Man builds concrete toothy garage monster

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. It wasn't a terrible radiation mutation that created the giant lizard that lumbered down a Grand Island street on a January afternoon.

It was the hands of a man who likes to see kids smile when they drive by his lawn.

Fred Schritt, owner of G.I. Body Shop in Grand Island, Neb., spent the past three weeks building a tyrannosaurus Rex out of steel and concrete.

The creature, which sports a big, open grin exposing long, sharp teeth, is about 8 feet high, 15 feet or so long and weighs 7,200 pounds.

Schritt said he built the creature, at a cost of around $800, because his Bigfoot was lonely.

"I have a lot of grandmas and grandpas who bring their grandkids up to see the yard," said Schritt, who has elk, deer, bears and a smiling, waving Bigfoot among his odd concrete men-agerie.

"The kids always ask, 'When are you going to get a dinosaur?' So I made a dinosaur."

Getting almost four tons of steel and concrete from the garages of G.I. Body Shop to the greener pastures of his home was no easy task.

It involved a wrecker trailer, two trucks and about six employees to make it happen.

During the transportation process, the dino dinged one of his feet, but no major damage took place.

"There were kids pointing and people were staring at it the whole way," said Harvey Ellis, who works at the body shop. "This one lady, she didn't even look up. I guess she was somewhere else."

While many of the reactions to the beast consisted of awestruck silence, some knew just how to react. Janet Schneider, Schritt's next-door neighbor, knew he was building a dinosaur, but nothing prepared her for seeing the beast in person.

"Man, Fred, that's a big mother," Schneider said as the truck bearing the creature approached. "I didn't think he'd actually bring it out here."

Schneider said she and her husband, Dick, are fans of their neighbor's nature sculptures and the unnatural ones. And they enjoy the traffic many of the pieces bring.

"There are a lot of people who come down the street just to see his stuff," she said. "He's talented, but he's a troublemaker."

Gaylord Marlens, a 24-year employee of G.I. Body, has seen a number of creatures come and go, and said nothing much surprises him anymore even lords of the earth from millions of years ago.

"That's what he did. He came in and said, 'I'm going to build a dinosaur,'" Marlens said of his boss. "We helped a little bit, but he did most of it himself."

Schritt said the entire project took him about 140 hours to complete, and inspiration came from some pretty strange places.

While the shape of the dinosaur came from a picture, the thunder lizard's toothy grin came from watching his dog bark, and examining how the mouth behaved.

It's that sort of thing that makes building his large sculptures so interesting. It also makes 65-year-old Schritt wish he had time to do more of them.

"If I was a young man, I'd build 'em and sell 'em all day," Schritt said. "I'm too old, but it's a great hobby. I didn't know I had any art talent until I tried doing something like this."

Mike Bockoven is a reporter for the Grand Island (Neb.) Indepen-dent.

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