Monday, January 7, 2008

The Reason Behind the Rhinos

It all started with a strange movie, a little known film called "Rhinoceros." I was in college and sometimes they would show these obscure movies on campus at a reduced price, just 25 cents. "Rhinoceros" was one of these two-bit flicks, and I wandered in one night to watch. The movie was about an offbeat middle-aged man who believed he was slowly, steadily turning into a rhinoceros. Each morning he would look in the mirror and check the bump on his forehead which he was sure would grow to become a great horn. And, as you might expect, his personality was transformed as well. No, this was not classic cinema and if there was some sophisticated point to the story, it was lost on me. But it was funny and it started me thinking about rhinos.

Later that year I started a ball team on campus to compete with the fraternities in intramural football. I called our team the Rhinos. Before long we were fielding a team in several sports, complete with snazzy black and gray uniforms and our own booster club - 47 college girls called the "Rhino Rooters." Hard to believe, isn't it? We had a lot of fun with that.

Well, the next summer I was a youth minister at a church in Topeka, and the kids noticed my Rhinos jerseys and t-shirt. After the summer the youth group gave me a stuffed rhino named Ronnie and thus began my great rhino hunt.

I guess I have nearly two hundred now, some as small as your little finger and a few that are 2-3 feet long. My rhinos have come from all over the world, exotic places like South Africa and Argentina, and close to home places like Swope Park Zoo and the Stuckey's up on I-70 at the Pilot Grove exit. I have stuffed rhinos, carved rhinos, wax rhinos, and stone rhinos. I have rhinos made from alabaster and crystal, rosewood and driftwood, pewter and porcelain. I have rhino mugs, rhino pens, a rhino letter opener, a rhino shoe horn. I have rhino necklaces, rhino belt buckles, and even rhino salad spoons. Other relatives and friends have been captured by the thrill of the hunt and have added to my rhinos. A missionary friend gave me an actual rhino tooth - a really cool part of my collection and a gentle reminder to brush regularly.

All this rhino stuff, the whole herd or "crash" technically speaking, stays on a few shelves in my office now. Suzanne seemed to struggle with working my rhinos into her home decorating plans. Imagine that. She suggested that maybe my office was a better place for me and my rhinos.

My kids have asked me more than once, "Dad, who gets your rhinos when you're dead?" Can't tell you how that warms my heart. Suzanne will probably just sell them all on ebay. Okay, maybe it's a little weird, but I guess everyone should collect something. How about you?

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