A glimpse into our family – the good, the bad, and, of course, the funny

Why I changed my major to English – a very embarrassing story June 1, 2012

When I was eight years old, we lived near Burlington, VT.  It was beautiful there, and the house that we lived in bordered woods that we loved to explore.  We found creeks, trails, and even old sugar shacks.  There were always things to do and adventures to be had.  My middle sister (my youngest sister was just a baby) and I had vivid imaginations, and it wasn’t unusual for us to be in the woods for hours at a time acting out whatever drama we had conjured up for the day.

that’s me on top of the sister totem pole

Imagine my surprise one day when my pretending turned into a real adventure.  As I was traipsing through the woods, something caught my eye under some greenery.  I investigated and realized I had uncovered something monumental.  It was a bone.  A backbone to be precise.  I brushed it off and ran home to show my parents.

My dad and my grandpa took one look at the bone and started whispering to each other.  I knew I heard the word “dinosaur” in their murmurings.  I was so excited!  To think that I had uncovered a dinosaur bone was a dream come true!  They stopped whispering and talked to me very seriously.  They told me that I should take that bone to school to let the librarian try to identify it.

That’s exactly what I did.  I remember plopping that backbone right on the librarian’s desk the next day at school.  I vaguely remember the librarian’s discomfort and hesitancy to handle the specimen.  She guessed it to belong to a long-gone cow and politely asked me to pack it back up and take it out of her library.

For some reason, I was unfazed.  I took it back home, and my dad and grandpa agreed she was unreasonable in her assessment.  My grandpa offered to use his new computer (those were uncommon back then) to write a letter to the Vermont Museum for me.  We asked them to identify the bone, and dad and grandpa kindly packaged the bone and sent it and the letter to the museum.

English: Digging dinosaur fossils in the field

English: Digging dinosaur fossils in the field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The letter I received a few weeks later in response was one of the best moments of my life.  It came from the Vermont Museum, and it was addressed to me.  My hands were trembling as I opened it.  I read that letter over and over.  It thanked me for my contribution to the museum – the contribution of a dinosaur bone!  It went on to identify the species of dinosaur and to tell me that the bone would be displayed in the museum.  Wow!  I was thrilled.

English: A dinosaur in the natural history mus...

English: A dinosaur in the natural history museum, NYC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to me in college.  I was a biology major taking every class offered by the head of the science department, Dr. Allen.  He was brilliant, his classes were challenging and thought-provoking, and I had to work really hard to make A’s in his classes.  It was important to me to impress him.  I even facilitated a study group for one of his biology classes.

One day, his lecture was on dinosaurs, and I (being the overachiever that I am) raised my hand and told him and the rest of my collegiate biology class about the discovery I made in Vermont as an eight-year-old.

I remember feeling my confidence in my story waver a little bit when he asked me for the details, but I knew I had the evidence at home – the letter from the Vermont Museum.  I ignored his obvious skepticism and smugly assured him I would bring the letter with me the following day.

I went home and dug through the years of school work, art, awards, and report cards my mom kept from my years of schooling.  After quite a search, I finally found it, still in the original envelope addressed to me.

My mind went back to the first time I read that letter.  I relived those proud moments before I opened it – the moments I contributed to the anthropological history of the great state of Vermont – the day I confirmed that I had discovered a dinosaur bone.

I looked at the envelope.  Huh, that’s funny – no return address…

I opened it and unfolded the official letter from the Vermont Museum.  And it’s not on letterhead.  Maybe they didn’t have it back then…

Then I read the letter, and my world came crashing down.  This is a hoax!!!  The letter is a fake!  

I quickly found my dad and confronted him with the letter, and he readily admitted his part in the joke.  Good one, eh?  Grandpa and I really had you going.  You ate that up when you were little.  You really thought you found a dinosaur bone!  


My dad rolled on the floor laughing.

And I promptly changed my major from biology to English.

True story.


21 Responses to “Why I changed my major to English – a very embarrassing story”

  1. sherbear64 Says:

    Let the record state, I had nothing to do with this!

  2. bjones1031 Says:

    Well, at least you know you have a great dad! Made me laugh like crazy.

    • mandyholbert Says:

      My dad comes from a long line of bull-story tellers. My grandpa was a master, and from what I hear, so was his dad. I just can’t believe that I truly believed that story for all those years. Good thing someone told me Santa isn’t real – that could have been embarrassing, too!

  3. Margaret Langston Says:

    This is too funny, but of course as a fellow English teacher I’m glad I changed your major. Shame on dad and grandpa.

    • mandyholbert Says:

      No harm done – other than my total embarrassment. I ended up being a much better fit as an English major, anyway, so it all worked out in the end! Thanks for reading!

  4. lorajbanks Says:

    At the part when you started to look for the letter, I was actually overcome with dread. I would have punched my dad or something terrible. Much more terrible than changing my major.

    • mandyholbert Says:

      Well, looking back, I guess I should have realized this was a joke much earlier. I mean, come on…a dinosaur bone under a bush in Vermont…it’s a little far-fetched now that I think about it! Ha-ha!

  5. Sandy Hankins Says:

    how have i never heard this??? priceless…

  6. mitman64 Says:

    Well, our intentions were to Help you realize just how exciting “science” is and to encourage your interest in science. I humbly submit –> We did it! 🙂

  7. betsyk1 Says:

    Awh, what a let down! I mean for you. For me as a reader, not so much. 🙂 See the whole experience was worth it now thanks to The Blog!

  8. Teresa Cleveland Wendel Says:

    What a great story! It’s the kind of prank I would play on my kids, but I never got to because they never found a dinosaur bone.

  9. ememby Says:

    awesome – the prank that just keeps on giving!

  10. James Washick Says:

    You made a great English major, so I am glad you switched. Though I am sure that you made a great Bio major, I enjoyed having you in our camp.

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