Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Variety

He was a shovel thief.
Most people when they hear that are confused about why a guy would steal shovels. But if you think about it, you can steal pretty much anything and for this guy that thing just happened to be shovels, strange as that may be. Maybe he had a lot of holes to dig. Maybe he didn’t like buying things. Or maybe he just liked the danger of sneaking into sheds and onto porches to steal shovels. Whatever the reason, the man was a shovel thief.
Most of us are taught at a very young age that stealing is bad.  But it was clear this guy’s parents never imparted this lesson onto the young shovel thief. We still wonder how it all started. Was he always a thief? As a toddler, did he steal a sand shovel and like the feeling? Did this future shovel thief boost one of those little three-pronged hand rakes from a neighbor's yard as a teenager? Did one thing lead to another?

What led the young thief to choose a life of shovel thievery, we may never know.
But for the residents of Vista Acres, the shovel thief wasn’t just a curiosity. He was a menace. Leaving one’s garage door open was as foolish as hanging one of those “come and take it” flags out front and actually meaning it. Only instead of a snake your flag has a shovel. "No, please, come take my shovel. Seriously." Every morning in the Acres, as the residents were fond of calling it, emails reporting shovel thefts forwarded around like Obama jokes. The clubhouse at lunch was a beehive. 
Then one night, Frank Treadwell heard a rattle outside his garden home in the Lakes section of the Acres. The nice section of the Acres. The area with the nicest shovels. Those yellow and black ones with padding on the handle that Home Depot puts up front. The ones on an endcap display with a catchy slogan like "A deal you can dig!"

Telling his wife Vicki to stay in bed, Frank made his way downstairs to try to get a look at what might be the trouble. Padding across the tile floor of his kitchen he spotted a shadowy figure just beyond his glassed-in sun porch. Was this the shovel thief? Had his own shovel already fallen victim to the elusive bandit? His hand felt along the wall until he located the switch for the outside floodlights. He flicked the switch and the lights came on with a football stadium’s intensity. And there, lit up like the Statue of Liberty (only this one was holding a shovel), was Tom Blankenship. Tom Blankenship lived in the section of the Acres that was considered the least desirable: the Pines section. Tom Blankenship was the shovel thief. Almost no one saw that coming. Except maybe Debbie, his wife. She had to have known. 
In the days and weeks that followed rumors flew about Tom and his wife Debbie. He was somehow responsible for the great sewer backup of ’94. She singlehandedly threw the bake off of ’01 leading to Carol Feinstein’s unlikely victory. They both had a hand in the coup d'etat that led to Rick Hemingway’s ascension to head of the Homeowner’s Association back in ’09.  None of it could be proved but boy, it sure was it fun to speculate.
Tom and Debbie eventually sold their condo at a loss and simply skipped town. Some people remember him simply as Tom, the insurance appraiser who grew up in nearby Centerville. Others remember him as Tom who led the local Boy Scout troop during the early 90’s when his boys were scout-age. Still others remember the man who overdid it with decorations every Christmas. But for those who owned shovels, he was remembered as one thing and one thing only: the shovel thief.
The residents of the acres never did find out what happened to all those shovels but then again, most of them still had AOL email addresses and had never heard of Craigslist.


Blogger Linda Bacon said...


10:18 AM  

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