Tucson's Paul Bunyan has ax stolen – Update from TPD

Someone stole Paul Bunyan’s ax.

Bunyan sans ax/Ryn Gargulinski

Bunyan sans ax/Ryn Gargulinski

We are not sure who or why, but we can bet it was a real ax-hole.

It’s a sad day in Tucson when even an 18-foot, muscular man cannot defend himself. Perhaps we should replace the ax with a gun.

The glorious statue, which has graced the corner of Glenn Street and North Stone Avenue for nearly 50 years, has been without his wood-chopping tool since at least Friday, Nov. 20.

One police theory, according to a report on KPHO.com, is that it was a prank by a fraternity, groups that often share the same intelligence level and mentality as those who blindly drink Kool-Aid.

Other theories include:

The ax is on its way to Mexico, where it will be chopped up and sold for its parts, not unlike most of the cars stolen from Tucson.

The ax is on its way to a tour around the world, where it will be photographed beside various landmarks and the photos sent back to Tucson. This practice has been widely used with Big Boy statues and garden gnomes.

The ax will be held for ransom until someone actually revitalizes downtown.

We are also unsure how the ax was taken, whether by ladder, ropes, pulleys, a cherry picker or helicopter, although we think a helicopter may have chopped off Bunyan’s head in the process.

A 1997 write-up in Tucson Weekly mentioned the ax is, or at least used to be, replaced by a candy cane during the holiday season. Maybe it’s in the midst of being changed over?

The Weekly blurb also said the Bunyan statue has made cameos in several movies, including Pocket Money, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More and Easy Rider.

Despite his celebrity status and landmark nature, Bunyan has been thoroughly abused throughout his time in Tucson. He has been shot and set on fire one holiday season while he was dressed in a Santa suit.

Bunyan was also nearly stolen off the flatbed truck when he first arrived in Tucson from California in the 1960s. He was once even dressed, at someone’s request, in a pink tutu.

Bunyan’s ax was also stolen once before in the 1970s, said KPHO, but Tucson was smaller then and it was returned through word-of-mouth.


“The theft of Paul Bunyan’s ax was clearly no axident,” said Tucson police Sgt. Fabian Pacheco. “We have not identified any suspects at this time. However, we are not ruling out fraternities or anyone else with an ax to grind against Mr. Bunyan’s owners.”

Pacheco added the theft most likely took place the night of Nov. 19 or early morning hours of Nov. 20.

He also expressed regret that this theft puts a damper on the prank calls used on rookies to see how they will react to the call of a “Man with an ax” on the corner of Stone and Glenn.

“Somehow a ‘Man with a sugarcane’ does not have the same effect on rookie officers,” Pacheco said. ” So, let’s cut to the chase and find Paul’s ax!”

No task force has been formed – at least not yet.

In happier days before the theft/Ryn Gargulinski

In happier days before the theft/Ryn Gargulinski

Bunyan today/Ryn Gargulinski

Bunyan today/Ryn Gargulinski

wb-logolilWhat’s the dumbest thing you ever stole?

Did you get caught?

What would be fitting punishment for the ax thief?

About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
This entry was posted in art, Crime, life, Police/fire/law, Stupidity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Tucson's Paul Bunyan has ax stolen – Update from TPD

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Babe, Bunyan’s ox, must be very blue today indeed!(Sorry Rynski…in keeping with your Ax-hole comment) 🙂 These pusillanimous perps must be shaking in their boots knowing that Tucson’s finest undoubtedly have the dragnet closing in on them at this very moment!(how do you hide an axe of that size?) I can’t believe nobody saw the deed in progress. Ps-I’ve always wondered why the heck the thing is there anyway?

    • Rynski says:

      mornin’ radmax! babe is surely blue – and i am, too (even though I’m more angry than sad).
      the statue is there because it was a promo piece for the hardware store that used to be on the corner. the hardware store has long since gone, but the statue remains, i guess, so it can slowly be ruined.
      i do hope TPD did set up an ax task force – i am currently awaiting a reply….also asked them about the helicopter theory….

  2. Jennatoolz says:

    OMG!! How terrible! People are so messed up sometimes. That’s a pretty big thing to get away with. I hope he gets it back…because now he just looks like he’s in the middle of an uncool dance move. Poor Bunyan!

    • Rynski says:

      hahha! you’re right, jennatoolz – he does look like a buffoon dancer. but, like i mentioned, maybe we should give him a big uzi or something instead of the ax to keep up with the changing crime rate.
      poor guy, for sure.

  3. native says:

    I kinda want to hang a giant shopping bag in his hands that has the “shop local” slogan on it.

    • Rynski says:

      that’s a good replacement, too, native. maybe even a bit more positive than the uzi option (haha).
      so if we don’t get the ax back, we should definitely give him something else to hang out to – preferably something that is BOLTED through his hands….

  4. lifeshighway says:

    This is a crime against nature! Although Paul is set up nicely to begin violin lessons. Just saying.

  5. leftfield says:

    Is nothing sacred? 

  6. azmouse says:

    Pretty lame….
    Maybe, after all these years, he’s ready for a ‘Mrs. Bunyan’ to put in his arms.

    • Rynski says:

      awww, you’re such the romantic. what would mrs bunyan even look like? she’d have to be big boned, striking – and get along with babe.

      • azmouse says:

        I was thinking she should look a little like Lucy. Red hair, kind of pulled up a bit, with a cool retro dress on.
        The only problem is, one of his hands looks like it would be just about right to hold up one of her boobs.

      • Rynski says:

        maybe she can be doing a back dip dance move and the boob hand can be supporting her back instead? hahahhahahha
        lucy look sounds good. def. a retro dress. perhaps aqua blue print of some sort….

      • azmouse says:

        Yes…aqua blue, or seafoam green, with pink polka dots.

        You’re right! I see it now….
        the boob hand becomes a support arm, like a small dip, with the other hand at her waist. Perfect!!!
        That’s why you’re the artist. You have amazing vision.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hmm…Photoshop opportunity? I’m thinkin yes! Hahaha.

      • azmouse says:

        Yes, with a picture of Lucy!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Now I wish I would have brought my laptop to work with me today! It would have given me something to do! Lol!

  7. ralfie1 says:

    Can I aks you one question, about it?

  8. koreyk says:

    Here’s a great article from roadsideamerica.com on the origin of the species.  And, a muffler man map of the US.

    • koreyk says:

      The Tucson Paul Bunyan is not the one in Easy Rider, as can be easily determined by comparing the buildings in the background.  Also the position of the hands and the angle of the axe are somewhat different between the two.  Some muffler man aficionados believe it is one of the Paul Bunyans in Flagstaff (where portions of Easy Rider were actually filmed), but there are no trees or mountains visible in the background, and both are now on the NAU campus.

      Pocket Money and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore were filmed entirely in the Tucson area, and our Paul is definitely the one in both of those films.


      • Rynski says:

        thanks for inside info, koreyk!
        i used to love easy rider when i originally saw it – then i watched it again none too long ago and found it incredibly boring.
        it would have been more exciting, i’m sure, if the tucson paul bunyan was in it – haha.

  9. koreyk says:

    Here’s a story I heard when I was in college that is probably apocryphal, but should be true.

    It seems some fraternity boys bought a pole from a local barber shop, and went to remove it at three in the morning.  When the police came, due to a tip that they themselves phoned in, they showed the bill of sale and were left to finish their business.  They repeated the scenario the next several nights until the cops wised up and didn’t bother to investigate.  It was then that the frat rats safely stole all the barber poles in town.

  10. Carolyn Classen says:

    82% of the voters are either mad or sad, or both over this theft.  We drove by tonight and saw Paul Bunyan sans ax.  Hope the fools who stole it return it soon.  Remember when someone stole the Ronald McDonald statue on Speedway from the R M House?  That one was found and luckily returned.

    • Rynski says:

      hey carolyn,
      yes, i am glad, as per the poll, that people care about this. i hope the fools who stole it return it soon, too.  some people really need get lives if this is their form of amusement.
      the ronald mcdonald statue theft was before my time here, or at least i’ve not heard of it. but glad to hear it was returned (even though ronald is not my favorite character…it’s not like they stole GRIMACE or something…).

      • Carolyn Classen says:

        The Ronald McDonald house used to be just east of the Sun Station Post Office on Speedway, and years ago someone stole the clown statue from the bench that was sitting outside.  The statue was recovered with an arm missing.  Yes, these are the vandals and thieves that deface statues in town,  since they seem to have nothing better to do with their time & energies.

  11. Chris says:

    I drove down Stone on Wednesday evening, the 18th, and the Ax was missing at that point, so it was gone before Friday.

  12. azstargirl says:

    now that is lame, nice going Tucson . ya think it was part of the ax for crack exchange program ?

  13. Diane says:

    A couple times a year my family would drive by the huge axe-wielder on our way to Shakey’s Pizza (now long gone) in the early 70’s.  My little brother and I would hide every time in the back of the Chevy stationwagon for fear of being “axed”.  Maybe it’s best that the weapon was stolen so no other kiddies have to be frightened into stuffing their heads into their seat cushions.

  14. Carolyn Classen says:

    News update: KOLD 13 reported that this stolen ax has been returned, “no questions asked”.  Meanwhile there’s a large red/white candy cane in the giant’s hands for the holidays.

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