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Scott Forbes of Nevis spent 115 hours repairing Big Larry, the downtown Park Rapids moose. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Familiar moose returns to downtown Park Rapids

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After a year of convalescing, extensive cosmetic surgery and rigorous rehabilitation, "Big Larry" returned to Moose Creek Village Tuesday morning.

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Big Larry is the name of the sculptured moose on Main Avenue that was vandalized one year ago downtown.

The crime has never been solved. The moose's antlers and legs were crushed by vandals wielding weapons of mass destruction. Police theorize it was lassoed with either a chain or rope and ripped out of its stainless steel leg shafts that were cemented deep in the ground.

Vandals had to have used a vehicle. Then Larry was likely clubbed.

Tuesday a refurbished moose actually stopped traffic as workers from Touch of Eden Landscaping carefully lugged him into place near his manmade pond. That was nothing compared to his trip into town from Fifth Crow Wing Lake, strapped onto a trailer, moving at a mere 5 mph. Cars stopped, photographers leaped out to document him and everybody asked where he was headed.

"Isn't he majestic!" marveled Moose Creek co-owner Tom Paulson after he'd been set into place.

Larry stands higher than before, on a cement pedestal overlooking his pond. By afternoon he was chomping moss and water was flowing from his mouth.

And while Larry overlooks his pond, a vigilant eye will be kept on him via a hidden security camera.

Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

His name

Big Larry comes from the name of a friend of Paulson's. A young relative remarked the moose looked like "Big Larry:" and the name stuck.

Paulson said a "name the moose" contest could be an option, but he's becoming somewhat partial to "Big Larry." As the name gets around town, residents are also becoming accustomed to it. It's probably not as genteel or cute as "Chocolate" or "Mickey" but it seems to suit him.

The vandalism

It was right after Easter last year when Paulson was informed the moose had been brutalized. He was wintering out of state when police contacted him.

But the shock of the vandalism was tempered by the public outpouring of outrage and support.

Downtown business owners asked if they could chip in to repair the five-year-old sculpture.

School kids took up a collection of their lunch money and brought it to the store.

Paulson still hauls out the worn white envelope to show customers. He's never touched the money. The gesture touched him to the core.

"I couldn't believe how many people came here and were saddened," Paulson said. He declined donations, saying he "didn't want to make money off this."

His insurance company partially paid for the repairs, amounts Paulson won't discuss.

Big Larry got an immediate response when it was installed in the quaint Main Avenue park that surrounds the store.

"It was just so unique," Paulson said.

It still is. And even more so.

Enter the moose doctor

Paulson was stymied over how to get the moose repaired.

The original artist wasn't available; two other sculptors weren't interested.

A local friend of Paulson's remembered a prodigy from the area and contacted Scott Forbes.

The Fifth Crow Wing resort operator was indeed all he'd been billed as.

Scott Forbes began chainsaw sculpting at age 14. He then spent more than two decades going to shows, selling his thousands of carvings like hotcakes.

He went into the resort business when his sore back told him it was time to put down his chainsaw. He still dabbles with hammered metals and sculptures on a custom only basis.

The repair job

Forbes' first look at Larry wasn't good, Forbes admitted.

"It was a mess. The interior framework was broken," he said.

It was clear to Forbes the moose had been originally poured into a clay mold. He didn't have that luxury.

He kept seeing white flex of silicone rubber. The tool & dye major quickly deduced he was dealing with a mold.

He tried to reach the original artists to get a sense of the resin color and what product had been used. No luck.

So he experimented with automotive resin, which went on blue. He had to repair the woven fiberglass mat to strengthen the moose's frame. He painstakingly applied, reapplied and texturized the fiberglass. He had no room for error. It poured on as a liquid and gelled, then crumbled within 30 seconds.

It was a labor-intensive process, but 115 hours later, Larry emerged, albeit a blue moose. Forbes had meticulously cut out small damaged sections on Larry's legs and repaired them.

Forbes then used automotive paints, using a high volume, low-pressure spray gun. He then airbrushed details into the moose, which Paulson initially resisted.

The result is a stunning 3-D moose, much more detailed than the original. Its urethane paints will last years.

"It was mechanically and artistically difficult," Forbes allowed. "But it's one of the more interesting projects I've done in awhile."

Easter Sunday Forbes attached the new antlers Paulson had found online. Forbes needed a good sunny day to work out in the open because the moose was too large to leave his grandparents' barn with his antlers attached.

Tuesday Paulson fielded non-stop phone calls and visitors who popped into the store to wish both Tom and Larry well.

And once again, the community embraced Big Larry.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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