Start with the purpose of this website: The assignment to write this biography about my dad came as a posthumous assignment. Dad had never talked with me about writing his story. After his death in 1998, I began writing a comprehensive family history in 1999 in response to one of my sonís request. While picking the brain of one of dadís sisters for information about the family home, she told me that dad had told her that I was going to write his biography. She was surprised to discover that I didnít know I had been assigned to do this job. I did, however, discover a scrap of paper in his memorabilia that I suppose could be called an ďassignmentĒ:
That fragment was buried in a piled of unpublished manuscripts along with other instructions. So I, James Rondo, was assigned by James Alvin to write his biography. That is the first purpose, then, of this website, write a comprehensive story of his life, not, it turns out, a minor assignment.
His story is one of the most remarkable I know. He started out with nothing, didnít finish high school, bummed around, changed jobs frequently, and finally ended up being the most widely known paleontologists on the 20th century. When I thought about publishing a book telling his story, the thought was overwhelming. Iíve been a professional editor for 30 years and have published articles for 25 years. There is no way I am going to subject myself to the nit-picking, tedium of preparing manuscripts, nor am I going to harness myself to an artifical deadline to produce anything. Plus I know that most authors receive pennies per the hour of time they put into the manuscript.
I have made an agreement with myself that I will write his story, but I will write it as a website, not a paper book. The deadline is ....well, there is no deadline. I will work on it as long as I can stand to work on it and will go elsewhere when I need a break. I will be back and will finally come to a place where I will know I am Ďfinished.Ē I'm retired, I'm as cantankerous as dad, so I will disseminate, i.e. "publish", this on the internet, like a jillion other people these days, through the medium of Google et al, and a good set of metatags. It will be disseminated more quickly and broadly than could be done in print at no cost to the family.
Second: my qualifications? I am his older son, James Rondo, who loved and struggled and put up with him for 56 years. In addition, I hunted mammoths on the Yukon with him, visited Dinosaur National Monument with him, hunted for gastroliths in the desert, listened to him carry on about dinosaurs, observed his sculpting of them. I worked several summers with him in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, build the gastralia for an Antrodemus mount in central Utah, and finally, I spent a long, hot, dry, dusty summer as a laborer in the remarkable Dry Mesa Quarry. In case your donít know, field work is not romantic. In fact, itís downright dirty, hot and dry, and no running water with all that follows from that. I had better working conditions as a laborer in concrete.
Third, the target audience? Anyone interested in dinosaurs and paleontology in general, and in Dinosaur Jim in particular.
A few caveats:
First, I am not a specialist so don't rely on this volume for reliable scientific information. I will run some of the things past a real paleontologist but descriptions of my own experiences with him in the lab and in the field will be my own descriptions of my own experiences.
Second, all inaccuracies or errors herein are my responsibility.
Third, there are a few photos on this website which are not from the family archive in my possession. They are borrowed from the internet with full acknowledgment that they are borrowed. I do not take credit for anything that was not produced by dad or me.
Fourth, I understand better than most just how controversial James Alvin was and how rough his politics were. He sort of didn't take names or prisoners when he was in high dudgeon. Secret: during the era of his smoldering feud with certain elements of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology ((SVP) THE professional organ of the profession) about their God-given responsibility to enforce the Antiquities Act, and so on, his letters to colleagues were so intemperate that mom tried to protect him. If she knew he had been scribbling diatribes the night before, she waited until after he had gone to work. Then she steamed open those letters. If the language was over the top, she just burned the letters. He was difficult and some of the stories below will reflect that aspect of his career. He basically ostrasized himself from the SVP in the Ď70ís because of his ascerbic tongue.
Finally, this thing will grow as it can, but don't hold your breath. My personal history is also growing and demands time, so Dinosaur Jim will have to share. Happy Reading. His story is most remarkable. Jim Jensen