Kennewick's banished Christmas "tree" earned a reprieve Thursday when a city official returned it to the woman who made it a popular holiday symbol along Columbia Center Boulevard.
But within hours of the decorated Christmas weed being returned and set up at a new location, the plant was missing -- apparently swiped by an unknown Grinch.
"I am so sad," said Katy Higgs, 23, of West Richland, when she discovered the weed was taken from the corner of Grandridge Boulevard and Rio Grande Avenue in Kennewick.
"But at least it brought a lot of joy to people while we had it," she said.
Higgs and Jennifer Zobel, both of West Richland, had been all smiles hours earlier as Pat Everham from the city's Department of Municipal Services turned over the Christmas weed -- not far from where it was uprooted a day earlier near Canal Drive across from the Columbia Center mall.
Higgs said one of her co-workers at Tri-Cities Orthopaedic Clinics, Kraig Sorenson, offered to talk with hiscontacts at Kennewick City Hall on Wednesday to see of the condemned plant could be returned.
"He told me, 'I know someone I can call if you want it back,' " Higgs said.
The Christmas weed was a popular story in the Tri-City Herald this week because of decorations people put on it after Higgs and Zobel hung a single red ornament on it two weeks ago.
"Our intent was to make people smile," Zobel said.
Zobel said she and Higgs were in separate cars commuting to work when they each noticed the tall weed that had sprouted up through a crack on the asphalt island near the stoplight intersection at Canal Drive.
"I thought, 'Oh, what a perfect little tree growing in a crack.' I even took a picture of it with my cellphone,'" Zobel said.
Higgs shared the sentiment when Zobel showed her the snapshot.
"It's a sad tree. Let's make it happy," Higgs remembers saying.
Their idea snowballed until the weed, which is called Mexican firebush and istoxic to animals, was fully decorated and complete with a Nativity scene, and city workers worried it had become a distraction for motorists.
Everham told the Herald the Christmas weed was pulled because it was a distraction.
"We never intended it to be a traffic issue," Zobel said.
"I never thought it would last more than a day," Higgs said.
And now that is has disappeared a second time, Higgs bought a small Christmas tree and decorated it for display at the front door of her job, not far from where the Christmas weed was last seen at Grandridge Boulevard and Rio Grande Avenue.
w John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org