By BRIAN KELLY
STANWOOD — Someone has swiped the gear used every year to hoist Christmas lights to the top of the old Hamilton mill smokestack.
"The Grinch stole the winch," said Bill Mattocks, a member of the local Lions group that decorates the 150-foot-high smokestack for the holidays each year.
Volunteers from the Lions raised the big Christmas star to the top of the stack Sunday. But Monday, when they returned to raise the lights, they discovered their equipment shed had been broken into and the gear was gone. The shed sits at the base of the smokestack, a local landmark and one of the few reminders of a lumber mill that was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.
Like Dr. Seuss’ cartoon criminal, the thief slunk into the shed, emptied it and put the padlock back on the door before leaving.
An electric motor, a hand-cranked winch full of cable, and two ladders were taken. But alas, no Cindy Lou Who was around to interrupt the break-in. And later, the volunteers arrived, disappointed, with their heads sadly shaking.
"It was really a blow in the gut for the guys," Mattocks said.
The motor and winch were valued at about $400.
"The two ladders were worth about 50 cents apiece," said Ron Strandin, a Lions member. "Why in the world they would take those, I have no idea."
The thief may not be green, but may be just as mean. The theft left the Lions scrambling to find replacement gear so the lights could be raised before the town’s big holiday celebration Friday night.
"It’s not so much the value, we need it now," Mattocks said of the missing gear.
But with unshakeable spirit as big as the smokestack is tall, the Lions, quite Who-like, were giving it their all. Not waiting for a Grinchly changing of heart, they were all pitching in and doing their part.
"They’re breaking their backs to get a new setup ready to go," Mattocks said.
"All is not lost," Strandin said, adding that most of the gear already has been replaced.
"We’re going to have it up by Friday night," he said. "We’re going to beat the Grinch after all."