Day Trips

Bob 'Daddy-O' Wade's sculptures made of junkyard parts or shiny urethane can be found in the most unusual places

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

A tour of Bob "Daddy-O" Wade's art takes in a pretty good swatch of Texas. You can find his unique sculptures made of junkyard parts or shiny urethane in the most unusual places.

Wade is one of those iconic Texas artists that you might not know by name, but you recognize his art – from the New Orleans Saints football helmet atop the Shoal Creek Saloon on Lamar Boulevard in Austin to the dancing frogs at a truck stop on I-35. "I'm so old that my stuff is being refurbished," Wade says.

Austin has the largest concentration of Wade's public work. Besides the aforementioned football helmet, made from a Volkswagen body, there is the fish jumping out of the water at Hula Hut, a two-headed longhorn at the County Line restaurant, and the Ranch 616 restaurant's rattlesnake. Wade also made the "world's longest longhorn horns" currently hanging in the University of Texas Alumni Center.

Wade provided the following list of his art installations and commentary exclusively for "Day Trips" readers.

Waco: Funny Farm Family, the Art Center, 1300 College Dr. (on the McLennan Community College campus). A series of colorful bomb casings and steel, the still life was made in 1968 for HemisFair Park in San Antonio. This is his oldest public piece in Texas.

Carl's Corner: Dancing Frogs, exit 374, I-35 East, north of Hillsboro. Originally called Six Frogs Over Texas, it was done for the Tango nightclub in Dallas which was owned by a relative of the owner of Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. After the club closed, the frogs survived the fire that destroyed the truck stop. Three of the frogs were sold to Chuy's in Houston, and three stand outside the new gas station and entertainment center. Wade also did the truck-shaped billboard north of the truck stop and the wooden nickel on the east side of the highway.

Wichita Falls: Ghost Riders in the Sky, the Kemp Center for the Arts, 1300 Lamar St. Wade got the two motorcycles riding up a 25-foot telephone from a local dealership. "It was a community effort," he says. All of the work was donated.

Abilene: Dinosaur Bob, National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, 102 Cedar St. On the roof across the street from the museum, the sculpture is a rendition of the children's book character. When the owners announced plans to demolish the piece, citizens raised funds to refurbish the dinosaur and move it to its present location.

Muleshoe: Giant Prickly Pear Cactus on the Roof, Leal's Mexican Restaurant, 1010 W. American Blvd. Wade built this piece for a restaurant in Dallas. Coming back from New Mexico, he discovered the 30-foot-long cactus. He has no idea how it got there.

San Antonio: World's Largest Cowboy Boots, North Star Mall, Loop 410 at San Pedro. Junkyard Dog, Alamo City Inc., 1201 Somerset Rd. The 40-foot-tall boots are 30 years old and were originally at the Washington, D.C., Arts Center. The base for the dog is a 1966 Plymouth Fury standing on end. It was built for a friend who quit being a lawyer to find honest work as a used car parts dealer.

Del Rio: Giant Sixshooter, Humphreys Gun Shop, 124 E. Garfield Ave. Wade was in town to give a lecture when he was asked to do a piece for the city. Made of a barrel, stove pipe, and stucco; the gun shop paid the expenses and uses the sculpture in its Internet ads.

Houston: Smoke Sax, Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond Ave. Three Frogs on a Roof, 18035 S. I-45 (see Carl's Corner). The saxophone was built on site in three weeks using a Volkswagen body, oil field pipe, and a surfboard for the mouthpiece. The piece was to be moved to Sixth Street in Austin, but the building's new tenant decided to keep it.

957nd in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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Bob 'Daddy-O' Wade, Shoal Creek Saloon, Hula Hut, County Line restaurant, Ranch 616, McLennan Community College

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