Newton native collects dinosaur artifacts

“Puzzles of stone–a lost and vanished race of saurian giants. They ruled the Earth, these massive tyrants. The eons passed, and they were its witness. Their rule on the planet seemed limitless.” Michael Wingo

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—Michael Wingo says he has ADD.

“Addicted to dinosaur disorder,” he said, joking.

Wingo relayed a tale of “Jaws” book author Peter Benchley coming up with a theory that by the time little boys are 8 years old, they either love sharks or dinosaurs.

Wingo, a Newton native, definitely was one of those drawn to dinosaurs. As a kid coming home from school, he’d watch Major Astro, an actor from Wichita, host kids’ TV programs, which included “The Flintstones.” Major Astro used to pretend he was in space. Another thing that influenced Wingo’s love of prehistoric creatures was the movie “Valley of the Gwangi,” which is about a band of gypsies discovering a valley of dinosaurs and the things that go wrong when dinos and humans get together.

As an adult, Wingo has a collection of dinosaur artifacts he’s been assembling for 30 years. The collection includes a complete Psittacosaurus in the form of fossilized bones, other dinosaur bone fossils, fossilized dino eggs, dino bones in the shape of shiny spheres and dino bones used to make knife handles.

Psittacosaurus means parrot beak lizard, Wingo said, and its dinosaur bones were found in China by a man named Paul Sereno, who approached Wingo about the bones. Sereno wrote his doctorate thesis on three species of this type of dinosaur.

“He works as the adjunct paleontologist at the Field Museum in Chicago,” Wingo said, adding his dinosaur, whom he named Ghengis Nim, is made of 95 percent original material. “Just for giggles, I restored the original ribs.”

Wingo’s grandfather showed him a shiny dino bone fossil when he was 8 years old and told him he’d make one for him. That never happened, so Wingo decided to make some himself, which he did from chunks of bone he purchased on eBay.

“This colorful bone is going to be Jurassic in age,” he said, adding it’s from the western United States and has so much sand and silica in it because that’s what the fossilization process uses. “Bone comes in rough chunks like any other rock,” Wingo said.

It takes hours to make them into orbs.

“It’s some of the most beautiful material in the world,” he said. “It’ll take your breath away.”

Wingo also has fossilized coprolite, or “dino poo.”

“It’s gorgeous stuff,” he said about the three samples he had with him that included rust colors.

When he once told a man holding one of the poo fossils at a mineral show in Wichita what it was, the man set it down real quick. Wingo said he sets up displays every year at the Wichita Gem & Mineral Society show in Wichita.

One of Wingo’s eggs is a museum-quality fossil, he said, adding it’s an oviraptor egg, the inhabitant of which may have had a beak and feathers. It’s worth $5,000-$6,000 because of its high quality and Wingo also has a hatched egg.

During the Jurassic Period, things got strange and weird with dinosaurs, Wingo said. They took over all landmasses and some got gigantic.

“It wasn’t the place to be a small piece of meat on a big tray,” Wingo said.

That was the time period 125-250 million years ago.

“Jurassic (my personal favorite), the golden age of dinosaurs,” Wingo said. “Perhaps the best way to describe the Jurassic is a sound bite from Robert T. Bakker. He stated, ‘The Jurassic was the middle of the Mesozoic era and Mother Nature was not handling menopause very well. A couple of million years of manufacturing nothing but amoebas in slime sauce had seemingly made her edgy and overly eager to tap into the limitless possibilities that DNA recipes had to offer. In the Jurassic, it was as if Donald Trump and Dr. Seuss got together and decided to make animals. Everything got big and weird. Mother Nature had finally become inspired.'”

Wingo also has a piece of triceratops frill, something he’s always wanted.

The biggest dinosaur discovered so far, the experts say, is the herbivore Argentinosaurus, which is said to be the tallest, longest and heaviest of all time. Every decade, that title changes, Wingo said.

Dinosaur likenesses appear in popular culture, such as “Jurassic Park,” other movies and television, books and the internet. The visual depiction of the ancient creatures changes over time, Wingo said, adding in the 1980s and ’90s, dinosaurs were depicted as “shrink-wrapped,” meaning they didn’t have much in terms of muscles and were skin and bones. Today, they’re depicted as more muscular.

It’s hard to know what they really looked like in terms of muscle mass, Wingo said.

Wingo also has in his collection an Allosaurus sacral vertebrae, which his mom bought for him for $75 on a Colorado vacation at a tourist rock shop. The specimen is worth $2,500-$3,000 minimum, he said.

Wingo also possesses T-Rex replica teeth, one of which is from Sue the T-Rex in Chicago.

“They weren’t about precision eating,” Wingo said, holding one of the quite long teeth replicas. “They were more about crushing and swallowing.”

The Newton native works third shift at the Newton Walmart and is a Goessel High School graduate. He’s self-taught on dinosaurs, reading about them in various places and watching videos about them, including forums, watching dinosaur movies and collecting autographs from people in the field.

The only advice he’d give people interested in dinosaurs is, “Don’t,” Wingo said. “Everything here is expensive,” he added about his collection spread out on a table.

Earth will make more of anything one can think of, like diamonds, except for dinosaur bones. They are a limited resource and those wanting to purchase artifacts end up battling trust fund kids, Wingo said. Prices are going up with movies driving the dinosaur interest. Those movies weren’t around when Wingo became interested in dinos.


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