The Potter Valley cowboy stood tall as vandals cut off his first head and later shot his second head in the face. But now the 12-foot-tall redwood carving is missing, the apparent victim of high winds and thieves.
"It's shocking that somebody would drive up, load him up and take him away," said Carol Hale, whose husband sculpted the statue.
The cowboy was knocked over Friday by the same howling winds that toppled ancient oaks and ripped off roofs in Potter Potter, a rural community northeast of Ukiah. Hale said she and her husband, Noel, noticed it had fallen but were too busy dealing with electrical outages and other storm-related problems to deal with it right away. They called someone with a backhoe to lift the statue, but when they went out Monday morning, the statue, estimated to weigh 400 pounds, was gone.
"That just really upsets me," said Mendocino County Supervisor Carre Brown, a lifelong Potter Valley resident who knows the statue well.
Noel Hale, 81, an artist and retired mathematician, carved the statue in 1988 as a tribute to a well-known Potter Valley cowboy and what was then the new rodeo grounds.
It wasn't long before vandals and the isolated location of the rodeo grounds took their toll. Just days before the Potter Valley rodeo was scheduled to begin that year, rodeo organizers found that someone had climbed up the statue and sawed off its head.
"So Noel fashioned another head. That head stayed on for a couple more years," Carol Hale said.
Then, as before, organizers of the rodeo discovered just before the rodeo began that the cowboy had been shot in the face. Once more, Noel Hale made a new head.
When a new rodeo grounds was built three years ago, the rodeo organizers took the statue to Noel so he could refresh the time-worn cowboy.
Because of its past problems with vandals, the Hales decided it was best if the statue remained at their home in the middle of the valley along one of its busier roads.