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Smokey the Gnome?

June 21, 2010 Sarah Coggins

Two weeks ago, Dylan and I headed west on I-40 to visit friends. As we were approaching the exit for Fayetteville Road in Durham, something on the overpass caught my eye. I noticed it in my peripheral vision and, given that there are panhandlers regularly on the overpass above, I thought that was what I saw. Then I caught a better look as we cruised by and realized it was a statue. Weird. I assumed one of the panhandlers stuck it there. When I mentioned it to Trent later that day, he gave me one of those have you lost your mind looks.

Fast forward to yesterday morning and watching the local morning news, Trent saw a report on the gnome spottings in Durham. Seriously. Perhaps his wife isn’t completely crazy. 😉 And there is even a blog dedicated to the mysterious little creatures – Durham Gnomes.

As it happened, we were going west to visit family and would be driving right by that particular overpass. The little gnome was still there. While Trent drove, I whipped out the camera and snapped photos. (Click to enlarge.)

A crop from the photo above:

Personally, I think he looks a bit like Smokey the Bear with his hat and what appears to be a shovel in his hand.

ETA: I owe credit to an anonymous commenter for noting the 2 small gnomes over the center bridge column. Here’s a crop from the second to last photo above:

Purely chance I captured them even slightly in my photo as my focus was on Smokey. Now I’m tempted to drive that way just for another glance and wondering how many others I’ve driven past….hmmm. The comments also led me to this story – Gnomes on a Mission. Perhaps it’s the true tale behind why these creatures are appearing all over Durham? I haven’t a clue, but it certainly is entertaining and, yes, I’ll be on the lookout for others the next time I cross the county line. 🙂

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  • Wanda June 21, 2010 at 7:48 am
    How unique and diffrent is that! Maybe I should start putting bird statues where trees should be around here and someone may get the hint! Your story is so funny Sarah and I guess you haven't lost your mind yet.
  • ter@waaoms June 21, 2010 at 8:56 am
    gnomes creep me out.

    the like to the report that Trent found is not working, so I couldn't read it. Is there a back story to gnomes in your area?

    Anyway, they still creep me out but at least you didn't loose your mind. :)
  • Anonymous June 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm
    Smokey Bear is there because of this location's close proximity to The Tinder Box (and their smokin' Tom Clark Gnomes) at The Streets at Southpoint. Afterall if you get a bunch of smoking Durham gnomes together one might want to consider some fire safety. BTW, you miss a couple of small gnomes on the bridge column to the left. ;)
  • Anonymous June 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm
    ...also for info as to why all the gnomes are popping up around Durham just type Durham Gnomes (w/o quotes) into any search engine and... Enjoy!

    PS. Dont go driving around Durham with any bales of cotton. ;)
  • Carrie/scrapchick June 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm
  • Janet June 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm
    Oh, my gosh! That is too funny! I would have most definitely taken a picture. I love gnomes, and I actually had one stolen from our garden once. Shortly after that, I saw a news story about a "Garden Gnome Rescue" group that went around taking gnomes out of gardens in order to give them a better life! :) There is a whole gnome culture out
  • About Me


    Hi! I'm a DIY and craft obsessed mom to 2. I have my hands covered in sawdust or paint any given day. My husband and kids join me in many of our projects. When we aren't creating at home, we're creating memories in our many adventures. Join along! Read More


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