Moffat County Locals: Beary ‘Happy’ to meet you, says Sixth Street Bear
There’s one Craig local who’s become well known for standing around, essentially loitering, on Sixth Street.
But this upstanding citizen, despite his imposing figure, has a cheerful demeanor.
He never talks, but he has a lot to say.
His first word to his neighbors and anyone happening by is “Hi,” which is printed in bold, black letters on a white sign.
His name is Happy — Happy DeuPree, the carved bear.
Happy was created from the stump of a 90-year-old blue spruce tree that once stood in the yard of Elaine and Loyd DeuPree.
When the DeuPrees noticed their tree beginning to lean, they knew it was time for it to come down.
For a “healthy sum,” said Elaine DeaPree, in June 2002, they hired chainsaw-carving artist Ken Davis, of Montrose, who used his whittling skills to create Happy, who promptly became a community favorite.
“My husband and I just want to thank you for your wonderful tree carving of the bear ….” wrote neighbors Sally and Bill Nash in 2002.
It’s no accident Happy presents such an impressive appearance. Davis, his creator, has won numerous Whittle the Wood carving competitions, and other examples of the artist’s work are on display in Craig City Park.
The only instructions Davis received was to make sure the bear could hold a flagpole.
Happy is a patriot, and waving the American flag has become an important tradition he started in July 2002 to celebrate his first Independence Day.
Thugs stole Happy’s flag in 2011, and that wasn’t his only experience with abuse — someone tagged him with spray paint a few years later.
Happy was so angry at the disrespect shown to the flag, one might say the perpetrators are lucky he’s a non-violent kind of bear.
In fact, Happy tries to protect other animals.
Often, before hunting season, he brings out a sign that reads, “Run Bambi, Run.” And around, Thanksgiving, he encourages people headed to the nearby grocery store to “eat ham not turkey.”
To combat the boredom that comes from all that standing around, Happy dresses up for special occasions.
He enjoys dressing in festive costumes so much that he’s become a regular clothes horse, with a large closet in the garage.
Neighbors — including Vicki Huyser, who also assists him in getting dressed — helped make many of his costumes.
They help Elaine change Happy’s outfits about once per month, though they don’t have a regular schedule.
When it’s time for new duds, his helpers get together in the mornings. They’re careful to avoid very hot or very cold days. They also steer clear of stormy and windy days.
Happy advises, when changing clothes outdoors, it really is best to choose fair weather days.
This means that, after the Christmas holidays, when Craig weather can be cold and grey, he hibernates for a time.
Happy faces northwest, leaving his back exposed to the sun, so every spring, he receives a coat of linseed oil to seal and protect him. The oils give his textured wooden fur a deep patina.
While the bark is now gone from the stump upon which he stands, he’s not weathered and worn like some of the other carvings around town.
Happy has a few nicknames, one of them being “DuePree’s marquee.” He was given that name because he helps advertise community and school events.
Happy is also a community cheerleader, celebrating graduations, wedding announcements, births, and anniversaries — joyful occasions for the most part. But in March 2006, his sign read “we love and miss you papa,” to let neighbors know Loyd DuePree had died.
That was a hard time for Happy. He wasn’t sure if he had the spirit to clown around and be joyful all the time. But after a brief hibernation, he decided he needed to support his community.
He’s not usually political, but twice, Happy took political stands.
When a petition was circulating to unseat former District Attorney Bonnie Roesink, he asked the community to “think before signing petition. Support our DA.”
Roesink retained her seat, and in a letter to the editor, she wrote, “I want to thank Craig 6th Street Wooden bear. It has never made a political statement in the past. “
He also urged voters to “please consider ‘yes’ on 1A.” He was really worried that, without the passage of the mill levy, the Museum of Northwest Colorado and Moffat County Libraries would be left to the whims of politicians.
In Happy’s opinion, politicians aren’t like bears, because they don’t take the long view, and standing at more than 10 feet tall, Happy has a longer view than most.
He thinks the people of Craig could learn a little something from his story.
There he was, over 90 years old and not in the best of shape. Time and attention by loved ones, friends, and neighbors, however, brought out his true spirit — that of a benevolent bear.
First, a mighty tree, and now a mighty bear, Happy has been part of Craig for more than 100 years, and, hopefully, with a little love and care, he’ll be around for another 100.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.