Day Trips

Visiting the Mt. Blanco Museum is a must for all dinosaur lovers

Million-dollar skull of a four-tusk mastodon
Million-dollar skull of a four-tusk mastodon (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton is a "must see" for anyone even mildly interested in dinosaurs. Run by a real-life dinosaur hunter, the private museum displays a unique collection of bones with an interesting story behind each one.

None of the stories are more interesting than the story of the museum's owner, director, and curator – Joe Taylor. Of medium height and build, Taylor looks like an aging hippie college professor with a flowing white beard, round wire-rimmed glasses, and an ever-present beat-up straw cowboy hat on his head. Born and raised up the road from the museum in the Crosby County community of Mount Blanco, he says he started collecting dinosaur bones nearly 50 years ago when, as a 12-year-old boy, he found a fossilized shark's tooth.

Trained as an artist and sculptor, Taylor headed to California during the Sixties to work as a sign painter for a record distributor. Some of the reproductions of album covers he painted fill a room of the museum.

A straight-laced Primitive Baptist despite his looks, Taylor tired of the West Coast lifestyle and headed back to the Texas Panhandle. The bachelor also brought back to his hometown his foster children who have since made him a grandfather.

Along the way, Taylor made a niche for himself in dinosaur bones by becoming an internationally known expert in making castings of ancient bones. His largest project to date was a 10-foot-by-40-foot casting of the Waco mammoth site now on exhibit at the Mayborn Museum on the Baylor University campus.

Just to see the ingenious way the molds were fashioned over the bones of the herd of mammoths frozen in solidified mud is worth the $4 admission to Taylor's museum. The reverse image of the skeletal remains of a bull trying to save a baby mammoth was taken in pieces with each mold weighing several hundred pounds. The actual site was left intact and is being considered for designation as a national historical site.

Also in the museum is the complete skeleton of a mastodon sticking its head through the acoustic tiles in the ceiling of a former furniture store. Made from a casting of the Burning Tree Mastodon found in Missouri, you would never know it was not actual bones unless you touched the plaster surface.

Throughout the warehouse-sized showroom it is hard to tell what is real bone and what is made from a casting. The large, hood-shaped head of a metoposaur, a lizardlike creature that probably measured 12-feet long, is real. So is the skull of a rare four-tusked mastodon found in a gravel pit near La Grange. The giant tusk on a polished wood stand is one of Taylor's creations.

The genius of Taylor's work is that he is able to fill in the fragments of missing information. "By adding the art, a bone becomes something beautiful," Taylor says. Universities seldom have the staff to re-create total skeletons. By selling additional copies from the same molds, Taylor can recoup his expenses and satisfy a market that does not include destroying an archeological site.

"I've done a lot of collecting on my own," Taylor says. "I've always wanted to have my own museum." Although he has worked with many university paleontologists, the Panhandle Baptist doesn't believe the institutions are telling the real story of the extinction of dinosaurs on Earth. He believes that all of the beasts, except the ones on Noah's ark, were wiped out in a worldwide flood. "That's why we have so many remains frozen in a layer of mud," he says.

Just a little more than 30 minutes east of the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum is at 124 W. Main (TX 114) in downtown Crosbyton. The museum opens Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and on weekends by appointment whether Taylor is in town or traveling the world working at an archeology site. The museum has a small gift shop that sells a wide range of items from $50,000 tusks to 50-cent plaster replicas of T. rex teeth. For more information, call 806/675-7777 or visit their Web site at www.mtblanco.com.


801st in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum, Joe Taylor, Mayborn Museum, dinosaurs

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