The annual summer trip, now going into its sixth year, has always had its share of mischief, and mayhem. Year 2, in Bend, Oregon was not different.

We had read stories about people “borrowing” lawn gnomes, and lawn jockeys from lawns in their cities, and taking them on journeys. The gnomes would go to Europe, on tours of the U.S.A, anywhere really. On these travels the gnome would send back postcards and souvenirs from his adventures. We thought this idea was very funny, and decided to do it as well.

There were problems though.

Redding for some reason doesn’t have a large lawn gnome contingent. For that matter Redding lacks any lawn jockeys as well. We spent weeks prior to our trip, driving the neighborhoods of Redding, looking for something suitable to ‘borrow” and take on vacation with us. No neighborhood was safe. We drove affluent neighborhoods, slums, apartment complexes, and trailer parks. We went everywhere. We’d make notes on items that had promise, in case we couldn’t find a real gnome, or a jockey.

There were things that had potential, like Fern boy. Fern boy was a plant holder shaped like a small child, only minus the head. A huge fern occupied where his head would be. We decided while he was very funny, he was also very large, and would require consistent watering to avoid killing him. There were statues of Buddha, giant frogs, and other assorted oddities. None however had that special something, to make us want to take it on vacation.

Finally, there was a break in the clouds.

The Knolls is a very rich neighborhood in west Redding. The streets are named after different wine varieties, and the houses probably go for about a million dollars apiece.
A large gate protects the community. You have to call someone in order to gain entrance, or just wait, and follow someone else in. Which is what we did. On one of the streets we saw something that would be a perfect addition to our summer trip…Gus.

Gus was not a lawn gnome, or a jockey, he was a, well, Uhm, I’m not sure exactly WHAT he was. He was funny looking though. Gus was a little fat Italian guy with a wine flask, and very laidback look on his face. The people whom he lived with obviously had a very special attachment to him because he had his own pedestal made into the side of the house, with a light. After very minor deliberations, we decided he was the one, and set up a time to liberate him.

One evening Pecos and I went out for a few cocktails, to discuss our plan. Once it was late enough, we left the bar and headed for The Knolls. We decided to go in through the back entrance, which was not gated but required driving through some dirt to get in. Once inside, we went to the house, and went to get our new friend. There was Gus, lit up by a small floodlight, supervising his domain.

Pecos was in the passenger seat, and the obvious choice to physically remove him. I would stay and man the getaway car. We had made a note to leave in his place. The note informed his owners he was going on vacation, and would keep in touch. It also let them know he wouldn’t be harmed.

Pecos jumped out of the car, and ran to go fetch Gus. Gus was a little heavier then Pecos anticipated. When he first removed him from his spot, Pecos almost fell over. It took both hands, and a lot of energy to lug him across the yard and into the car.

“SH*T he’s fu*king HEAVY!!” Pecos said.

“Really?” I said. I figured he’d have been hollow.

The trip was still a few days away, so Gus lived on my back porch and waited.

The day of the trip finally came. I loaded him in the back seat, belted him in. ( I didn’t need him flying through the air in case of an accident) Pecos rode with me until we got to Bend. Once in Bend he switched cars, and I loaded the keg of Beer in with me. It was me, a 100 pound keg of beer in the front, and a 75 pound lawn drunk in the back, going to our cabin at Elk Lake.

The trip was very fun, and we’re pretty sure Gus had a great time as well. We took pictures of him engaged in a variety of activities, just relaxing and enjoying his time off. We sent postcards back to his house, so his family would know he was having a good time, and was thinking of them.

When the time came to leave we loaded him back up, and went home. A week passed and we got the pictures developed (double prints) and made another journey to the Knolls, to take him back. When we returned him we put him back exactly where he had been before with a set of pictures from his trip by his feet.

We didn’t know the people at all, so unfortunately we’ll never know just how they reacted to it. Did they have a sense of humor? Were they pissed? I hope they realized it was all in fun, and we took better care of their stone statue than we did of ourselves. Gus was so much fun that we had planned to liberate him every year, and make it tradition. Sadly, his family never returned him to his perch. We don’t know whether the people moved, or just were so mad they moved him.

We tried the following year to obtain some lawn decorations for our trip, but they just didn’t have the same feel as Gus. So they never got any attention.

I still drive by the same house every year though, looking for Gus, to see if he’s ready for vacation again.