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Where have all the flowers gone?

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The Missoula police would like to have a word with Gordon J. Shaffer, 47, who is wanted on numerous criminal charges relating to a wild ride he allegedly took Sept. 21.

Said ride resulted in body damage to at least four cars, an assault on public art, a bad bump on the head, the untimely deaths of several dozen marigolds and the presumed embarrassment of the radiology staff at St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center.

Shaffer’s bad day started at around 3 p.m. when he reportedly sideswiped at least three cars in the parking lot of the Toole Avenue Food Center. Police said the shirtless driver then headed downtown, blew through a stop sign and crashed his older-model sedan into the four large, red X’s at the north end of Higgins Ave.

The statue, entitled “Crossings,” by local sculptor Taag Peterson, is an abstract representation of a railroad trestle. It proved much sturdier than some of its real-life counterparts and suffered hardly a scratch, but Shaffer demolished his car and nearly put his head through his windshield. His tires, meanwhile, dug a shallow trench in the nearby lawn and ripped apart approximately eight square feet of marigolds, city officials said.

Police said they found Shaffer hiding in a nearby alley and discovered—to widespread shock—an odor of alcohol on his breath. Shaffer suffered a cut on his head and was taken to St. Pat’s for an X-ray. But he somehow sneaked out of the radiology unit and is still missing, according to Missoula police Sgt. Mark Muir.

Hospital staff “didn’t tell us he was gone for several minutes,” said Muir.

When he turns up, he’ll also have to answer for the marigolds, said Rob Thames, operations chief for the city Parks Department. The bill could run from $200 to $300.

“We probably would have gotten another month out of those flowers,” said Thames, who said they likely won’t be replaced before the snow flies.

Shaffer might have suffered more than a boo-boo on his forehead if it weren’t for some prescient thinking by city officials in 1986 when the controversial “Crossings” sculpture was first installed. It was originally supposed to be much bigger and set closer to the street, but the artist was forced to scale back his vision after traffic safety objections were raised.

“It’s amazing people still hit it,” said Peterson this week.

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