One of Molalla's classic landmarks has finally returned home: the White Horse is back.
After years of missing in action, the horse has returned to its post outside The White Horse restaurant on Main Street.
Reports from local citizens have surfaced over the years detailing sightings of the horse from Colton, to Troutdale, to Beaverton, to Salem, as people swore they saw the horse throughout the state, turning the topic into somewhat of a mystery tale.
It turns out they weren't wrong in their sightings, but it wasn't the original White Horse they saw: the fiberglass mold that is the horse was mass-produced and sold commercially, so there are a number of twins floating around. For example, one resides near the top of Wright Road by the Molalla River at a private property; it's identical to the White Horse, but it's brown.
Another twin does reside in Troutdale at a boot shop near I-84, and that horse is also white, but not the original.
The original White Horse that resided in the center of Molalla for decades was held by Ken Rettig at his property in Colton. After former owner Richard Uribe sold the bar, the horse was taken care of by Rettig for a number of years. He owns an auto body shop on his property, and the horse was visible to anyone that visited the shop – they just didn't talk about it outside of those visits.
Rettig said that plenty of people knew where the horse was the whole time, but they tried to keep it under wraps for safety concerns.
"We just didn't talk about it for the safety of it, because there's probably some people that if they knew where it was might try to pull a stunt to come steal it," he said. "We just sat back and listening to the rumors, and let them fly."
Rettig said much of the controversial conversation surrounding the proper ownership and residence of the horse drew from its popularity.
"The horse just became an icon, a beacon of Molalla," Rettig said. "You could mention it in Vegas and people would know; it was very well-known, and it being the original one gave it sentimental value."
Rettig removed the horse 4 or 5 years ago after Uribe left the bar, since it was his property. Rettig said there was plenty of speculation as to what should be done with the historic statue: some said it should be donated to the City or to the Buckeroo, but the horse belonged to Uribe.
"A lot of people in town got all up in arms when it was removed," he said. "They kind of thought it belonged to the town as a landmark. I've heard rumors from people saying they bought it, but they're all false."
Rettig kept the horse for safekeeping until a Florida man, named Bill Hellman who grew up in Molalla and had his first beer at The White Horse, made an offer to buy the fiberglass horse.
The horse was sold, but never actually left Colton, not until the new owners of the bar, Ryan Gengler and Ben Rash, bought the rights to keep the old name, which led to an interest in acquiring the horse for business reasons.
There was no profit made by Rettig or Uribe (who passed away last year) for returning the horse to The White Horse, according to Rettig.
Rettig took care of the horse up until about a year ago when he said it was returned to Gengler and Rash, who restored it to its original state, with a painted brown mane and tail. It was placed back in its original place outside The White Horse on the morning of Feb. 22.