Ol' Thickskin

This seven-foot upright alligator caricature stands outside Who Dat's Louisiana restaurant along highway 367 in Bald Knob. The self-taught artist is Ms. Jeri McDaniel, a New Jersey transplant who works at the restaurant. The gator, her fifth sculpture, is constructed of fabric scraps impregnated with paint and draped over a steel rebar frame. So far, all of her works have been sculpted for parades, and all have been constructed in pretty much the same medium, although her first attempt was a eight-foot eagle made of papier maché and muffler pipe instead of cloth and rebar. This proved less durable than desired, and she quickly improved her materials and technique.

Incidentally, the eagle made an appearance in the Little Rock parade welcoming troops home from Operation Desert Storm.

About a week before I took this picture, a float sponsored by Who Dat's won top honors in the float competition in a local parade. Other participants, costumed as mud bugs, wallowed in a giant bowl of crab boil on the same flatbed trailer with the alligator pictured here. After the parade, Ol' Thickskin became semipermanent advert/lawn ornament for Who Dat's. My trip took me by in the morning hours, so I didn't get to eat lunch there, but I talked to the top guy on the phone and he sure sounds authentic. I'll have to arrange my next trip so I get to Bald Knob during lunch so I can sample the koozeen.

RTJ -- 5/21/97

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