‘Kidnapped’ gnome comes home to Grand Lake for the holidays
December 6, 2007
A little man with a Santa hat, created out of a wooden block to hang from the boughs of Christmas trees, dodged post-holiday storage and instead became a jet-set traveler this past summer.
The 2-inch-tall ornament sporting the letter “J” came to be known as “Jack” among ski shop employees at the Grand Lake Touring Center.
Jack became a fixture in the room long after the Christmas tree came down last winter.
“I felt funny boxing him up,” said cross-country ski Director Janice Peck.
She and ski instructor Aurel Burtis would bounce ideas off little Jack, who was perched on the cash register.
“We would say, ‘Let’s run it by Jack’,” Peck said, who added, “OK, now you think we’re crazy.”
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Few onlookers caught on to who “Jack” really was.
But last February, before they knew it, Jack was missing.
A letter addressed to Peck came in the mail with a telling photo of the bauble stranded along Highway 40 in a snowstorm, arm outstretched in an attempt to hitch a ride.
The letter chided her and others for not even caring ” nor noticing ” that he’d left.
From then on, letters would arrive at the touring center describing Jack’s rebellious jaunts this side of the Mississippi.
First there was a short stop to Phoenix, then the little gnomester ended up in San Diego.
A photo showed Jack on a beach. A note said something about how he’d become a women’s beach volleyball fan.
In June, Jack traveled to Palm Springs ” the land of “air-conditioned golf carts.”
In August, a letter was mailed from Texas. It alleged he danced with the ladies and spent a day riding a donkey.
“There were pictures of him on fence posts, on horses, and in bars with girls,” Peck said.
Come October, photos arrived showing Jack in Europe visiting tourist sites.
Then, viola, Jack showed up back at the touring center, right in time for the upcoming ski season.
“I’m a little leery to put him back up on the cash register,” Peck said.
There have been no clues as to who pulled off the Jack-nap caper, but Peck suspects it was one of the trail groomers.
The prank was fashioned after that of the famed garden gnome ” when a gnome-napper plucks it out of its element and leads its owner to believe the lawn ornament has trotted the globe.
Although there are reports of it happening 20 years prior, in 2001, the movie Amelie had a gnome-traveling subplot. And in 2004, the prank was further popularized on Sim City 4 by a gnome sprite that would reveal itself during gameplay intervals.
In 2004, the gnome traveler became the mascot for online travel service Travelocity, where it has sustained recognition since.
Now the prank has crossed into the realm of Christmas ornaments.
Before its return to Grand Lake, the felt-limbed traveling Jack, so the last letter divulged, was eager to get back in time for the holiday.