Parker Doolittle may one of the busiest and most effective law enforcement officers in Utah.
For the past 15 years, he’s been on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day without a break. He pops up in different locations throughout Wayne County without warning, causing drivers speeding along Highway 24 to slow down as they enter the 30 mph zones in the small towns dotting the county.
He even works for free and never complains.
But, alas, like Oz’s scarecrow, he doesn’t have a brain.
Parker is a mannequin, crafted by Loa resident Monica Bryan, a seamstress and artist who works at the county’s scenic showpiece, Capitol Reef National Park.
Wearing a deputy’s uniform, he sits in a marked 1993 Crown Victoria that was donated to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office years ago.
He’s a gruff-looking chap, with a full bushy black mustache and deep set dark eyes. He’s impossible to miss sitting on the side of the road, which is the whole point.
“His full name is Parker Bogus Doolittle,” said Wayne County Sheriff Kurt Taylor. “Parker because he’s parked all the time, Bogus because he isn’t real, and Doolittle because, well, he doesn’t do much.”
Wayne County features a series of small hamlets from Highway 24 to the national park, which attracts more than a million visitors a year. The county itself has about 3,000 full-time residents, so its small tax base can afford only six full-time deputies to protect the towns, which are separated by 50 to 60 mph stretches, from speeders.
As motorists approach the towns, warning signs — including some flashing electronic ones — let them know the speed limit will drop to 30 mph.
But when it comes to encouraging drivers to ease off the gas, Parker provides the best bang for the buck.
He’s often seen at the edge of Loa, the first town tourists approach in Wayne County after miles on the highway. But he also appears in nearby Lyman, Bicknell or down the road in Torrey, the last populated bastion before heading into the park.
“The [e-signs] are not that effective because they tend to break down,” Taylor said. “They cost $3,000 to $5,000 per unit, and they only last a few years.”
The only cost Parker imposes is for the gas it takes to move him from one location to another.
And he has become somewhat of a beloved figure in Wayne County. Passers-by have been known to leave doughnuts on the hood of his car in case he gets hungry.
The rooster who won’t die • They say cats have nine lives, but Hennie the rooster is challenging that feline-only proverb.
Hennie has been “eaten” four times now — by a dog, raccoons and a fox — “but he just won’t die,” says owner Skip Carlsen, a Farmington martial-arts instructor who collects animals and won a Daytime Emmy for best stunt direction on the TV program “The Aquabats! Super Show!”
Hennie showed up on Carlsen’s property “just out of nowhere one day” and became a member of the family.
One time, Carlsen found him in the barn with his dog hovering over him. The bird had been mangled and appeared lifeless. Carlsen applied CPR and even applied mouth-to-beak resuscitation. Hennie came to life and resumed his morning cock-a-doodle-doo ritual.
Twice after that, Carlsen found Hennie badly injured with chunks bitten out of him, but the rooster recovered.
Then, just recently, he discovered Hennie and two hens — Turkey Bird and Gizmo — were gone. Carlsen had seen a fox in the area earlier and feared the worst.
As he looked around, Turkey Bird came running up from a woodsy area, then guided him to Hennie, appearing dead with chunks chomped out of him.
“I put a heat lamp on him and, once again, he came to life,” Carlsen said. His feathers have grown back, and he is as ornery as ever.
The story had a happy ending when Gizmo, seemingly another victim of the fox, showed up at a neighbor’s house, knocking on the door with her beak.
So they are back together — one big happy family.
New travel plans • The Governor’s Office of Economic Development is sending executive director Val Hale and three other staffers at taxpayer expense to the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver next week.
For the past 20 years, the staffers would have just driven down the street from the Capitol to attend the show, which attracted thousands of visitors and pumped millions of dollars into Utah’s economy each year.
But the retailers ended that relationship last year out of frustration over Utah officials’ attitudes toward protecting the public lands that constitute the lifeblood of their industry.
GOED spokeswoman Amy Edwards said Utah is sending the group because it is one of about 13 states that has an Office of Outdoor Recreation. Those states are conducting their own meeting at the Denver show to discuss strategies and policies to boost outdoor recreation.
Plus, it’s a good way to network, Edwards said.
It still seems like ex-spouses all going to the same birthday party.