Thursday, May 11, 2006

Be Careful Out There, When You Live Out There

I was down at the pond, pulling excess pond weed out with an oversized rake when the pickup slowed down and turned into my drive. It wasn't a truck I recognized. My first thought was that this was someone looking for one of the scattered homes in this very rural area and that they were just using my entrance to turn around. Not this time.

The truck paused and then proceeded slowly...very slowly, up the long sandy drive towards the empty house. My crew had soccer games and I had stayed home to do some much needed chores.

I headed up the slope to intercept the driver before he could exit the truck. We get few visitors, and almost no strangers dropping in here, and the crawly slow way that this guy had crept up the driveway was tripping all my cop senses. (You've perhaps heard of spidey senses...this is better)

The driver had stopped and was still seated behind the wheel as I came up from behind the truck. White guy, 6 feet, 180 lbs, late 20's -mid 30's, stringy brown hair, unshaven with a moustache. He sat looking at the house and had not noticed me yet.

I eased up to the driver side, keeping some space, and holding the large landscape rake between us...casually defensive.

"Can I help you?" He jumped and turned in his seat at the sound of my voice.

"Yeah man, I'm almost out of gas and I've got to get out to Cedar Key"
He said he was home to see family. I asked him his name. It did match a Cedar Key family name. Hmmm.

Still, this guy just seemed way too jumpy...hinky if you will. Something just wasn't right. He was way too nervous and way too interested in the house before he knew I was there. I told him to stay there, I had a couple of bucks in my wallet that he could have. I gave it to him and gave him directions to the little corner store a few miles away. As an after thought, I remembered a a little 2 gallon gas can under the boat that had about a gallon in it.

I put it in the bed of his truck and told him he could keep the can.

Still seated in his truck, he thanked me. I stepped back and he backed up and drove away. I walked back to the pond to continue my task, but the mystery nervous guy stayed on my mind. I was still convinced he had been up to something and my mind raced with what would that have gone if it had been just my kids home or if no one was here.

I also considered that Mr. Ex-Law Dog was being too suspicious as usual. Entirely possible.

A week goes by...

Our town is so small, we only have a weekly newspaper. It comes out on Thursdays. When it does I always turn to the inside of the front page to read the weekly arrest records. I usually find at least one of my ex -students pictured there.

On this particular Thursday, I get a shock when I open the paper. There in the weekly mugshots is a picture of my truck "visitor". The short write-up beneath his picture explains that he was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant from another state.

A few days after he visited me.


Wayne said...

Ewwww, FC. Creepy.

When I was a child I had to feed the pet dog, outside, under the eaves. I imagined space aliens grabbing me from their position atop the gutters and pulling me up.

I grew up a little, and then saw American Werewolf in London and for months afterward carried what I imagined to be a silver knife when I walked into the lab in the wee hours.

Now I've put away my childish things, I've successfully ignored Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", I live at the end of a long driveway in the middle of nowhere and you tell me THIS!

It's a great story, nonetheless, and worth remembering, seriously.

pablo said...

Okay, so when I finally make it down to Pure Florida for a surprise visit, the lesson is not to drive slowly up your driveway but to careen up it as fast as I can. Right?

Leslie said...

Wow. FC, I'm so glad everything turned out like it did. Had you not been home, had the kids been there with you away, had the stranger not decided to accept your kind offer graciously... gosh, it's so very unsettling and worrisome. You'll note I don't use the word frightening and that's on purpose: if I say it out loud, it will give the emotion strength.

Did you think to check his plates as he left? I usually don't think to check plates until it's too late.

Lightnin said...

Pablo had me laughing out loud to his reply! I guess I'm one of the few on here that have actually seen the pond, the lane, the house etc. and this story really creeped me out! Happy to hear that he was caught! Since this happened before the now infamous haircut perhaps you scared him more than he did you! Glad this turned out okay and the bad guy is behind bars!

Lightnin said...

Pablo had me laughing out loud to his reply! I guess I'm one of the few on here that have actually seen the pond, the lane, the house etc. and this story really creeped me out! Happy to hear that he was caught! Since this happened before the now infamous haircut perhaps you scared him more than he did you! Glad this turned out okay and the bad guy is behind bars!

Debbie said...

It's a good thing that you went with your gut feeling. Where were your dogs? Years ago, when I lived in Miami (a nice section too), some lowlife tried to break into my apartment in the middle of the night - - while I was awake watching TV! My dogs tried to take the door down to get to him. I heard him stumble down the stairwell and saw him run off through the parking lot. I decided at that moment that I will ALWAYS have dogs around.

Wayne said...

My cats always protect me!

(Basically, if they take to the woods, I know something's up.)

Deb said...

wow...the what-if's...I'm glad you trusted your instincts and everything turned out okay.

I have three guard geese and two guineas who earn their feed by raising a ruckus whenever anyone comes near our long driveway.

roger said...

nice going fc. i have noted, and even sometimes written down, the license numbers/letters of vehicles in like situations. i've never had to actually talk to a suspicious stranger tho. guess you were prepared to rake him over the coals.

robin andrea said...

I am just so glad that it was you who was home, and that you had your internal radar working. That's a freakin' scary story. Creepy criminals in cars is my bete noire. Did you ask your kids what they might have done in that situation, and they were home alone?

Betsy said...

Always trust your gut, I say. If your hackles get raised, chances are good there's a reason for it ... even if you can't put your finger on exactly what at the time.

Juli said...

Since you know where he is, are you going to go get your couple bucks back??

Freaky story. *shivers*

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

Our 120# pyre and 85# lab have always stood off about 10 yards from any stranger who arrives and barked their heads off. Although they are gentle as lambs, we do not discourage this behavior in them, because we think it best to leave a big doubt in the mind of callers.

I would think that effective police work might be something like 80% instinct, and 20% training to effectively act upon that instinct.

Thunder Dave said...

Super FC,
I thought that fit better than BatFC!

My philosohy is that I'd rather be on trial for the death of a criminal than the other way around! I agree with Betsy, your instincs are there for a reason. Too many people have trained themselves to ignore them!

Anonymous said...

PS I should have introduced myself before this ... I am Betsy and I was born in Gainesville. I LOVE your blog -- you have really captured the essence of wild Florida. Piedmont North Carolina just has never really done it for me. I have emailed your link to all my north-Florida-loving friends and relatives. Thanks for providing this wonderful daily visit with the Cracker Republic. October 2005 and June 2005 are the BEST. mwah mwah mwah to you ... Betsy

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Spidey senses were in good working order.

Wayne said...

So...where's FC? Maybe the boogieman got him!

Laura said...

whoa... it's a good thing Pablo didn't come careening up the driveway at the same time. He would have slammed right into the guy and that might have made him awfully MAD. ;)
And there you'd be, with your rake and all....

Floridacracker said...

My childhood bedroom was a converted living room with a huge single pane picture window. After the original War of The Worlds came out, I was always afraid there would be a huge eye thingie on a tentacle thingie looking in at me if I glanced over at the window.

Yes and mind the dogs when you do.

Serendipity for me that I was here to greet him...and yes I did use going to get the gas can as my excuse to peek at his tag.

It may have been the sight of me wet, muddy, and covered in pond scum that caused him to leave quietly.

My dogs are big, old, and sweet. They were barking from the safety of the porch, and that too may have paused this fellow.

Wayne, (again)
Guard cats...I knew cats had to be good for something.

I have a guinea too, but she lives in a backyard pen and wasn't the first alert bird this time.

I had a plan for him, but the situation never escalated which is exactly the way I wanted it to go.

You have me blushing like a red snapper. Thank you so much for the positive feedback and the kind words. Talk about motivation! Thanks again.

I think that was money well invested.

Regarding the sweet, big barking dogs. I agree and I don't share the fact that they don't bite with the occasional stranger or delivery person. Keep em guessing.
...and yes, I agree with the policework statement.

I agree and would add that it's typical of people in a natural setting to relax and let their guard down. Something to think about when you're out in the boonies...even if you live there.

Yes, they were. If my webshooters weren't all gummed up I could have wrapped him up I suppose.

Floridacracker said...

End of the year programs, award ceremonies and prom have me tied up evenings so that I can hardly touch the computer.

Soon though...soon.

Speak softly and carry a big rake.

Floridacracker said...

Just noticed I skipped you in my responses,sorry... We have discussed what to do if ...but it's been a while and you are reminding that it is time to do that again.

Maybe time for a little defensive tactics training too.

...they are dating after all.


doubleknot said...

It is a shame that we have to be so supious these days. I have had a few close calls in the past and don't take kindly to strangers showing up at my door.
My aunt and uncle who fish and hunt a lot always go armed and are very careful of who they run across who want's to get friendly.

Hick said...

Pablo makes me laugh. I just can't picture him careening anywhere.

This story freaked me out. We had something similar one snowy morning around 5:00 A.M. some guy knocked on our door and wanted to know where the nearest gas station was. In order to get to our door he had to walk through about 1 foot of snow down our driveway and then down our sidewalk. There are other neighbors that live much closer to the road, so I always wondered about it.

threecollie said...

Boy do I know that feeling, when even though someone doesn't do anything overt to make you suspicious you just know they are up to no good. I am glad you got away with no serious problems with that guy. Such a shame that stuff like that has followed us out into the country.

Floridacracker said...

I carry something more effective than a rake when I am way out there too...

He was casing...just like this guy. You try house after house until you find the easy target,and offer up a reasonable (?) excuse for the houses that have people at home...

I believe it was you who posted a similar experience with strangers at the door.

swamp4me said...

Once an LEO, always an LEO! Glad your "unknown risk" stop turned out well.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Always trust your first instincts about someone, because they usually are right on target. I'm glad he went away quietly...he must have sensed that you were probably armed with more than a rake and not an easy mark...or was just looking to rob an empty house.

If he really needed gas, why didn't he put it in his truck right then?

Tjilpi said...

At times this keeps me company. Don't know what I would do with it as self defence is rarely accepted as a defence in this country, in which personal firearm ownership is heavily restricted.

Tjilpi said...

Odd, on some blogger sites the URL actually comes out as an active link. Looks like you'll have to do some work if you want to see what I am talking about. Sorry 'bout that.

Floridacracker said...

It does stick with you and you never see the world quite the way you did before.

It's important to be alert and not look like an easy target. That can prevent a lot of trouble.

Hey, I am a big fan of the British .303 even if it's American made. I am puzzled though, I thought you Aussies had all your guns outlawed a while back. Confiscation by the government and all that. So I must be mistaken...

rick said...

I hope he got a one way ticket out of your world.So glad the wife or kids were not the one to confront him .