking Peter was just exaggerating. Then a few months later I got a visit from a couple of FBI agents. They told me Peter—or Stutts, as they called him, was the prime suspect in the theft of and smuggling of dinosaur bones. I couldn’t believe it. Peter never answered my emails after that.”

“Any idea what Stutts was referring to?” dad asked.

Sanchez nodded his head. “Some,” he said. “Peter was terrible at keeping secrets and word travels pretty fast in the world of paleontology. He claimed to have found some hieroglyphics in a ruin that included the skeleton of a dinosaur. That may not mean much to you, but no one has ever found evidence that pre-colombian civilizations knew anything about dinosaurs and it gets even better!”

Jeremy could tell Sanchez was talking about something that excited him. He was sitting up on the front of his chair and used his hands while he talked.

Sanchez continued, “Apparently the hieroglyphics not only included the skull of a dinosaur but an accurate picture of a living dinosaur! Now think about that. How would they know what a dinosaur looked like?” Sanchez didn’t wait for an answer. “According to Peter’s hieroglyphics, they discovered the fountain of youth!”

Dad nodded calmly and said, “We heard that from Petey, one of Stutts men.”

“Really?” Sanchez exclaimed, “So that is really what he was trying to find?”

“According to Petey, Stutts tracked down every ornithohumus—“

“Ornithomimus dad,” Jeremy corrected.

“Right every ornithomimus find in the western hemisphere convinced that he would find the fountain of youth near one of them.”

Sanchez whistled. Jeremy asked, “Have you seen the hieroglyphics Stutts found?”

Sanchez shook his head. “I’ve only heard about them. It intrigued me so much I took a trip to Guatamala and Mexico last year to do some exploring. I learned a lot about ancient cultures but I’m no archaeologist and I certainly didn’t find pictures of dinosaurs. That’s partly why I’m here, I’m still looking for clues. When I read that a family in southern Nevada had,” he paused looking for the right word, “had stopped Stutts, I dug out your email, put two and two together. I figured it had to be you. So I got somebody to cover my classes for a few days.” Turning to Jeremy he added, “I hope you don’t mind, I’d love to look at the bones Stutts had.”

“Sure!” Jeremy said jumping up. Dad and Sanchez followed him out to the shed. The bones were neatly stacked in the corner of the shed to leave plenty of room for Fuji’s nest. Straw, hay and pinto beans were scattered all over the floor.

“Haven’t had much time to clean up in here since Stutts and his men ransacked the place,” dad said lamely.

Sanchez paid no attention. He only had eyes for the bones. “Beautiful!” he said as he picked up the intact skull.

“Some of the bones got damaged in the avalanche,” Jeremy noted as Sanchez continued to pick through them.

“You know the ornithomimus was probably the fastest dinosaur that ever lived?” Sanchez said as he examined one of the long hollow thighbones.

“Really?” Jeremy said trying to act sincerely surprised.

“Up to fifty miles an hour,” Sanchez confirmed unable to keep himself from teaching.

Dad looked at Jeremy for confirmation and Jeremy nodded.

Sanchez put the thighbone down and picked up the drumstick. “Some think they could kick like an ostrich,” he said.

“They can!” Jeremy exclaimed and then caught himself, “I mean, I bet they did. I was reading a book about it,” he mumbled trying to cover for himself.

“Jeremy reads lots of books about dinosaurs,” dad tried to help.

Sanchez straightened up shaking his head, “Peter was one of the best paleontologist I ever knew. I still can’t figure out why he would give it all up for a few hieroglyphics.” He shook his head. “It may not have changed the world but it sure changed him.”

Jeremy looked at Sanchez. Should he trust him? Could he help interpret the hieroglyphics? He looked at dad who shrugged as if to say, “It’s your choice.”

Jeremy took a deep breath. “Dr. Sanchez, I think we might be able to help you find the answer.”

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