B Street monkeys 'might have to come down'

A barrel of monkeys is hanging from a liquid amber tree on B Street. But the 50 stuffed, multicolored monkeys sitting in the tree may no longer be the neighborhood sight to see.

"It might have to come down," said Thomas Rollins, who rents the home at 375 B St., where the monkey tree stands. "We're moving to Hawaii pretty soon and leaving the house at the end of the month. "… It's unfortunate, because it's become such a part of the neighborhood."

It all started about a year-and-a-half ago when Rollins and his 8-year-old daughter, Mia Rollins, found a small stuffed gorilla lying on the sidewalk under the tree.

"We just stuck it on one of the lower branches, thinking it was lost," said 50-year-old Thomas Rollins. "I figured someone would walk by and find it that way."

No one did.

"So Mia and I just thought it would kind of be cool to start adding more monkeys," he said.

The monkeys have been multiplying ever since.

The pair put up the first 15 or 20 stuffed monkeys, which Thomas Rollins found at garage sales, Goodwill, "pretty much anywhere," he said. Then people started noticing and donating.

"People just give us the monkeys," said Mia. "A lot of people enjoy it around here."

One passer-by donated a $100 check to Mia, Thomas Rollins said.

"What else were we going to do with, but buy more monkeys?" he said. "So, I put it into the tree."

Every day, he said, someone stops for a picture, or at least a smiling gaze at the tree.

One woman, after seeing the tree while visiting Ashland, mailed a monkey from her home in Sacramento for the Rollinses to hang in the tree.

Another woman, from Warren, wrote a lengthy poem about the B Street monkey tree, titled "Maybelle and the Monkey Tree," on her blog, parrot-writes.blogspot.com/.

"People just love it," said Thomas Rollins. "I don't think I've heard anything but positive feedback about the monkeys."

When Thomas Rollins told his landlord, John Stacy, who could not be reached for the story, that he was leaving the house, Stacy expressed concern about removing the monkeys from the tree, Thomas Rollins said.

"He didn't say it had to go," said Thomas Rollins, "but ultimately the call will be up to him and the next tenants."

Thomas Rollins said he would happily leave the monkeys for the next tenant, or donate them to another willing nearby resident for hanging in his tree.

"I want the monkey tree to stay," said Mia. "I think it's funny when people walk by and look at it."

Jane "Rabbitt" Babbitt, who has lived across the street from where the monkey tree stands since 1996, said she doesn't mind the tree.

Along with about 60 others who want the monkey tree to stay put, Babbitt signed a petition that Thomas Rollins posted along the sidewalk.

He said he will turn the petition over to the landlord before he moves out.

"I do like the monkey tree," said Babbitt, who likes to drink tea and watch people walk by, gawk at it and pose for pictures beneath it.

"It's old-time Ashland, and kind of folksy and charming."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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