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Shed no tears for the Cavemen

It's time for Grants Pass to move beyond the faux-Neanderthal image

Some departures leave us feeling all sentimental.

And then there's Grants Pass and its Oregon Cavemen.

Let's just move on, shall we?

Sure, it was a bittersweet goodbye a few years ago when Medford finally put Huggy Bear, its longtime tourism tool, into hibernation.

Huggy was a bear, after all ' a cuddly, huggy bear.

But it's hard to conjure a warm fuzzy feeling for a bunch of men in animal skins best known for running along parade routes and kidnapping women and children. And how effective was the effort to promote the Oregon Caves, anyway, when the world began to connect Grants Pass to dim Neanderthals instead of to great vacation potential?

— We write this now because there's some effort in Grants Pass to keep the tradition alive. This is even though the group has dwindled to a dozen members, even though no young people are interested and even though the Cavemen are in the process of dissolving their status as a nonprofit corporation because of a dispute with the state.

Get out your torches, guys, and read the writing on the cave wall.

It says: Grog go now.

There was, maybe, a time for all this once. The Cavemen ' as many as 300 at one point ' had a grand old time in their heyday, dragging their knuckles along the routes of as many as 100 parades a year. They amassed a long list of willing and famous victims, including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Shirley Temple and Jimmy Stewart.

These, however, are different times. As one club member put it in a Mail Tribune story this month: You can't grab teen girls and put them in a cage any more.

No, and that's probably just as well.

Grants Pass, for the record, has plenty to recommend it without working the cave-dweller angle. An artsy downtown sits at its center. The Rogue River runs along its edge. Recreation covers the mountains surrounding it.

The Cavemen had their time, maybe. Today the city shouldn't need to club anyone over the head to get the tourism job done.