One of the good things about living in rural Maine is that it is relatively free from crime. Perhaps petty theft is inevitable. Two or three 15-year-old boys wandering about town on Saturday night do foolish things that would shame and horrify them when they’re 30.

Two winters ago, parties unknown sneaked into my dooryard under cover of darkness and carried off a dozen or so decorative old wooden pot buoys that I’d hung from the barn wall. I’d picked them up along the shore over a period of several years. A neighbor once identified one as belonging to his brother and took it with him when he left.

No criminal with half a brain would break into any house in my neighborhood. Along the coast of Maine where I live, we are rather primitive, and I have good friends who have looked forward to the day when they could discharge both barrels at an unwanted visitor. When you figure it takes them about an hour to tell about the last 90-pound doe they shot, bagging a burglar would provide them with enough embroidered material for the rest of their lives.

I myself have contributed to the defense fund of a man who shot a burglar in the leg and don’t care if you know it. I don’t like people who carry off other people’s property.

More than 40 years ago, some boys removed some signs from my lawn. I think one sign said: “Beware of the sheep.” Believing that even petty crime should be discouraged, I offered a $500 reward for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrators. My friend Lawyer Crandall and I nailed them.

The boys paid for the signs, which might have netted me $40. The other $460 was for personal satisfaction. Over 20 years later, one of the boys, by then a Navy veteran, wrote to me and apologized. I said that the apology was nice but I’d rather have the $500 I had paid to catch him. I never heard back.

Another time, one of my former tenants carried off my coin collection and a barrel of German dishes I was storing for a neighbor. That amoral person is no longer with us, so I don’t fear retribution by mentioning it here. You might know of similar cases where you know very well who carried off your property but have no proof.

We are talking about crime today because not long ago, my brother called to say that my wood splitter, which lives by the woodpile in his front yard, had been dragged off sometime during the winter. Poplar and pine and alders split easily, but a wood splitter is nice to have if you are lucky enough to come into some huge oak limbs or gray birch. I got the machine from Mr. Colson 15 or more years ago and it had seen good service. We didn’t want to lose it.

Unfortunately, the splitter was used not in back of the house but out by the road, where it could easily be seen, and perhaps coveted, by anyone passing by. My initial reaction was to ask myself why we hadn’t chained it to a tree or removed the wheels so no one could steal it.

Realizing that when three people steal something, at least five other people know about it, I composed an ad in my head that I would post in the local Free Press the following week: “$516.37 cash reward for information …” and so on.

I sent a short email to my neighbor Reggie, mentioning the reward and asking for his advice. Reggie knows more about what is going on in town than anyone else I know. I suspected that if there were a couple of bad characters in town, he’d be likely to know who they were.

Then I called Elliot, who had carted home truckloads of huge oak limbs that loggers left in my forest. I didn’t think he would have borrowed the splitter without asking, but would have been flattered if he knew that he was such a good friend that he had no need to ask.

Elliot said he’d noticed a big Ford pickup in my brother’s yard on a regular basis. I knew my brother’s friend owned that Ford, so I asked my brother to check him out.

His friend said that he had the splitter, but he hadn’t borrowed it. Last fall my brother hauled it over there and forgot about it.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: MainePrivateRadio.html

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