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Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 1999

STATUE HAS WILD SPRING BREAK TALE TO TELL

April 13, 1999

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Can a concrete bird fly? That's only one of the questions for the Belot family, whose abducted Jayhawk yard art traveled for more than 3,500 miles through nine states during spring break.

Don't bother asking how or why, but a concrete Jayhawk recently took flight for more than 3,500 miles across the western United States before returning to its garden nest on Nathan Drive.

The Jayhawk yard ornament -- dubbed "Stoney" by its abductors -- last month traveled through nine states and made at least 20 stops during spring break after being taken from the front yard of the Belot family home.

While mother goose Cindy Belot still doesn't know who pulled off the birdnapping -- she's already found alibis for more than a dozen suspects -- she'd like to uncover how anyone could lug a 19-pound statue from the Hoover Dam to a beach in Santa Barbara and seemingly everywhere in between.

The only clues: 22 Polaroid photos, an index card referring to "Operation Flyaway" and a pair of sunglasses left atop the Jayhawk's beak.

"These people were crazy and creative," Belot said. "You have to ask yourself, 'Who would do such a thing?' My first thought was it's probably one of my teen-agers' friends pulling a little prank.

"If you think about it much more than that, it gets weird."

Belot family members -- Allen, Cindy, Ellen, Katy, Lindsey and Marti -- hadn't expected trouble when they left home March 20 for a spring break trip of their own. Cindy caught a glimpse of the familiar Jayhawk as they left at 2 p.m. for the airport and a weeklong trip to Sanibel Island, Fla.

Nobody noticed that the yard art was missing upon their return, but two days later the mystery started.

Unexplained postcards arrived from Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. No signatures or notes. Just simple mailing labels, addressed to "The Belot Family."

Still unaware that their concrete yard fixture was out of town, the Belots had no idea what was going on.

"I thought we'd made part of a chain letter thing, so I just threw them away," Cindy said.

It wasn't until April 3 that Cindy discovered the next clue, as she tended to her hostas and daffodils outside. The bird was gone.

The bird returned from its forced westerly migration two days later. An unfamiliar "clinking" sound awakened Cindy from her slumber around 4 a.m., and by the time she went out to get the paper the bird was perched on the slate-covered porch, wearing sunglasses in the dark and carrying a Ziploc freezer bag filled with photographic "evidence."

The Belots never called police and don't plan on analyzing handwritten captions on the Polaroids or shaking down mischievous friends and acquaintances for information -- even if the Jayhawk was a Christmas gift from Allen Belot's brother, who is a federal judge in Wichita.

"I'm not upset or mad about it. I think it's very creative," Cindy said. "Gosh, my Jayhawk had a more exciting spring break than I did. He was in nine states while I was in one."

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.



COPYCAT CRIME?

The travels of the Belots' concrete Jayhawk lawn ornament resemble two other recent heists.

Phil -- a concrete frog -- was kidnapped early last year from a yard outside Boston, then taken to more than two dozen international stops -- including Zurich and London -- where its abductors mailed letters, postcards and Polaroids. In December, someone sent the frog home in a white, 28-foot stretch limousine.

"It seems he's been living the high life," said Gertrude Knight, the frog's perplexed owner.

Last summer someone stole a yellow checkered vest from the dressing room of Jeff Watson, a guitarist for Night Ranger, and he hasn't seen it since, unless you count Polaroids sent from the Space Needle in Seattle, a Titanic exhibit in Boston and Conan O'Brien's "Late Night" show in New York.

"My vest is having a more successful tour than I did," said Watson, whose group is known for the '80s hit "Sister Christian

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