High Desert head turners

By Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin


Published Sep 15, 2008 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

How many people, I wonder, have had this experience:

You spend an afternoon shopping at Costco, Old Navy, and Barnes and Noble. If not for the fresh, crisp air, you could be in 100 other cities. Then, you hop in your car and head for home, south on 27th Street. After driving for just a few moments, something on the left side of the road catches your attention.

You do a double take and exclaim: “Whoa! Did I just see a giant chicken?”

Turns out, it’s actually a rooster. But the answer is still yes. Yes, you did.

The massive rooster statue (no official name just yet) sitting in front of Eastside Gardens is one of those quirks that helps make Central Oregon its own place: Distinct, fun and, well, just different.

Many of these oddball features are tied to local small businesses. They are looking for something, anything, to make people stop or slow down. Or they just want to showcase some object they like because, well, it’s their business, and they can do what they want.

But there’s something about the giant rooster or, say, the old wooden Indian that has stood on a corner in Redmond for 50 years, that doesn’t feel like business self-promotion. They seem special somehow, and, if they last long enough, almost iconic.

Every place has its quirks. These are just a few from this place of ours.

Giant rooster

Eastside Gardens, 61780

S.E. 27th St., Bend

Completely irreverent and silly. That’s how the employees at Eastside Gardens see the giant rooster that sits in front of the business in east Bend. And that style perfectly fits into the fun, playful nature of the business.

The rooster, which arrived about two years ago, is the only thing in the nursery not for sale, according to manager Cheryl Lewis. She likes that it creates a little bit of humor.

Owner Chester Cocco saw some guy selling the rooster on the side of the road and just had to have it. Lewis says people stop daily to check out the rooster, which is about 8 or 9 feet tall.

“We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. It’s a reminder of that lightheartedness,” Lewis said. Which, in a way, is what all of these Central Oregon quirks offer us.

Wooden Indian

Cent-Wise Sporting Goods and Hardware, corner of Sixth Street and Evergreen Avenue in Redmond

There’s something about this wooden Indian that seems to make Redmond residents feel nostalgic.

Just looking at the old fellow — with bits of wood showing under chipped paint, a seriously cracked base and a blue drop of paint streaking down the side of his cheek, almost like a tear — one can tell he’s been around for a while. About 50 years, to be exact, according to general manager Tory Allman.

Allman says the owners purchased the 5-foot-tall statue when the town was trying to embrace an Old West look. The statue is frequently kidnapped. The Hot Shots firefighters adopted him as a mascot, he’s made an appearance at a retirement party for a police chief and has even been known to appear on top of residents’ roofs. But Allman doesn’t worry about the Indian being damaged. He’s far too beloved.

Allman thinks he reminds people of “back when Redmond was smaller and everybody knew everybody.”

Right now, community members are working to raise some funds to have the wooden Indian restored to his previous

glory.

Muffler family

Cliff’s Repair and Auto Sales,

330 S.W. Culver Highway, Madras

About five or six years ago, Cliff Dwy decided he wanted to do something a little different with his business. He’s not sure exactly how the idea struck him, but he decided to create a family out of mufflers.

With a bit of help, he created a man, and later a woman and child, out of old car parts. The bases are big truck drums, the legs are tubing for exhaust pipes, the bodies and heads are made out of mufflers. The woman is wearing curlers made from springs, and the hands are cut out of metal. The man sports an odd accessory on top of his head: a large plastic owl, to deter birds.

“It puts a smile on people’s faces; it has a purpose,” said Dwy. He says the figures, which are each about 7 feet tall, attract plenty of attention from customers, and one even asked him to make similar figures for his yard.

Griz

Ken’s Sporting Goods, 136854 N. U.S.

Highway 97, Crescent

In terms of business investments, purchasing a truly massive fiberglass-and-steel grizzly bear might not seem like the most obvious. But when Ken Jordan decided to buy Griz (as he’s known to locals) 20 years ago for about $16,000, he knew what he was doing. The bear, which sits atop Ken’s Sporting Goods in Crescent, attracts tons of customers to the store, according to current owner Chuck Defoe, who bought the place from Jordan about six years ago. During the summer, Defoe says about 30 to 40 people stop each day to take pictures of the bear (and while they are there, end up coming in to check out the shop, which doubles as a sporting goods and liquor store).

“(People) love it. It’s just so unusual,” Defoe said. “It’s a landmark is what it is.”

Griz, who wears a defiant scowl and is holding a fish, is 16 1/2 feet tall and hollow. Jordan needed a crane to place the bear on his perch above the building. But Griz doesn’t actually sit on top of the store; he’s stationed on a solid steel pipe that’s lodged in the ground, giving him a sturdy base. Defoe would like to see Crescent embrace more quirky landmarks like Griz. The RV park he owned has a large bronze elk statue in front of it, and the nearby Woodsman Country Lodge features a big lumberjack.

Mini Flaming Chicken

About 1.5 to 2 miles down Phil’s Trail, a mountain bike trail outside of Bend

It’s a mystery exactly who is responsible for this striking mini replica of the roundabout art at the corner of Northwest 14th Street and Galveston Avenue in Bend (officially known as “Phoenix Rising” but playfully referred to by local residents as the “flaming chicken.”) But, in a way, not knowing who created it just makes the Mini Flaming Chicken all the more fun.

According to Mike McMackin, the general manager for Hutch’s Bicycles, it’s fair to say that the piece was created by a local artist who is an avid mountain biker.

The artwork appeared at a junction where several bike trails come together to form a roundabout around three or four years ago, about the same time controversy about roundabouts was heating up locally. “It’s a great parody of what was done on 14th,” McMackin said. “Now, it’s probably the coolest roundabout in Central Oregon.”

Polar bear

Shell Gas Station, 722 N.W. Sixth St.,

Redmond

This bear is one local quirk that may soon disappear. Within the next six months to a year, the 9-foot-tall polar bear standing in a giant glass box will be removed from his post at the Shell gas station in Redmond.

The bear, killed in Alaska in 1966, was not made for the desert climate, according to owner Dave Standerwick. He has been deteriorating over the years, and when the station is remodeled, the bear will go.

In summer months, a few people stop by the station each day to see and snap their picture next to the giant, yellowing bear.

“In some ways, we like having him around,” Standerwick said.