When my son William and I were driving across the country in 2010, our Garmin sent us on a dirt road, where we ended up stranded for a couple of hours. So there was a bit of concern when the GPS set built into Evie's Subaru sent us down a dirt road. After a mile or so William joked about hearing a banjo. Nothing like a Deliverance reference to lighten the mood. Finally, we came to a left onto another dirt road - Pearl Lane.
I was a little disturbed to note a bullet-riddled mailbox and similarly perforated stop sign,
William said not to worry about it. It's an Alabama thing.
When the GPS told us we had arrived at our destination there was nothing, but I had faith and told William to drive on. Shortly after we were rewarded with a view of the famous gateway to the adventure land.
It was not real clear what we were supposed to do. William pulled in and I got out of the car and started walking around. A fellow with a beard said hello and directed us to the office where we could check in,
The Long Haired Julie
When we got there Julie was on an extended phone conversation. Julie is from San Francisco and has been at DAL one year and five months with her husband. Most people are short, but Julie is a bit shorter than most with long brown hair. I think I would characterize her as perky. I make up back stories about people which I consider hypotheses that I then test when I get the chance. I never got to test my hypothesis about Julie which is that she was a cheerleader in high school.
While I was standing there a slightly less short (possibly average height) guy with short gray hair was also standing there. He told me that he was a lawyer and that he had been CEO of CSE and that Kent's case was going to be reversed as if I should know what he was talking about. He was waiting to use the phone because his did not have coverage.
Afterward, I tried to figure out who it was and when I looked at pictures, I thought I might have met Paul John Hansen. William confirmed the ID from one of Hansen's mugshots.
I offered to let him use my phone which had two bars, but he declined. I reflected that that could be viewed as an attempt at intelligence gathering, which it was not at all. I had decided that I wanted to experience Dinosaur Adventure Land like any other visitor rather than someone connected, however loosely, with what Mary Tocco calls the "obsessed party of internet fanatics dedicated to revealing to the world their perception of Kent Hovind as a fraud and con-artist".
I know that if nobody else reads this piece some of the obsessed party will and the possible Hansen sighting might be a source of excitement. For their benefit, I need to make clear my strongest take away from my day at DAL. Hovind is running a real ministry there. The focus is primarily on spiritual principles, which are altogether benign. Just about every scientific observation was wrapped around a spiritual principle.
For example, when Julie showed us the rings of a tree dark alternating with light and dark, she told us that the light rings are soft and the dark rings are hard. If the tree were all soft it would just fall over. If it were all hard it would snap in extreme conditions. And we should seek a similar balance in our lives. Physical activity, reading our bibles for spiritual growth, socializing.
The displays which are mostly works-in-process are tied in with the days of creation.
There was this thing where a tube blows up a stream of air on which a sort of beach ball floats. You can see how it changes position based on air pressure. The spiritual lesson is that we always seek the place easiest for us.
Julie kept apologizing during the tour for not knowing the material well enough, but she more than made up for it with her enthusiasm. There was a fog machine that blew really cool smoke rings.
In the section about trees Julie talked about being a tree lover and how people were extreme about that in SF. Another group came in - a couple with little kids -. William politely offered to bail, but Julie had them pick up on Day 5 where we were. Something about airplanes there.
At Day Six is the dinosaur payoff, where we see all the evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs with people and the continued existence of the dinos. It's just that back in the day they were called dragons. And of course, because of the post-Flood decrease in air pressure, the big ones couldn't breathe.
A really compelling bit of evidence comes from China. You know how they have the year of the pig and the year of the tiger, etc. Well, there are eleven of them that are real animals we know about. And they have the year of the dragon. So dragons must be real too. Checkmate atheists.
There were two places where Julie's enthusiasm was utterly infectious. On Day 1 when she showed us the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum, of which only a small part is visible, she shared how much she is looking forward to going to heaven, because we may have more senses and be able to experience the whole spectrum.
In going through the wonders of the creation she talked about how there is iron in our blood, so Adam and Eve might have been able to feel the directions and not needed a compass to know which way is North.
Doctor Hovind was off debating an atheist and he handles the outdoor tour so we were left free to wander the property. The hour we needed to wait for the tour stretched into three, but it did not trouble us at all
The Observant Shawn
William and I started wandering toward what looked like a small desert, probably the most dystopian section of DAL.
All of a sudden we were being seemingly challenged by someone on a golf cart type vehicle. William and I were both in the "OMG have we gone out of bounds?" mode. He assured us that it was no problem and we started talking with Shawn who has been at DAL for three weeks and hopes to be there for the rest of his life. He was recently released from several years of unjust imprisonment on a trumped-up drug charge.
He offered to take us on an abbreviated tour that would pale in comparison with the big boy tour that Doctor Dino would take us on with the "mule". We saw the island with Slim the skeleton who is waiting for the perfect woman. We saw the gazebo where weddings are performed. I think he suggested that William might want to marry his girlfriend there. That would really be something.
Shawn told us that he has taken responsibility for security and patrols the perimeter. When I asked him about the bullet-ridden stop sign, he said it was not unusual to hear the reports of the firearms and they could note hits and misses from the pings.
Then we went to feed the fish (literally with fish food). There were a lot of them. He took us to see his hedgehogasaoous which was a rescue of sorts, which William, who is into animal rescue found touching.
The Smiling Anna
Anna, who is blond, which is a cross to bear around Hovind, had the biggest smile I have ever seen. She helped us with shopping in the gift the shop. We got shirts and a hat and a copy of the Kennel, which I would get autographed later. Anna has been at DAL for two years. We dropped just over ninety bucks in the gift shop, which does take credit cards, which is a good thing because my cash was running low.
The Lieutenant And The Lady
After shopping, we learned that Doctor Hovind was not done besting the atheist. It was mentioned that there was a tour already scheduled, but thankfully there was room for us. We met the couple that would be going along with us.
He was probably the most interesting person I met all day. After 10 years as an enlisted man in the Air Force maintaining things like the F35 and the A10, he went through the course to be commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, which involves inter alia infantry training, because every Marine is a rifleman. There is a subsequent 13 week course for those that will actually be doing infantry, but our Lt is at Pensacola in the early stage of flight training. Lady Lt is pregnant and also blond which would earn her a Hovind insult on the tour.
As we were waiting for Doc Dino I mainly spoke with Lt about fascinating things that have nothing to do with DAL, so I will leave that out.
Cindy The Gardner
While I was paying homage to the manliest man on the scene William was engaging with Cindy who had wandered over. Cindy is one of those women whose age I cannot judge. Youthful attractiveness combined with some wisdom. Someone who will be able to remain 39 for as long as she likes.
They were talking about plants. I did manage to get some back story from her. She was running her own preschool in California. It was explicitly identified as Christian, but when one of the moms started hearing about Jesus from her daughter she complained to Cindy that she was teaching her kids fables.
That got Cindy motivated to seek out proof of biblical truth, which led her to Kent Hovind's videos. She came out for a brief spell as a volunteer and then felt called to come full time. (There was a story to that, but I probably don't have it straight, as I was not taking notes).
Cindy has been at DAL two and a half years. She didn't say anything to that effect, but when Kent mentioned his wife during the tour, I asked if it was Cindy that was his wife and he confirmed that.
The Big Boy Tour
My excitement at meeting Dr. Hovind in person had been mounting. Not fully identifying myself without being entirely disingenuous was really motivated by wanting to experience the tour. There are a number of things that I agree with Kent Hovind on. One of those is his "Swallow the meat. Spit out the bone" principle. And to follow that principle in this context, you need to let him put out his message unchallenged. And it is not just listening to him talk, there is a physical performance that you can't get from watching youtube videos.
The "mule" is a rugged all-terrain vehicle. Kind of an oversized golf cart. For a jungle golf course. Given what was coming seatbelts and helmets were probably called for, but this is Alabama where the power of the regulatory state is attenuated and there are no insurance rules at DAL, since to have insurance would mean no zip lines. We had courageously signed the release. I doubt there was anything that phased the lieutenant.
William and the couple sat in the back seat and I exploited my senior citizen status to ride shotgun with Doc Dino. He referred to us as boys and girls occasionally. And I have the sense that we got much the same tour as we would have gotten had we been ten. And I loved it.
As the mule was running over the property there would be occasional forks. At the first Kent asked whether we wanted the "Grandma tour" or the "Real tour". We, of course, cheered for the "Real tour" which gave us some exciting ups and downs. At one point we stopped near the edge of a high point for a spiritual lesson about the attraction of going down that big hill and then crept up to see that was actually a sort of cliff. We need to heed our heavenly father's warning.
Probably most memorable was the session at the picnic table with the paper airplanes and the rubber band shooting contest where Kent kicked our asses. He showed us his secret. The mistake we make is having equal pressure on both sides of the rubber band which creates turbulence. He had more pressure on one side, which provided a dramatic difference. And in life, you need to have the stronger emphasis on the spiritual aspect - boys and girls.
There is more, but the written word can't do it justice.
No Conspiracy Narrative On The Mule
Kent uses the layout of the property to explain his theory about the Flood accounting for the Grand Canyon rather than millions of years of drip drip. I asked him why was it that when you went to the Grand Canyon you saw these signs about the millions of years. He told me that that would be answered later.
There is a more comprehensive explanation next to a sort of dune or bluff. Essentially layers form quickly as heavy stuff heads for the bottom. And I asked him again why the millions and millions explanations are so prevalent. He told me that people don't want to believe that there is a creator, because then they would have to think about what sort of rules the creator has for them to follow.
And The Jokes
To really remember a Hovind joke, you need repetition. So I don't remember the blond joke he laid on the lieutenant's wife. As we were assembling the paper airplanes there were a series of government military waste jokes about the scotch tape being some sort of special polymer costing thousands of dollars an inch. He checked with the lieutenant on those after telling him that his father had been a Marine, the only survivor of his platoon in the Pacific.
So here are the two that I remember distinctly. The mule can go from fifty to zero in one second - if it hits a tree. You need some visual imagination for the other one. "Somebody caught a fish here" - gestures with hands to show a considerable length - "this far from the dock".
Heard the fish joke four times. The first time was from Shawn who is either in training to conduct the big boy tour or stealing Hovind's material.
What I Admire
The two things I admire most about Kent Hovind are his tremendous work ethic and his determination to live a purpose driven life. This came up in the lessons from the trees which we had also gotten from Shawn. They point out how the trees are always looking for the sun that nourishes them and that is what we should be doing with the things we keep in our lives.
Kent expanded noting that he could understand a kid playing with a ball, but grown men doing it for hours and other grown men watching them, he just didn't get it. Do something useful.
Which brings me to another Kent Hovind maxim, that I endorse. If you don't like what he is doing there in Lenox, go do something better.
On The Other Hand
My great wish for Kent Hovind professionally is that he will stay conventionally tax compliant and the beleaguered state of the IRS will have the statute of limitations on collections bail him out. Running into Hansen is not a good sign.
We were invited to dinner and the bible study, which I would have loved to do, but William and I had a lot of driving ahead of us. As we were getting ready to go, William reminded me to get my copy of The Kennel autographed.
I hunted around and found where they were eating, pausing respectfully as Kent finished grace. He was sitting with the military couple when I came up to him for the autograph. He told them that he was in prison for nine years for nothing, They were just trying to shut him up. Have you ever heard of structuring?
Kent's embrace of tax mishegas is, in my mind, tragic. I know that I aggravate people with this view, but I find young earth creationism relatively benign. Most of the counsel that Kent gives people about how to live their lives is good counsel. Avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Work hard. Live a life of purpose. Have empathy for those who are imprisoned.
See For Yourself
So visit DAL and have a good time. It might be wise to go for the Grandma tour. Try to be kind and capture what is worth appreciating. Just don't go there for tax and legal advice.
For reference here is the report on my previous encounter with Kent Hovind.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Peter J Reilly writes on taxes for forbes.com and has been following the Kent Hovind story for somewhat less than 6,000 years.
Holden Hardman did an undercover video of the tour which is on his youtube channel. Check it out.