This man raises alligators and has done so for over thirty-five years. His family has owned the Arkansas Alligator Farm for over sixty. According to the sign out front, this establishment has been in business since 1902, and is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the state. He says has nothing against Big Arkie, who is billed as the largest alligator ever captured in Arkansas; but he points out that Arkie was a sixteen-footer. He says he called up papers when his nineteen-footer passed away and nobody seemed to be interested.
There are a couple of mounted giants here, one of them twelve feet long--one a bit longer. You know, if I had a roadside attraction featuring alligators and had a nineteen-footer pass away, I think I would mount that one instead of (or in addition to) the twelve-foot gators. I don't mean to imply anything by that, of course. After all, a guy who displays a mummified merman wouldn't make up a story about a nineteen-foot alligator, would he?
That little headstone is a memorial to somebody's fox terrier that was killed by alligators on that spot back in 1906. Maybe it's a joke. Maybe it's not.
I am assured that no alligators are harmed in this attraction, that these gators are not raised for their hides or meat; yet there are a relativelly large number of three-year-old alligators, and only a couple of seventy-five-plus-year-old alligators. I don't want to seem judgemental about it. For my money, alligators can be cattle just as can cows or catfish; but come on, man, do the math.
Along with the alligators there are a few museum exhibits, including the phonied-up, mummified carcass of this "merman." There is also a petting zoo featuring goats, emus, llamas and whitetail deer. I read in the paper last year that the species responsible for killing the most humans in America is the whitetail deer. I guess it makes sense once you take traffic accidents into account; but the irony is pretty palpable when you have them penned here next to all these ferocious-looking, albiet docile, alligators.
I got no clues here as to the whereabouts of the remains of Big Arkie. It is strange that one of our cultural icons could simply disappear. The curator of the museum of science and industry doesn't know where he is. The information office of the Game and Fish Commission doesn't know. The department of Parks and Tourism doesn't know. The guy at the reference desk of the L.R. Public Library doesn't know. The director of the reptile house at the zoo doesn't know.
The Arkansas Alligator Farm is on Whittington Avenue in Hot Springs.