My dad, the “Fred G. Sanford” of the neighborhood and his onetime CSI investigation

The following below is an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

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My dad in March of 2012 got a new, HD TV and a new entertainment center to house it, so, he decided to sell the old one. My dad is the “Fred G. Sanford” of the neighborhood. He is constantly selling crap along the highway … next to my house! The problem … he is starting to attract human vermin. You have to see some of the “people” (notice the quotation marks) that pull in here to sample his wares. Holy crap … half the time they are refugees from any “Mad Max” movie or “The Hills Have Eyes.” This isn’t next to his house … it’s next to mine! But, he just loves to sell stuff, it’s in his blood.

Well, a few days after he had the stand sitting alongside the road, on a Sunday morning thieves stole it. “I have a clue, 3 small white stones,” he says. Someone cue “Who Are You” from “CSI.” My dad called the police, the Town of Warwick police, who actually came and took a report. The office didn’t offer up much hope for recovery. My dad though was not to be deterred, he launched his own investigation. He called virtually everyone in the neighborhood, asking them if they had seen any suspicious vehicles driving around. One neighbor said they might have seen an unusual white pick-up truck. How did that fit with the white stones he recovered at the crime scene? He wasn’t sure.

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He then decided to do a new tact … public shame. He made two signs and put them out by the highway. One said “Who Stole TV Cabinet?” and the other “SHAME ON YOU!” Oh superb, we now had those kooky signs along the road, attracting even more attention. You should have seen the Facebook posts from friends about it. I was mortified, but my dad was not budging.

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But you know what? The signs worked!

About three days later, as we were eating dinner I got a knock on my door from a guy that looked my age, maybe a bit older … he said “my son took your TV stand on Sunday … I think there was a misunderstanding.” The guy was a bit apprehensive. I could tell he was trying to gauge how angry I was going to be. So I started laughing a bit, which eased the tension on his end.

I said to him, “oh, it wasn’t mine. It was my dad’s. He’s the ‘Fred. G. Sanford’ of the neighborhood.” The man replied, “Well, my name is Mark, (shakes my hand) and I sent my son to take a look at it on Sunday. I was on my way to church. Well, he just took it. He thought it was for free. He didn’t see any signs.” I replied. “Well, it was for sale, there was a sign next to the plows.” “Oh, yeah, my son saw that, but he thought it was just for the plows. Well, how much is it?” he asked.

I told him in reply I wasn’t sure but asked him to hang on a minute. “Let me call my dad. He’ll come right over. He’s going to love this.” Mark nervously said,  “Okay. I just want to make it right. You see, I drove by on my motorbike on Tuesday and saw the sign that said ‘Shame on you.’” I burst out laughing and told him “that’s my dad. He did call the cops about it. And found some stones as clues. And talked to the neighbors who saw a suspicious white pick-up who told him that drives by every day. I think he was on stakeout today.” “Is your dad going to be as cool about this as you are?” “Oh yeah.”

So my dad pulls in at that moment … laughing. My dad said, “I had some wine with dinner so I drove here thru the black dirt.”

Mark then repeats the story and my dad repeats his crime detecting skills.

Mark asks “So how much did you want for it?” My dad responds with “well … $100 or best offer.” Mark responds with “Okay.” My dad says “make it $75.” Mark counters with “how about $80?” My dad says “deal!”

My dad tells him, “I was staking out for the white pickup truck today because I was told it goes by every day.” Mark said, “well, mine is gold so I guess I was in the clear.” He paid my dad, we all laughed and Mark went on his way.