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Around Del Norte: Big shoes to fill

Not just anyone can speak for Paul Bunyan. First you have to get hired by Trees of Mystery.
Not just anyone can speak for Paul Bunyan. First you have to get hired by Trees of Mystery. Del Norte Triplicate / Richard Wiens
Art reception at hospital; Klamath River Cleanup stats

Perhaps you noticed the help-wanted ad in the Triplicate classifieds the other day.

Gearing up for tourist season, Trees of Mystery was looking for sales clerks, cleanup and … Paul Bunyan.

The voice of Paul Bunyan, to be exact, someone to speak for the 49-foot, 2-inch-tall cement stucco giant that, beside Babe the Blue Ox, graces the entrance to one of Del Norte’s premier attractions.

It actually takes three and a half to four full-time employees to give voice to Mr. Bunyan from Memorial Day through mid-October. Males 18 and older are sought, and they have to be good at bantering with all those folks who approach the feet of the behemoth, kids and adults alike, asking questions such as “What’s your shoe size?”

Owner Debbie Thompson can’t give away too many secrets of how the worker speaking for Paul is in a position to chat up the tourists while also talking about the attraction’s trail of redwood wonders.

“It’s just like Superman or Batman,” she said. “If you really knew what was going on inside, it would just ruin it for everyone.”

Prospective Pauls must speak and even role-play with supervisors to “make sure our Paul Bunyan is politically correct,” Debbie said. “No ‘Hey cutie,’ can’t be any of that. It’s like interviewing to be a radio talk show host.”

With his ax, hairy chest and enormous size, this is clearly a manly character. Still, at one time Trees of Mystery toyed with the idea of using female speakers, even going so far as to try a “voice-changer machine,” Debbie says. Unfortunately, “the sound came out like Mickey Mouse. This big tall guy came out with a little squeak.”

Paul’s companion Babe gets plenty of attention as well, but no voice. However, he “used to move his head and blow smoke in his younger years.”

A brief history lesson: The Thompsons have owned Trees of Mystery since 1946. There have been three Paul Bunyan statues, the latest arriving in 1962 — which is also when he started talking. Babe has undergone changes as well, but there’s been one very noticeable constant: Babe was built by Debbie’s husband John and his father Ray Thompson out of a kit from Southern California. The designers “didn’t know the difference between a steer and an ox,” Debbie says. But the fact is that oxen are castrated. Babe is actually a steer — “that’s why he’s so well endowed.”

Art at the hospital

A few months ago Sutter Coast Hospital started displaying the works of its most artistic employees. The latest exhibit opens with a reception tonight from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for Dody Ufford, a physician’s assistant who just started oil painting last summer.

The inspiration for her work came from an unlikely place: Haiti, an earthquake-ravaged nation to which she’s been delivering vitamins and books on relief missions since that country’s devastating earthquake in 2010.

Dody, 60, came back with a lot of photographs, and the powerful images “captured the emotion of the Haitian people.”

Last August, she started painting some of those photographs. Until then, “being artistic wasn’t in my repertoire.”

After witnessing first hand the needs of the people of Haiti, she was inspired to start a grass-roots non-profit organization. She founded Haiti One Voice, in February 2010, just a month after the earthquake.

“Aftershock — People of Haiti” will hang in a hospital hallway for the next three months. Prints of the paintings will be for sale with all proceeds going to Haiti One Voice.

You can also see some of Dody’s paintings, along with the photographs that inspired them, at uffordart.com. To learn more about Haiti One Voice, go to haitionevoice.org

Cleaning up in Klamath

The results are in from the Yurok Tribe’s 12th annual Klamath River Cleanup.

Volunteers rounded up 40 yards of trash (4 tons), 20 yards of metal, 25 tires, one washing machine, one dryer, three refrigerators and 16 yards of invasive species (such as scotch broom).

The volunteers were treated to a free continental breakfast and a delicious salmon lunch, and also received T-shirts and reusable grocery totes to commemorate their participation. 

The Klamath River Cleanup is sponsored by the Yurok Tribe’s Environmental Program, the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department, the Yurok Tribe Department of Public Safety, and the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project. 

 


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