The Paul Bunyans
Westwood, CA  •  Viola, CA  •  Klamath, CA  •  Grants Pass, OR  •  Shelton, WA  •  Puyallup, WA  •  Portland, OR

Puyallup, WA

The Paul Bunyan statue at the Paul Bunyan Gun and Rifle Club in Puyallup, Washington has a new paint job. His pants are crisp black and his shirt is blue, but his skin is the pink of scar tissue. “I’m not crazy about the skin color,” Doug Shellen-berger, the gun club’s caretaker, says. “Too light. Next time we’ll mix it darker.”

Although Shellenberger wasn’t responsible for the statue’s pallor, he has added to the statue’s details over the years. “When you get up on the forklift, you can really see the details. See, I painted the buttons on his shirt and pants. You can see the hat has a tassel, so I painted that yellow.” The rest of the hat is green. The statue’s nostrils are freshly black, and the buttons running down his shirt are buff with a faint black outline.

“The eyes were tough,” Shellen-berger says. “I didn’t know if I should outline the irises or leave them be.”

Shellenberger, a retired timber cruiser, lives in a mobile home surrounded by dahlias and Douglas fir near the club’s entrance. Besides keeping tabs on who comes in and out of the club, he teaches junior marksmanship and has coached high school students to college scholarships in across the United States. “I do pretty well teaching the girls. They focus. The boys, though … it all goes in one ear and out the other.”As well as being the largest civilian shooting range in the Pacific Northwest, the gun club is a tree farm. The club has been named the Paul Bunyan Gun and Rifle Club since its inception, but it has only had a Paul Bunyan statue for about fifteen years. The statue originally stood outside a Dairy Queen across the street from the Hi Ho Shopping Center downtown. The Dairy Queen closed and a motel and restaurant opened in its place, still keeping the statue to greet motorists as they crossed the river from Fife.

In the mid-1980s, a windstorm snapped the statue off at the ankles, and members of the gun club persuaded the owners of the restaurant to retire Paul to the country. By then the statue had lost its axe. A few of the members loaded the statue on a flatbed truck, drove it to the club, and spent a year repairing it. They cut holes in its boots and filled them with cement so that the statue wouldn’t blow over in the winds that cut through the valley. They also fastened a guidewire to his back and tied him to a nearby tree.

After another year or so, a member of the club made the statue an axe out of PVC pipe and a few pieces of sheet metal. Eventually a family of swallows moved into the axe’s handle. Shellen-berger mounted another piece of PVC pipe on a tree next to the statue, but the swallows prefer nesting in Paul’s axe.

backward! onward!