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AFD connects with history of 'mascot'

 

Christopher Andersson

Frank Valenta, left, and Jared Valenta, center left, show Arlington Fire Department Deputy Chief Tom Cooper, center right, and Fire Chief Bruce Stedman photographs of when the department's elk head was originally shot in the early 1930s.

The "mascot" of the Arlington Fire Department, an elk head that has hung in local stations since the 1930s, was reunited with some of the original photos of its capture on March 30.

Arlington Fire Department Deputy Chief Tom Cooper said that the elk head has been with the department since the 1930s.

"People ask us if we have a dalmatian, and we say, 'no, but we have an elk head,'" said Cooper, who also called the head the "mascot" of the department.

The elk was shot in the early 1930s by Albert Bundt, who was a volunteer firefighter with the department from 1918 to 1952.

It was hung in stations across the years and recently was hung in a truck bay until Station 46 was built.

"When we built this station we decided to move it in here," said Cooper. "We specifically reinforced the wall so we could hang it up here. The contractor wouldn't do it because it wasn't part of the contract, so we had to do it," he said.

The elk was close to a state record at the time it was shot and is still 15th on the state record list today.

Fire Chief Bruce Stedman said he was surprised to see just how big it was when he first saw it.

"I've been here six years, and I came from southern California. We had to build this station, and Tom [Cooper], the deputy, asked me if we could put this record elk head up in the station, and I'm not stupid, in small-town America you don't mess with tradition," said Stedman. "So we go to storage and he pulls this tarp off, and this thing's huge," he said.

Cooper was recently contacted by the great-grandson of Albert Bundt, Jared Valenta, who had uncovered photos of the original shooting and an Arlington Fire Department badge while going through old boxes in his house.

Jared Valenta, and his father and son, came down to Station 46 on March 30 to see the elk head and donate the old artifacts to the station.

"I got the elk [photo], I got the badge, so I thought that I have to put together something for you guys," said Jared Valenta.

"It belongs with the elk for sure. It has way more meaning to the station than sitting in my house," he said.

Jared Valenta is a part-time firefighter at Lake Stevens and first learned of the elk head while at the fire academy.

"The people I went to fire academy with said 'isn't that your elk up at the Arlington Fire Station.' It took me years to put it together," he said. He finally pieced things together when his father told him about Bundt.

"At the time I was like, 'really dad, I've been a firefighter for over a year now and you never told me my great-grandfather was one of the original firefighters from up in Arlington,'" he said.

For Jared Valenta, it was the first time seeing the elk head as well.

"It's awesome and huge," he said. "There wasn't that many elk shot back then, but there are lots in the books now, and it's still number 15 in the record books," he said.

Christopher Andersson

Arlington Fire Department officials and members of the Valenta family talk under the department's elk head.

Jared's father Frank Valenta also came to deliver the items. Frank Valenta said his grandfather performed telephone service for the area, and was responsible for Arlington, Camano Island and the entire area.

Bundt was part of the fire department as well, which was entirely volunteer in those days.

"Every year in old Arlington there were seven of them that would take off and do their elk hunting trip," said Frank Valenta.

"They'd even take the Catholic priest who would go with them, probably for good luck," he said.

He remembers Bundt as a "rugged guy" who taught him fishing and hunting.

"In the summertime, when I was out of school, they had property on Warm Beach and about every other day they'd take us fishing," said Frank Valenta.

Cooper said he was glad to meet the Valentas.

"To me, it's like the story is coming full circle, to meet the family," he said.

 

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