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WRITER TAKES LESS-VARNISHED LOOK AT A SOUTHWEST MOUNTAIN MAN LEGEND 02/14/99 The saga of mountain man Ben Lilly has captivated readers since J. Frank Dobie's "The Ben Lilly Legend," published some 50 years ago. And before that, in this corner of southwestern New Mexico, stories circulated about the peculiar man who lived alone in the wilderness with a pack of dogs. Some of those stories sounded farfetched. There were those who wondered if Lilly _ said to have bank accounts in towns throughout the Southwest _ actually wrote checks on tree bark. Could he really outrun a horse, or shoot mosquitoes out of the air with a rifle? A new book edited by Tucson writer Neil Carmony and published by High-Lonesome Books of Silver City casts new light on the Lilly legend. An unvarnished collection of Lilly's own writings, "Ben Lilly's Tales of Bears, Lions and Hounds," enables readers to finally separate the facts about Ben Lilly from the fiction. Carmony, author and editor of a handful of Southwestern books, has an ear for a good story. But he also has an ear for what rings true, as "Tales" revisits the man some consider to be the last of the mountain men. How much of what we have heard and read about Lilly is true? Or did the Ben Lilly myth grow from seeds planted by Lilly himself, becoming embellished each time the tales were passed on, one storyteller to the next? Was Lilly the strongman who wrestled alligators to a standstill, or a huntsman who killed grizzly bears with a knife? For the most part, the source of what has been written about Lilly comes from Dobie's "Legend." Most of those reports were secondhand accounts, Carmony said during a recent phone interview from his Tucson home. "They were repeated to the point that people think (Lilly) had Pecos Bill-like powers," Carmony said. "Dobie was told these things, and he wrote them down. Keep in mind that these are what others said. Lilly doesn't say these things about himself," Carmony said. Carmony's book offers a less varnished view of the man, one that is virtually unadulterated. It is Lilly's own voice we hear in "Tales." In that regard, the title is somewhat misleading, which is excusable since it was taken from Lilly's original manuscripts about bears and lions. "My purpose was to put the manuscripts, magazine articles, personal letters _ everything Lilly wrote _ in one place," Carmony said. While being careful to not fall into the storyteller mode himself, Carmony strikes a balance between a light-handed edit and a text that allows readers to draw their own conclusion about separations between Lilly the man and the myth. Objectivity aside, did he draw his own conclusions about the truthfulness of the legend? Citing a personal letter Lilly wrote in which the hunter claimed he could put three slugs in a mountain lion between the time it leapt from a tree and hit ground, Carmony said it was Lilly himself who helped foster the legend by exaggerating his abilities into "fanciful yarns." And no, Carmony said, the old hunter didn't have money in banks across the country. He kept a journal. He wrote letters. Ben Lilly knew what paper was. He didn't write checks on tree bark. "It seems clear that his most significant achievement was the creation of his own legend," Carmony writes. "The talkative Lilly laid the groundwork, then after his death other storytellers enlarged his persona to Paul Bunyan proportions." That reports of his exploits had grown beyond their proportion was something of which Lilly was aware. The old hunter was in his 70s when Dobie first saw him in El Paso, Texas, at the American National Livestock Convention of 1928. "He stood up, sturdily built, firm footed, eyes as clear and blue and fresh as a Western sky after a June rain," Dobie wrote. "Everything he said reflected a minute familiarity with animal ways and spaces beyond man made trails," said Dobie of the man who "seemed to be off in another world." Dobie followed the old hunter outside after the talk. "I have heard of you many times, Mr. Lilly," Dobie said. "Yes," Lilly told the man who would make him a legend, "my reputation is bigger than I am. It is like my shadow when I stand in front of the sun in late evening." And there, too, is Dobie, the unabashed storyteller and complicit myth-maker, painting the old hunter's eyes bluer than blue before putting Lilly off "in that other world" where the feats of men are as distorted as their shadows. And that, precisely, is what Carmony helps us see for ourselves in "Tales." Ben Lilly died Dec. 17, 1936, at the County Farm, a private ranch on Big Dry Creek. He spent his final days tracking himself and spotting imaginary lions in trees. A roadside plaque in memory of the legend now stands about a dozen miles north of Silver City. It overlooks the Gila Wilderness, which Lilly once called home.
RARE FOSSIL FOUND AT OKLAHOMA PRISON 02/13/99 The nearly complete fossil of a small but deadly meat-eating dinosaur has been unearthed on the grounds of a prison in southeastern Oklahoma. The discovery of the fossilized remains of the raptor, called Deinonychus antirrhopus, was announced by three University of Oklahoma paleontologists on Friday. The dinosaur roamed the earth 110 million years ago. Until now, the only known specimens were found in Montana. "The interesting thing is this is such a rare find," said Richard Cifelli, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. "The classic specimen comes from Montana, but it's a mixture of animals. This is one individual skeleton." The small, agile predator stood 3 feet tall, measured 9 feet long and weighed about 150 pounds. Located on each of its hind feet was a large sickle-shaped claw five inches long. This claw gives the predator its name Deinonychus, which means terrible claw. When attacking prey, the dinosaur would balance on one foot and slash its intended meal with the claw on the other foot. "It's a really advanced dinosaur," Cifelli said. "It has a very large brain, so it was clever. It had long arms with vicious claws as opposed to T-rex, which had very short arms. It was very active and is the best argument for hot-blooded dinosaurs." The fossil was discovered on the grounds of McLeod Corrections Center near Farris. Paleotologists have been digging on the site since it was discovered by a McLeod Vo-Tech instructor in 1991. In prehistoric times, the area was on the floodplain of a large river system emptying into the Gulf Coast, which then extended up to northern Texas. Cifelli said the prison was using dirt from the area to fill in ponds when three skeletons were exposed. Since then, a dozen skeletons have been uncovered. Cifelli said the Deinonychus specimen appears to be one of the most complete examples ever found, although most of it is still embedded in rock. The specimen was found with remains of the plant-eating dinosaur Tenontosaurus. Deinonychus were known to hunt in packs and were able to overcome much larger dinosaurs, sometimes killing prey 20 times their size. Tenontosaurus weighed up to 2 tons or more. "For most dinosaurs, we don't know what they eat other than meat or plant," Cifelli said. "This is a positive association of predator and prey. We know what its favorite groceries were." In addition to its claws, the Deinonychus had 72 blade-like teeth that it would often lose while feeding. The tenontosaurus fossil is partially dismembered with numerous Deinonychus teeth mixed in with the remains. Cifelli said digging for dinosaurs at a prison has advantages. "Most land in Oklahoma is private so you have to get permission to dig," he said. "The fact that it's a prison ... well, shall we say, the site is secure."
http://deseretnews.com:80/dn/view/0,1249,30011489,00.html? Samuel Wilgus, 50, was found in possession of 137 golden and bald eagle feathers when his pickup truck was pulled over on a traffic stop June 5 near Fillmore. He maintains he is entitled to the feathers on grounds of religious freedom -- he is a member of the Native American Church -- and his having been adopted by Paiutes 11 years ago.