This is Big Al, an advertising totem posted in front of Highlander Cycle and Outdoor shop in Russellville. He's a pretty fantastical apparition, but he's more scientifically accurate than first impressions might suggest.

For instance, he's ten feet long from tip to tail. That's how big these turtles can get. Not kidding. The largest ever caught weighed over three hundred pounds. The facial expression also reflects nature. These turtles lurk on the bottoms of rivers and sloughs with their mouths gaping wide. Fleshy processes on their tongues resemble worms. When an unsuspecting minnow comes after the lure, SNAP! Alligator snapping turtles are known to live at least 300 years. To put some perspective on that, it was 300 years ago that Edmund Halley suggested that comets orbit within the solar system and periodically reappear. About 300 years ago Anne was Queen of England and Russian Czar Peter the Great was working in an English shipyard.

The arms and legs are not accurate. Of the turtle, that is. I'm sure Peter the Great's arms and legs were just fine. Artists Beau and Claire of Fox replaced the limbs with some Homer Simpson arms and legs so that Al could better ride his bike. The colors are wrong for a turtle, but about right for the world of cycling. You'll notice they painted him with a permanent yellow jersey.

The medium is cement on a steel wire frame. The interior cavity is stuffed with a year's worth of old bicycle tires from the shop. Better there than in a landfill.

There's also a Little Al in an aquarium inside the bicycle shop. Shop owners Bryon and Michelle Moudy are both biologists and can tell you all about snapping turtles as well as sell and repair bicycles. Their shop is located at 1001 North Arkansas Avenue in Russellville.


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