By Bill Loop
The Wellington Daily News
Colette Kocour has a scaly, stuffed sidekick.
For the past week, an 11-foot American Alligator has been riding shotgun in her vehicle.
“I’m glad I haven’t been pulled over,” Kocour said Friday, showing her new friend off in the parking lot at Futures Unlimited.
Is she planning on creating an alligator clothing line?
Maybe it’s a creative anti-theft device?
She is a certified lifeguard. Perhaps the reptile is a new buoy for her swimming students?
Does Kocour need to meet with a psychologist?
But if you know Kocour, you know she is on a mission to help.
The truth is, Kocour is on the decorations committee for the Jayhawk Roundup – a charitable event featuring a silent auction which garners funds for the Kansas University Alumni Association in Wichita. She also holds a board position for the Sumner-Cowley Chapter.
Kocour and her family bleed crimson and blue. She met her husband David in Lawrence, both graduating with degrees in Anthropology in 1973. Her sons Max and Wade Carr are fourth generation KU graduates.
An active alumnus, last year was her first participating in the Wichita event.
Already she is feeling pressure to outdo her find from last year – a giant elk rack that brought in a thousand dollars.
Kocour makes another call to Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas – the man who donated her infamous elk rack from the KU Natural History Museum.
“I was hoping it would be a snake in a jar or a bug.”
That would be too easy.
Incredibly, workers found the gator by accident. In fact, the origin of the creature is uncertain.
“Someone put him behind a wall in an exhibit. They didn’t know he was there, for decades. In 2009, they were redoing one of the exhibits and they find him. The herpetology department adopts him as their mascot.”
The alligator is thought to be more than 20 years old at the time of his death, weighing as much as 500 pounds. He most likely lived in a zoo, and his cadaver was probably used for educational purposes. He is stuffed with hay and a long pole, to keep his rigidity – although his tail bears a large crack.
“Don’t touch him,” Kocour warns as a curious hand hovers over his beady eyes. “He was preserved with pesticides, arsenic.”
Kocour’s new friend has been traveling with her to her job at Futures daily, where the preschool kids are given a close, but not too close, view of the sleeping giant.
Page 2 of 2 - Word travels fast about Kocour’s passenger, another viewing is offered to Eisenhower Elementary students – although the novelty is growing a little old for Kocour.
“His tail is making my seatbelt light come on and ding. It’s real annoying.”
Driving through Matfield Green, Kocour parks her car at a rest stop. Returning to her vehicle, an elderly couple stops to investigate the scaly tail protruding from the back seat.
“They ask, ‘Is that real?’”
The explanation begins again.
This past Saturday, Kocour had her wish. The gator found a permanent home selling for 619 dollars.
If you are a University of Kansas alum and would like to attend a future Jayhawk Roundup, register online at www.kualumni.org.
Who knows what Kocour is going to find next year. For her sake, hopefully it’s something smaller.