The human imagination can be caught by anything. Yesterday mine was captured by an extinct giant ground sloth.
Vonda McIntyre and I visited Seattle's Burke Museum, a small museum of natural history on the University of Washington campus. Among other fossils sits the SeaTac Sloth. This creature -- or rather, its bones, minus the head -- was discovered in 1961 when SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma Airport) was undergoing construction. At what became the base of anchor 4B of FAA Approach Lighting System No. 1 at the north end of the airport, a construction worker found bones in the hole he was excavating. Work was immediately stopped and an expert summoned. (I love that image: "Cancel construction and get a paleontologist in here STAT!") The bones were identified as Washington State's only specimen of Megalonyx jeffersonii, a giant sloth that lived about 12,500 years ago, was about the size of a small cow, and ate vegetarian.
The name came from President Thomas Jefferson, who also discovered bones of one on his estate in Virginia. However, Jefferson was of the opinion that there might still be some of these creatures left deep in the unexplored American wilderness, peacefully munching away on roots and twigs in what would become Kansas. He was wrong, but that also is a nice image.
The museum's tiny gift shop did not, alas, have so much as a post card of the SeaTac Sloth, an unforgivable omission. They had buttons of pigs with teeth, puppets of saber-tooth tigers, and books about T. Rex, but nothing for the SeaTac Sloth. There just ain't no justice.