Brer Rabbit statue recovered: Putnam Sheriff in hunt for four teenage suspects

By David Pendered

Eatonton, Ga. – Millie Lane just knew she’d never again see the statue of Brer Rabbit that had perched outside the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton.

“I’m afraid he’s gone forever, because Sheriff Sills would have found him already already – if he is going to be found,” Lane said as she sat Saturday on the bench outside the log cabin museum, where she’s the hostess.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills with Brer Rabbit, whom he retrieved from kidnappers. Credit: Putnam County Sheriffs Department.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills with Brer Rabbit, whom he retrieved from kidnappers. Credit: Putnam County Sheriffs Department.

Lane’s faith in Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills wasn’t misplaced. Sills found the statue Monday afternoon and is in the hunt for four young men who apparently broke off Brer Rabbit’s ear and smoking pipe while kidnapping him from a pedestal in front of the museum.

Brer Rabbit’s abduction was noticed and reported last week by the museum’s director. News of the kidnapping spread around the globe, due in part to the Twitter updates filed by Stanley Lines, a retired school librarian whose followers live as far away as London.

The news struck home in Atlanta, where Brer Rabbit author Joel Chandler Harris resided in the Wren’s Nest, in the West End neighborhood. Harris’ descendant, Lain Shakespeare, who oversees the ancestral home, said last week that he feared the statue may have been taken as part of a political controversy that involved a congressman’s comparison of Barack Obama to the Tar Baby of Brer Rabbit mythology.

Here’s the full media statement issued by Sheriff Sills. (Note the formal spelling of “Brer”, as written by the high sheriff, who’s a native of Eatonton):

Stanley Lines Tweeted news of the kidnapping of Brer Rabbit to followers around the world. Credit: Donita Newton

Stanley Lines Tweeted news of the kidnapping of Brer Rabbit to followers around the world. Credit: Donita Newton

“I recovered the statue of ‘Brer Rabbit’ at approximately 3:30 p.m. in a wooded area of Ga. 16, some 5 miles east of Eatonton.

“Bre’r Rabbit wasn’t exactly in top form. His pipe had been broken off where he was holding it in his hand and the poor creature’s left ear had been completely amputated at the skull.

“As rabbits air condition themselves through their big ears, I suspect he has been more than a little hot over the last week, considering the temperatures we have experienced here in middle Georgia.

“Otherwise, the old boy is in good form (except being much overweight, this thing weighs at least 300 pounds) and is sitting in front of my desk right now.

“The nice people at the Uncle Remus Museum have found an expert Iron Veterinarian, and I will be transporting Bre’r Rabbit to his facility in the next several days.  We are certain Bre’r Rabbit will soon be able to return to his perch in front of the museum in better condition than he was prior to his abduction.

“My investigation continues and I expect to arrest four young men later this week on charges of felonious Theft by Taking.  As some of them are located around the state some distance from Eatonton, I will not release their names until my investigation is concluded.  It appears the incident started as a prank, but went awry after the statue was damaged.

“I want to sincerely thank all of you for your assistance in this case. It was the attention brought to bear by the media and internet, that resulted in people calling my office with information.”

Mildred Lane, hostess at the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, commiserates with Ben about the missing Brer Rabbit. Credit: Donita Newton

Mildred Lane, hostess at the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, commiserates with Ben about the missing Brer Rabbit. Credit: Donita Newton

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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