Pick up your toys!


Right after “Eat your vegetables!” this is probably one of childhood’s least favorite memories.

I had a friend who got so tired of stepping on escaped Legos, abandoned Tinker Toys, and little plastic soldiers lined up to attack space invaders on the living room rug, that she threatened to throw everything out all at once – and good riddance!

And she actually did it. Except she really just piled everything into a garbage bag and threatened to set it out on the curb for the garbage truck to pick up.

A week later, after a week’s worth of crying and promising, Mom returned the hostages and the kids learned their lesson. It only took ten more years, a bunch more stubbed toes, and a hundred more “Pick up your toys!” Sometimes it seems like toys can last forever.

But what if it was your mother who left her toys laying around? Big toys. Toys nobody else could pick up. Toys so strange that people would actually, someday, pay to come and see.

I’m talking about a very special mother, not yours or mine, but maybe everybody’s: it’s Mother Nature.

She started playing with some of her toys way back about 400 to 350 million years ago. She was still young enough in those days to be playing with her building blocks, in a time geologists called her “Devonian Age.” Some of her building blocks in those days eventually became the core of the North American continent, including a little neighborhood we now call Chautauqua County.

In those days Mother Nature played with sea waves on sandy beaches, sand flats and salt meadows, and with ages of wind, waves, and meandering currents. Today, in our neighborhood, those toys have been pressed dry and squeezed into solid rock – and Mother is not finished playing with them yet.

Just yesterday, on Mother Nature’s time scale (10 to 20 thousand years ago) she played with the glaciers that carved out the scenic hills and valleys we live among today.

Among Mother’s most amazing, beautiful toys left over from that playtime are Chautauqua County’s famous Panama Rocks. It’s a good thing nobody has picked up her toys yet, She’s not done playing.

This week, the Jamestown Gazette’s guest contributing writer, Stephanie McCraw, invites us all outdoors to see one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful playgrounds. The Wild America Nature Festival to be held at Panama Rocks on July 27th and 28th will be a special treat for lovers of Mother Nature.

Set aside some special time soon to wander among the monumental, towering structures of Panama rocks, imagine a time not so long ago when prehistoric mastodons roamed the vast pine forests that used to cover Western New York, listen closely and you will almost hear the native American hunters and villagers who considered the rocks a sacred, immortal place of refuge and inspiration.

Fortunately, some people have been eavesdropping on Mother Nature’s toys and her playgrounds, looking over her shoulder, and writing it all down for the rest of us. They are called geologists, and Panama Rocks has been one of their most intriguing playgrounds for a couple of centuries.

Visit www.panamarocks.com and then visit one of the nation’s natural wonders for yourself. You’ll be glad nobody has made Mother Nature pick up her toys. She has left some of her best for us to play among.

And since you’re visiting our playground just now, please enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.