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Film Tells Saga of South Dakota's Sue

Black Hills Institute of Geological Research

In the summer of 1990, paleontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institutein Hill City unearthed a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in western South Dakota near Faith. It was the largest, most complete T-Rex ever found. They nicknamed the dinosaur Sue, after Sue Hendrickson who first discovered the bones.

Two years later, the institute was raided by federal agents and the National Guard and Sue was hauled away from Hill City and eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder. In a court case that followed the battle over Sue, Peter Larson was sentenced to two years in prison.

Director Todd Miller tells the story in the film Dinosaur 13. It’s based on the book Rex Appeal by Larson and his former wife Kristin Donnan-Standard. Dinosaur 13 opens in theaters across South Dakota and nationwide on Friday. Peter Larson joined Dakota Midday and discussed the film.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.
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