24 January 2020

Stumpy Family back to give treemendous thanks to bushfire volunteers

| Alex Rea
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Stumpy Family

The Stumpy family in January dressed to thank volunteers. Photos: Alex Rea.

A groups of tree stumps beside the road to Moruya Heads has been putting smiles on the face of thousands of residents and visitors since Easter last year. The Stumpy Family, who have their own Facebook Page, were created by a nearby resident, who likes to be known as ‘The Stumpy Carer’, to keep a little mystery in the minds of the many young people who wave and smile as they go by.

The Stumpy Carer said she had “no idea of the impact these smiling faces would have”.

Stumpy Family at Easter

The Easter incarnation of the Stumpy Family.

The idea for their creation came from a similar group near Shepparton, Victoria, where a friend of the carer had been doing it for over 20 years. They even have a letterbox where kids leave letters for them.

“It breaks the journey and makes you smile, like Pooh Corner on the Kings Highway,” she says. “There’s also a fence line in SA that has teddies strung on it for kilometres.

“They’re just tree stumps but a lot of people are very protective of them,” she said.

However, it hasn’t all been fun and games on the road. When the Stumpy Family was first dressed up with faces painted on the stump heads, they were quickly undressed by an unidentified woman.

On 20 April 2019 the Facebook page said: “It seems that some people don’t like others bringing joy to peoples’ lives. RIP the Stumpy Family. Overnight the whole family were destroyed. Everything removed and stolen. No idea why. So disappointing. They were there to brighten people’s lives for a short moment in time. They thought they were safe here, but obviously not. Go figure.”

Stumping for Moruya

Stumpy for Moruya in May. Photo: Facebook

The Carer dressed them again and again, but the stumps were again denuded. One time the clothes only lasted half an hour. Another time someone even sprayed grey paint to cover up their eyes.

At one stage council workers were observed sanding off their faces, but after contacting the council the Carer was able convince council they should be left alone as they weren’t doing any harm.

The Eurobodalla Mayor and General Manager then gave approval for the roadside smiles, provided they are kept tidy.

Vandalised Stumpy Family

Before and after. The remaining faces were ground off the stumps. Photos: Facebook.

That official endorsement, though, counted for nothing.

By early July, the Stumpy Family informed their fans “Sorry to say, but this time the haters have won. We were dressed up again yesterday with beanies and scarves, only to be pulled down last night. There is a lady who obviously doesn’t like us, as she pulled up in her 4WD when we were having our clothes done, took a photo, didn’t smile, wave or say anything, and just drove off. Funny how we were destroyed last night after she saw our carers at work. And then this arvo they returned in broad daylight and shaved off our eyes. If the people who don’t like us are on this page, please let us know what your gripe is.”

“I cannot believe that one person can hate them so much,” the Carer told Region Media.

In mid-July they were dressed up again, but it only lasted an hour. “We were stripped of our clothes again. As soon as our carers left, they came and ripped everything off.”

In December, the Christmas spirit rose up and the Carer carefully dressed the stumps in seasonal outfits.

“People wave at them and smiled,” said their Carer. “So many people love them. It’s just a moment to smile. People drive past tooting and waving as they were being dressed.”

The Stumpy Family Facebook Page thanked residents “for your support through thick and thin this year. Our carers couldn’t stand to see us bare for Xmas so we feel happy now”.

The Stumpy Family survived for the Christmas period, and last week the Carer made new outfits and dressed them in yellow.

“We have new clothes! As a tribute to ALL of the emergency service workers, firefighters, aerial bombers, paramedics, police, council workers, charity workers and all of the people who donated from Australia and around the world … we thank you. Your hard work and endless effort to save lives, towns and communities is so very much appreciated. The simple words ‘thank you’ seem insignificant to show how much it means to us but for now that is all we can offer,” the Stumpy Family said on Facebook.

Stumpy Family in the Christmas spirit

The Stumpy Family dressed for Christmas.

As the chaos of the Christmas bushfires calms, it would be a mean-spirited act to remove the yellow outfits now installed to thank the volunteers. But time will tell.

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