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County commissioners hear proposals for J. Neils bull

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | July 9, 2024 7:00 AM

The bull flew a bit at the last two Lincoln County commissioner meetings.

The bull in question is the statue that marks the entrance of J. Neils Memorial Park just outside Libby off Highway 37.

Libby resident Dave Harman attempted to make his case for why the bull should be removed and placed elsewhere. 

Kootenai River Stampede organizer Patty Rambo has other thoughts.

When asked why the location of the bull was of such urgent nature, Harman said it had been discussed for many years and that the bull didn’t properly represent the Neils’ legacy.

“I’m not gonna tell you the names of the people I talked to, but everyone I talked to is in favor of moving it,” Harman said. 

Harman said he talked to people involved with the Heritage Museum, the Rotary Club of the Kootenai Valley and the Libby Chamber of Commerce.

Rotary member Gary Huntsberger thinks moving the bull is appropriate.

“There was no discussion before the bull went up,” Huntsberger said. “There could be a community contest for the artwork for the new display.”

Libby native Patty Rambo said the bull was not meant to be a reflection of Julius Neils.

“It’s been there 20 years and it’s a landmark, now,” Rambo said. “The bull reflects what happens at the rodeo. I’m proud of my heritage and I take it very personal.

“We don’t want to advertise our mining history because of asbestos and if the bull comes off the pedestal, it becomes a liability.”

Rambo said she has a plan for a way to recognize Neils and the activities that take place in the park.

District 1 Commissioner Brent Teske asked Rambo to leave her presentation with the commissioners so they could review it.

Christine Neils Lee, who lives part-time in Libby, said the Neils family hates the bull.

‘What does the bull have to do with the Neils heritage?” she asked. “Tony Berget said they got a deal on the statue and thought it’d look good.

“The family tried to come up with some money to have something else done at the park, but the family isn’t as wealthy as it used to be.”

Harman said when he learned about the LOR Foundation and how much they’ve given to Libby, he thought there was a chance it could help pay for moving the bull and putting up new signage.

Harman thought a steel silhouette of a logger holding a saw would be appropriate.

At the June 26 commissioners meeting, the bull was talked about again.

District 2 Commissioner Jim Hammons asked Harman if there was a group working on the bull matter.

“That’s a good question,” Harman said. “I’ve talked to LeRoy Thom, Tony Petrusha and Joe Nagle and got good response from the Rotary, Chamber of Commerce.”

Rambo asked that the matter be discussed after the upcoming Kootenai River Stampede PRCA Rodeo, set for July 26-27, is held.

“I ask that you dismiss this or delay this,” Rambo said. “We’re trying to put on a rodeo in the next month.”

Teske said the focus must be on the cost of moving the bull and new signage.

“What would be done to pay for this work?” Teske said.

At the June 19 meeting, Harman suggested the county advance $2,000 to the project. He thought there was a possibility the school metal shop class could make a sign.

The commissioners decided to revisit the statue matter at the Aug. 28 meeting.