Natural Bridge, Virginia
No one can accuse Mark Cline of resting on his laurels. He has taken his hand-made,life size, fiberglass dinosaurs, which stood beside the gas station, restaurant,hair salon, and other businesses in nearby Glasgow -- when Mark was promotingit as The Town That Time Forgot -- and has moved them into a new, even more originalattraction.
Dinosaur Kingdom, as Mark puts it, "is not your father's dinosaur park." It occupies the heavily-wooded grounds of yet another Mark Cline attraction, Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum, and Mark offers both at a two-for-oneprice that he says is less than the admission at any other single attractionin the area.
It's money well-spent. Dinosaur Kingdom is a twist on the biblical Creationist view that people and dinosaurs lived together. Here, people live with dinosaurs-- but only until the dinosaurs eat them.
As the tour begins, visitors are asked to imagine themselves in 1863. A family of Virginia paleontologists has accidentally dug a mine shaft into a hidden valleyof living dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the Union Army has tagged along, hoping tokidnap the big lizards and use them as "weapons of mass destruction" against the South.
What you see along the path of Dinosaur Kingdom is a seriesof tableaus depicting the aftermath of this ill-advised military strategy. Asyou enter, a lunging,bellowing T-Rex head lets you know that the dinosaurs are mad -- and they onlyget madder. A big snake has eaten one Yankee, and is about to eat another. AnAllasaurus grabs a bluecoat off of his rearing horse while a second soldier futilelytries to lasso the big lizard. Another Yankee crawls up a tree with a stolenegg while the mom dinosaur batters it down. Mark has augmented some of thesedisplays with motors: toothy jaws flap, tails and tongues wag.
Mark explains that he originally wanted the dinosaurs to attack Pancho Villa and his troops at the turn of the 20th century, but then decided against it. "I was really looking for some villains," he explained. "The Pancho Villa thing -- nobody remembers that." Which is true. Instead, Mark's substitution of Union soldiers seems certainto win him favor, at least locally. "I mean, for Christ's sake, people still fight the Civil War down here," he said. "I would gladly have changed the color of the uniforms -- if I was from the North."
Dinosaur Kingdom is small at the moment. But it's still a work in progress, withnew scenes of carnage being added frequently. In fact, since we visited a weekago, Mark tells us that he's added "Yankee in the Johnny House." "As you open the door," he explains, "you surprise him from the front while a raptor busting through the wall surpriseshim from the back." All of this activity has put a hold on Mark's completion of nearby Foamhenge,which is understandable if regrettable.
We have only two quibbles about Mark Cline'snewest creation. He needs to improve his roadside directional signs, and thename -- Dinosaur Kingdom -- really doesn'tevoke its theme.
How about: "The 'Saurs Shall Rise Again"?