Update: The Mason County Sheriff's Office located the ax in the Lake Cushman area, and the family retrieved it late Tuesday night. This story will be updated later.
Original story: Shelton’s iconic Paul Bunyan statue may be forced into retirement.
The 21-foot-tall fiberglass figure was being towed to an event last weekend, when its 12-foot ax slipped out of its hands somewhere along Highway 101 near Shelton, according to owner Lloyd Prouty.
“I drove up there five or six times — I couldn’t find it,” he said.
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Prouty called the police and State Patrol to find out if the 50-pound ax may have caused a crash. It didn’t.
“I would have been sick if it would have hit somebody,” Prouty said.
On Monday, Prouty’s daughter Kathleen Otto learned that a woman posted an ad on Craigslist about finding a giant-size ax alongside the road near Shelton.
Otto said they were initially hopeful that the ax would be returned after speaking and emailing with the woman. But their last exchange led them to believe that the woman may have decided to try and sell the ax to a third party, Otto said.
On Tuesday, Otto and Prouty reached out to The Olympian, hoping that publicity would help get the ax returned.
“Somebody knows somebody,” Otto said. “How do you hide a 12-foot ax?”
They also filed an incident report with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.
Detective William Adam confirmed there is an active investigation. He noted that the Paul Bunyan statue is a part of Shelton’s history.
“Anybody who’s grown up in the community, or has been here more than a couple of years, would know about it,” Adam said. “It’s usually in the Forest Festival every year.”
The statue stood in front of the Binger’s Gas Station for years before it was bequeathed to the local high school. About 20 years ago, Prouty helped lead an effort to get the statue restored so that it could travel to festivals, parades and other events.
In 2011, a Shelton resident donated $11,000 so that Prouty could commission a fiberglass statue of Babe the Blue Ox to accompany Paul to various events.
“I’ve been taking Paul around for 20 years and everything comes out of my pocket,” Prouty said.
He said if the ax isn’t returned, he plans to retire the statue from the parade and festival circuit.
Meanwhile, Otto said she hopes that deputies will be able to find the ax, or convince the woman who claimed finding it to return it.
“I think of Paul Bunyan as that pesky little brother that I didn’t want to babysit,” she said. “I would do anything to get it back. ... It just makes me sad.”