At first, the two pink plastic flamingos perched on Arthur O’Neil’s Mansfield lawn were a joke. But over the last four years, those two birds grew into an entire costume-wearing flock.
While the birds, whose outfits change weekly, had become something of a Mansfield landmark, drawing thank-you notes and flamingo-themed gifts, it seems not everyone appreciates them. In May, the flamingos began to vanish.
A total of 39 birds had gone missing by the time O’Neil received a ransom note in August, scrawled on the body of one of the flamingos.
“If you want Arturo and his friends, please call this number,” the note read, referring to the name of one of the missing majestic pink wading birds.
Instead of meeting the kidnapper’s demand, the 68-year-old O’Neil turned the note over to police, who O’Neil said have been understanding, but have made no arrests. Mansfield police did not return a call seeking comment on the investigation.
“I understand the police have more important things to worry about, but it hurts,” said O’Neil, who hid the birds for a few weeks after receiving the ransom note.
In June, Jackie Prestor, a teacher at Mansfield High School, collected money from her friends to buy O’Neil 10 new plastic flamingos and some costumes after she told her friends that some of the birds had been stolen.
“I always drive by his house on my way home from work and I love seeing them,” Prestor said. “My 2-year-old son always asks what the ‘mingos’ are doing when we drive past.”
Despite having no resolution to the thefts, O’Neil has again begun to display the whimsical lawn ornaments. This week, the flamingos are outfitted in golf attire — a nod to the Deutsche Bank golf tournament in Norton.
But if the flamingos keep getting stolen, their future on his lawn is grim. “If they steal more, I’ll say that’s the end,’’ O’Neil said. “No more.”
Still, O’Neil hasn’t given up hope that the flock might someday be reunited.
“I just hope one of these days, all of them will come back,” he said.Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.