Bud Kennedy

Fort Worth’s Texas-sized Jackalope rides high again, after a hare-raising rumor

In Fort Worth, artist Nancy Lamb wonders what’s next for her sculpture, the Jackalope

Fort Worth artist Nancy Lamb describes the Jackalope she sculpted in 1983 for a long-gone arts and crafts store.
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Fort Worth artist Nancy Lamb describes the Jackalope she sculpted in 1983 for a long-gone arts and crafts store.

The Jackalope is saved.

For a few days last week, Fort Worth residents were panicked that the wrecking ball was awaiting the 8-foot-tall sculpture of the Texas-sized horned jackrabbit, towering high over Camp Bowie Boulevard.

The sign beneath on a former used car lot read like a threat: SO LONG JACKALOPE.

Motorists called City Hall pleading to save the Jackalope, a 1982 roadside sculpture listed in RoadsideAmerica.com and the book “Oddball Texas.”

“People are so crazed about this animal,” said Fort Worth artist Nancy Lamb. She built the hefty hare when late friend Kay Burkett Thomas opened Jackalope Pottery there, and the used car lot kept it.

“I had no idea it was going to last this long,” Lamb said.

The Jackalope will stand for years to come, landlord Robert Thomas said Saturday.

“I don’t intend to ever take it down,” he said.

The property is available for lease, he said. The Thomas family considers the Jackalope part of the appeal for the location, originally a Humble (now ExxonMobil) gas station built in 1960 at 5925 Camp Bowie Blvd.

“I don’t want to sell it,” he said.

“People say, ‘I take my kids by to see that! You can’t take that Jackalope down!’ ”

Car lot owner Robbie Baker is the only one saying “so long.”

His RLB Sales & Leasing moved to White Settlement.

When his company moved into the Jackalope space in 2001, there was brief talk of taking down the sculpture. But a public backlash rescued the rabbit.

Now, he’d like to buy the property, he said.

“I had two kinds of people come in asking about (the Jackalope),” he said.

“People either wanted to make sure it’s not going anywhere, or they wanted to buy it and put it on their ranch.”

In 1982, the Jackalope went up over the late Kay Thomas’ arts, crafts and garden store, a former gas station. Beatriz Terrazas Star-Telegram archives

The Jackalope drew attention from the day Lamb built it in 1982, working in a nearby backyard with help from artists Doug Blagg and Russ Eddy.

The Thomases wanted a Jackalope like a friend had in Santa Fe. That much larger store and its Jackalope artwork sold at auction in 2015 for $4.8 million.

The Cowtown cryptid is made of papier-mache and fiberglass.

“I took it to a boatmaker and he did the fiberglass for me,” Lamb said.

Roadside America lists it as “Big Jackalope On a Roof” and rates it alongside such attractions as the Christian Arts Museum’s lifesize “Lord’s Supper” wax statues, odd museums and Iggy the Giant Iguana, Bob “Daddy-O” Wade’s sculpture at the Fort Worth Zoo.

Along with horned lizard sculptures at TCU, the 50-foot “Man With a Briefcase” downtown and the Stockyards sculpture of rodeo bulldogger Bill Pickett biting a steer’s lip, the “Jackalope” is considered one of the public amenities that make Fort Worth “Funkytown.”

“It took like a week and a half to make, and it’s been up nearly 40 years,” Lamb said.

This is no ordinary rabbit.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.