Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oscar the Gator Becomes Park's 'Bone-a-Fide' Star; A Display of His Bones Will Be Ready for the Public in Two Months

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oscar the Gator Becomes Park's 'Bone-a-Fide' Star; A Display of His Bones Will Be Ready for the Public in Two Months

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

WAYCROSS - Jim Brewer and Don Berryhill have been working nearly two years on what can be best described as a 500-piece three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

The two men were given the task of mounting the bones of Oscar, the 13-foot, 5-inch, 1,000-pound alligator that dominated Okefenokee Swamp Park's waters for more than six decades. Oscar was nearly a century old when he died two years ago of natural causes.

Oscar was already the dominant alligator in the area when Swamp Park was being built in 1945.

He was considered docile around visitors, some of whom were surprised when they approached what they believed was a fake alligator until he was roused from one of his many naps on the grass or walkways near the gift shop.

Among the many stories told about Oscar is one about a woman who sat on the slumbering alligator to pose for a photograph. She escaped unharmed.

Even in death, Oscar remains so popular that the park's gift shop sells T-shirts with his likeness and a message publicizing his pending return as a "bone-a-fide legend."

The only work remaining is to custom build steel rods to hold Oscar's toe bones together and to seal the skeleton in a glass case. The display should be ready for the public within two months, the men said.

The challenge, they said, was what to do with the "floating bones" - abdominal ribs attached to the skin under the stomach and dozens of back plates that armor alligators from the shoulders to the tailbone.

After an exhaustive Internet search, the men said they realized it's unlikely anyone had ever assembled an alligator skeleton and figured out a way to mount the floating bones.

"We had to have some way to suspend it [the back plates] above the skeleton," Berryhill said. "We wanted it anatomically correct."

Brewer, a project manager with International Machine Technology in Waycross, was assigned to work as a consultant on the project. Brewer and employees at InternationalMachine designed a clear platform, curved like the back of an alligator, to suspend the back plates above the skeleton.

The abdominal rib bones are mounted under the skeleton on an illuminated platform. …

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