• Kelly A Nix

Dinosaurs in Texas

Updated: Sep 27

A short story about one family's struggle against the new world order. Read it here or download the ebook.

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At the end of a long, dirt road in East Texas, Irene bustled around the house as the 24/7 news channels played from her television in the living room. The latest news report was white noise, keeping her mind occupied while preparing for her daughter’s family visit.

“After a year of dinosaur sightings throughout the Southwest United States, Dino Watch is now our most popular segment. Download our app to track your favorite dinosaur’s latest movements across the country. Stay tuned for more information on the ankylosaurus herd that caused a 25-hour traffic jam in Dallas and the dilophosaurus that ventured into a local grocery store in Phoenix.”

Irene paused to glance at the smiling news anchor on her television before shaking her head. No one knew for sure where the dinosaurs had come from, but they seemed to be causing a mess of things everywhere. While the herbivores were more of a nuisance to human civilization, the carnivores proved dangerous and difficult to predict. She’d been lucky enough to avoid the previously extinct creatures thus far, but all reports indicated that the dinosaur settlements were expanding. It was only a matter of time.

The phone rang, and a photo of Irene’s daughter, Evelynn, popped up on the screen. Irene tossed the throw blanket she was carrying across the couch before answering. “Hello.”

“Hey Mom, we’re a couple of hours out, so we’re going to stop for lunch. I wanted to make sure you weren’t cooking for us.”

“No worries, I figured as much. How’s my grandbaby doing?”

“Becky is fine. She’s enjoying her first road trip without a booster seat.”

Irene chuckled into the phone as she sat on the couch and muted the television after the news anchor announced that Congress was still undecided on whether to declare the dinosaurs endangered species’ or a national security threat.

“How about my favorite son-in-law? Is he excited about the move?” Irene asked.

“Uh, I think Travis will be more excited once we get off the highway. There’s a lot of traffic leaving Dallas, and it’s causing some...road rage.”

“Well, if people would just pay attention...” Travis said through the phone, and Irene shook her head.

“Let’s just say that it’s going to be a long drive, but...” Evelynn paused, and Irene heard Becky yelling from the back seat.

“Look, Mommy. Look!”

Irene stood from her couch and pressed a hand to her chest. “Evelynn, is everything okay?”

A scraping noise emitted from the phone, and Irene frowned until her daughter finally responded.

“Yeah, yeah. No problem. We just...” Evelynn giggled like a young girl. “We just saw some pterodactyls flying above us. I don’t know what kind, but it’s pretty amazing.”

“Flyers. Mommy, they’re called flyers,” Becky said. Irene could tell that she was on speakerphone now, so she responded.

“Well, be careful. Some flyers are dangerous.”

“Did you learn all about them in vet school?” Travis asked, and she could hear his sarcasm through the phone.

“No. Since my retirement, I’ve developed a loving relationship with the Discovery Channel.”

“Should Dad be worried?”

“Randy has been known to join me from time to time.”

Evelynn laughed, and Irene smiled at the familiar sound. “Okay, well, I’ll see you guys soon. Be careful.”

They said their goodbyes, and Evelynn hung up the phone as she sat back down on her couch. Randy should be returning soon for lunch. He’d spent most of the day repairing downed fences. It was unusual for this time of year, but they’d had several calls from the neighbors about escaped cows. Perhaps the new bull was causing trouble among the herd.

Irene lifted the remote to unmute the television but paused at a quiet rumble that fluttered throughout the house. She stood and glanced around her home, searching for an appliance that could be malfunctioning. A louder rumble sent her adrenaline skyrocketing as she briefly considered the possibility of an earthquake, but they were uncommon in Texas. As the thunderous sound grew louder and faster, Irene realized that it was coming from outside.

She stepped out onto the back patio to scan the vast horizon. The house stood at the top of a grassy hill, surrounded by sporadic woodlands that framed the dirt driveway and lead to the edge of the 300-acre ranch to meet the county road. Over the years, she’d enjoyed the scenic view many times, but today it took her breath away.

A herd of triceratops strolled across the hilltop toward a nearby hay meadow. The three-horned dinosaurs bellowed at each other and bumped their boney heads against one another lazily as they waddled toward the green grass. After a moment of awe, Irene recognized their destination and wondered what damage they could cause the valuable hay meadow. She decided to call her husband, Randy, before the dinosaurs ate all of the next year’s hay. His response was to ask what the hell she expected him to do about it.

Evelynn smiled as they drove up the dirt driveway that led to her parent’s house. She enjoyed growing up in the country as opposed to spending the last decade in Dallas building a loving family with her husband and a successful career in business. Her recent promotion meant more money and the flexibility of working remotely, which coincided with the dino sightings plaguing the metroplex. It seemed like the best time to make the move they’d been considering for years. With everything in storage, Evelynn and Travis could plan and build their dream home and help Evelynn’s parents maintain the ranch.

When Travis parked the car, he unloaded bags and boxes that would get them through the next several months while Evelynn carried their sleeping 8-year-old to the couch and covered her with a throw.

“Where’s your Dad’s gun safe?” Travis asked while holding a stack of gun-carrying cases.

“He doesn’t have one big enough for all of those. Especially that new one,” Evelynn said, sucking on her cheek.

Travis frowned at his wife but didn’t respond. He opted to set the large stack of weapons in their designated bedroom and double-checked the locks on each before closing the door.

“We were only supposed to bring the essentials. Everything else went into storage,” Evelynn said.

“My guns are essential.”

Evelynn opened her mouth to argue, but her mother stepped in from the patio and offered a joyful greeting.

“Hi, I’m so glad you guys made it,” Irene said with hugs.

“Nana?” Becky said as she woke from her nap. “Did you see the flyers?”

“No, they haven’t been around. Be we do have some interesting visitors. Do you know what a triceratops is?”

“You saw a three-horn? That’s awesome,” Becky said.

Irene glanced at Evelynn. “Three-horn?”

“It’s from a cartoon,” she answered with a shrug. “There’s flyers, three-horns, sharp-tooths, longnecks, swimmers, and all kinds of names that are easy for kids to remember.”

“I suppose the word triceratops is a little hard for some.” Irene nodded at her daughter then smiled at Becky. “Would you like to see a three-horn, too?”

“Yes,” she answered with an excited squeal. “That would be amazing.”

“There are three-horns here?” Travis asked as Irene waved the small family out onto the patio.

The three were amazed at the herd of dinosaurs grazing on the hay meadow at the bottom of the hill. The cows on the opposite end of the field were not as impressed with the three-horns. The two herds kept their distance for the most part, but Evelynn could see some of the cows were curious, and the new bull felt ornery.

“Grandpa,” Becky called to the old rancher that sat in a lawn chair half-way down the hill. A jug of ice water sat on the grass beside him, and his rifle hung from the corner of his chair. Randy raised his hand in greeting, and the little girl raced down to meet him.

“Becky,” Evelynn called, but Travis reassured her as he followed after his daughter.

“Don’t worry, I’ll head down with her. I want to hang out with your dad anyway.”

“Okay, but you have to watch her. It’s not safe.”

He waved a hand, dismissing Evelynn’s concern, and a ball of anxiety formed in her stomach that was hard to ignore. She watched Becky climb into her father’s lap, and Travis sat in the empty chair next to Randy. They smiled and chatted while pointing at the dinosaurs.

“Do you think we’ll be safe here?” Evelynn asked her mother.

Irene took her daughter’s hand. “Of course.”

“You don’t think we should’ve gone to one of the safe zones instead? Travis and I talked about doing that, but they’re so overcrowded now. We worried about crime and food.”

“I think you made the right choice.” Irene sat on the patio bench and motioned for Evelynn to join her. “I’m much more afraid of people than I am of dinosaurs.”

Evelynn raised an eyebrow at her mother. “I don’t know. I’ve seen the movies. Being eaten is not the way I’d choose to go.”

“I agree. That sounds awful. I didn’t really believe the reports about the first dino sightings. I thought it was a hoax.”

“I think we all did, Mom.”

“Yesterday, I watched a report about the new Dinosaur Response Units. They’re supposed to be like SWAT but for dinosaur issues.”

“Yeah, I heard about that. They are rolling out a pilot program in Dallas and Phoenix. If it’s successful, they’re supposed to add resources to every police station across the country.”

“Until then, we’re on our own,” Irene said, pointing over her shoulder. “My shotguns on the mantle, and Randy has his rifle. He keeps it on the mantle too when he’s not using it.”

“What about the regular police?”

“You can call them, but they’re about 45 minutes away.”

“Of course they are,” Evelyn said. “Why would you want help from the armed men and women that’ve sworn to protect you?”

Irene smiled at her daughter and shrugged. “Welcome back to country life, dear.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Evelyn said with a bitter chuckle. “My husband probably owns more firepower than the whole police department. Did you know that he bought a new gun without discussing it with me? It’s some jumbo monstrosity that cost half my paycheck.”

“Well-”

“When I brought it up, he said I was too controlling. I swear, it felt like some passive-aggressive hit against me for making more money than him. He says he’s fine with it, but I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time.”

“It sounds like you need a beer,” Irene said.

Meanwhile, Travis chatted with Randy about their new dino guests, and Becky climbed down from her grandpa’s lap.

“Have you seen any others out here?” Travis asked.

“No, just them. I’ve been out here watching them for a while. I thought they were going to give my cows a problem, but they seem to be getting along alright,” Randy said before taking a sip of his ice water.

Travis spied Becky sneaking closer to the three-horns, and he shook his head. “Becky, don’t get any closer. You stay with us.”

She plopped into the grass with a sigh and glared at her father from over her shoulder. Travis smiled at her pouting lip and turned back to Randy.

“I see you fixed up your rifle,” he pointed to the gun hanging from Randy’s chair.

“Yeah, it’s just an old 45-70 lever-action rifle that my father left me. I cleaned it up when I realized this whole thing wasn’t a joke.”

“Are you planning to hunt dinosaurs?” Travis asked with a chuckle.

“I, sure as hell, don’t plan on getting eaten by one. I’ve been keeping this one on the mantle for emergencies and carrying my 9mm with me, just in case.”

“I don’t blame you. I’ve been carrying my .45. I’ve tried to talk Evelynn into carrying, but she doesn’t like the idea.”

“She’s never really liked guns,” Randy said. “Have they figured out where these dinosaurs are coming from? There seems to be more every day.”

“I called some friends from my old unit oversees, but no one knows for sure.”

“Figures. The world’s turned upside down, and no one knows how it happened.”

Travis smiled at the typical Randy remark before asking, “So did you shoot any of the three-horns?”

Randy stared at his son-in-law like he’d grown a second head. “Now, why in the hell would I do that? They aren’t hurting anything. I’m more worried about the hogs tearing up my land. I broke another wheel on the Mahindra today.”

“Becky!”

Travis jumped up at the sound of his wife’s voice calling for their daughter. He spotted Becky several feet from a baby three-horn. She reached a hand out to the large creature, and it sniffed at her fingers. A long tongue darted out of its jaw to crawl across her skin, and Travis heard her giggle.

“Becky, get back here before that thing’s momma sees you,” he said. Becky frowned but twisted around to return to her family.

“Look out,” Evelynn called from the patio.

The new bull decided one of the three-horns had stepped too close to his herd, so he charged at the dinosaur, only to stop a few feet away, turn tail and run back to his kin. Most of the three-horns ignored the display from the smaller animal, but a few jostled among the group. In the bustle, the adult three-horn nearest to Becky spotted her and expressed its displeasure. It stomped its feet, snorting loudly, and then bellowed a warning.

Becky took it to heart and scrambled up the hill with fearful tears streaming down her face. She raced past Travis and crashed into Evelynn’s open arms. Her mother whispered comforting words while Travis and Randy joined them on the patio.

“Are you okay?” Travis asked, and Becky nodded. “You have to listen when I say to stay back. These things can be dangerous.”

“You should’ve been watching her,” Evelynn said.

“I’m not going to watch her every second. That’s impossible,” Travis said. “Besides, when I was growing up, my parents didn’t hover, and I turned out fine.”

“When we were growing up, our parents didn’t have to worry about dinosaurs.”

The next morning, Travis lumbered up the hill from the woods and through the fog that wrapped around the lowest valleys. With his M4 rifle slung against his back, he spotted Irene enjoying a cup of coffee on her front porch, and he waved at his mother-in-law. She smiled and retrieved a second cup of coffee for him when he joined her.

“Thank you,” Travis said then glanced at his watch. “Is everyone still asleep?”

Irene shook her head. “Oh, no. Evelynn’s at her desk working, Becky is finishing up breakfast, and Randy left a little while ago to work on one of the downed fences.”

“I’ll go help him as soon as I finish this cup of coffee. Man, this is good.”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate the help. Did you shoot any hogs? They tore up the hay meadow by the big tree last week, and Randy broke a wheel on one of the tractors again.”

“Well, I don’t think they’re going to be a problem anymore,” Travis said as he glanced toward the woods with a concerned frown.

“Really? How many did you shoot?”

“None. They were already dead.”

“What?”

“I found a large herd up on the other side of the creek, and they’d all been torn apart. Those little scavenger dinos were in a frenzy over the remains.”

“Scavenger dinosaurs?” Irene set her coffee mug on the porch railing. “I haven’t seen any of them around. How many were there?”

“A lot.”

“Should we be worried?”

“They were too busy with their meal to care about me. I don’t think the little dinos are a problem-”

“What little dinos?” Becky asked as she stepped out onto the front door with an eager smile.

“There are tiny sharp-tooths in the woods,” Travis said. “You need to stay away from them, okay?”

The young girl sighed with a dramatic eye roll. “Fine.”

“You know what.” Travis glanced at the woods again and shook his head. “I don’t want you going into the woods at all. Not without a grown-up.”

“Daddy, that’s not fair.”

“I thought you said they shouldn’t be a problem?” Irene asked, ignoring her granddaughter’s whining.

“It’s not the little dinos that I’m concerned about. They were just scavenging what was left. I’m worried about whatever was big enough to kill those hogs. By the size of that herd, it’s more than one sharp-tooth, and they’ve got to be pretty fast to catch pigs like that.”

“That’s not good,” Irene said. “I mean, I’m glad they’re solving our hog problem, but the solution may be worse than the problem. From now on, no one leaves the house without a rifle or a shotgun. No one is getting eaten on my property.”

“Eaten?” Becky said, mouth agape.

“Don’t worry, baby. You can stick with me.” Travis nudged his daughter with his elbow and winked at her. She giggled at him.

“When you go down to help Randy, take his rifle with you. He only has his 9mm,” Irene said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Later, Travis and Becky drove down an old cattle trail toward the back pasture. At the top of a hill, Becky squealed from the passenger side of the ranch UTV and pointed at the three horns on the other side of a trampled fence. At the edge of a small forest, the herd seemed content to graze on the tall grass. Travis parked the small vehicle next to Randy’s old pickup truck, and the older man waved in greeting from what remained of the barbed wire fence. Becky darted across the grass with a big smile, and Travis reminded her to keep a safe distance from the dinos.

“Look, Daddy. The cows are friends with the three-horns now,” Becky said as she circled around the herd while maintaining a safe distance.

Travis peered out across the field to find the cows mingling amongst the three-horns. Neither seemed concerned with the other as both herds enjoyed the open space.

“Yeah, everyone seems happy to munch on my hay meadow after them dinos trampled my fence,” Randy said as he joined Travis next to the parked vehicles. “At this rate, I’m not going to have any hay to cut and nothing to feed the cows during the winter.”

“Especially now that you have three-horns to feed too.”

“I’m not feeding them giant things. They are on their own. I’m hoping they move on before then anyway.”

“Are you kidding?” Travis laughed. “With hay meadows like this, they’ll never leave.”

Randy chuckled at his son-in-law and waved him to the tailgate of the pickup truck. Travis set the two rifles he’d brought from the house into the truck bed and out of Becky’s reach. She’d been trained at an early age not to touch their guns, but he preferred to take extra caution when possible.

Randy pointed at a pile of posts, wire, and other fence supplies in the back of his truck. “We’ve got to replace at least five fence posts that were -”

One of the three-horns bellowed, and both men spun around to investigate. More three-horns joined the chorus of cries and rallied around the spooked cattle. The large dinos lowered their horned heads and swung them toward the forest. In unison, the three-horns backed away from the trees, pushing the cows away from the hidden danger.

“What’s going on?” Travis asked, and Randy shook his head. He snatched the rifles from the truck bed and handed the M4 to the younger man. Travis spotted his daughter standing on the opposite side of the fence between the men and the herd.

“Becky, get away from there.”

Ignoring her father, Becky squinted and raised her hand against the bright morning sun as she glanced between the herd on her right and the forest on her left. Movement in the trees caught her eye, and she pointed at four tall figures darting out of the woods.

The pack of velociraptors bolted around the threatening three-horns and tried to snag a straggling heifer, but the larger dinos were not backing down. One of the three-horns barreled into the pack, tossing its horns side-to-side as the raptors screeched and danced out of reach. Two raptors snarled at the three-horn, while the other two flanked him then jumped onto his back. The three-horn tussled with the pack as they tore into his flesh, and Becky screamed.

“Stop it! You’re hurting him!”

The two raptors on the ground sat straight up and jerked their avian-like heads toward the small girl. They hissed in excitement at the easy prey within reach. The three-horn knocked one velociraptor from its back with its bony head-shield while the other stumbled from the rough ride. The three-horn ran back to its herd as all four raptors stared at Becky from across the field.

“Becky, run,” Travis yelled when the pack of raptors dashed toward his daughter. She obeyed and sprinted into the forest while Randy and Travis fired at the raptors.

The two men rushed to intercept the pack before they reached the woods. Randy’s lever-action rifle was slow and cumbersome, but he managed to shoot one raptor in the leg. It fell, screeching in pain, and Travis sprayed several rounds into the creature with his M4. Forgetting about Becky, the three remaining velociraptors snarled and snapped their tails in agitation as they surrounded the men.

“They’re flanking us,” Travis said as he retreated toward the three-horn herd between bursts of fire. The nimble creatures maneuvered like a well-oiled machine, and he found lining up a shot more difficult than any of his firefights in the military. He’d never seen a man or beast move in such a way.

Behind Travis, Randy’s gun jammed, and he struggled to clear the old rifle’s barrel. One raptor noticed his hesitation and leapt at him with its clawed feet extended and jaws open. Randy stumbled back, dropping his gun and falling to his back as the raptor landed in front of him. Surrounded by the tall grass of his hay meadow, Randy peered up at the hissing creature and raised his arms to shield his face from the oncoming attack. Instead of ripping the older man to shreds, the velociraptor retreated with an angry growl, and Randy lowered his arms in surprise. Travis dove into the grass next to his father-in-law when the ground rumbled against Randy’s back. He lifted his head to find two three-horns barreling after the velociraptors as the herd shifted around the hay meadow.

“I don’t think they know we’re here,” Travis whispered.

Randy nodded his head and sucked in a deep breath as he looked up into the hot Texas sky. He’d always known that he’d die on his ranch; he’d just thought it’d be of a heat stroke or tractor accident. He’d never dreamed that being eaten alive was even an option. He silently prayed to Almighty God that he and his family never come that close to it again.

The defending three-horns returned to their family and the cattle with triumphant bays, unaware of the two men hiding amongst the tall grass. Travis popped his head above the blades enough to spot the velociraptors retreating into the woods. He hoped that they wouldn’t catch Becky’s trail.

“We have to find Becky,” he said, dropping back down.

Randy nodded. “She ran toward the house. Call the girls. Let them know to be on the lookout