A public thank you!

Dad put up a sign today, thanking the battery charger pilferer for the return of it.


An update on the battery charger theft/”Shame on You” campaign!

Previous blog post here: https://muckville.com/2013/11/15/my-dad-and-another-thief-thats-rude/

As we were leaving the house late this morning the family and I turned and looked with amazement and saw … the stolen batter charger was returned!


For the second time my dad’s “Shame on You” campaign worked (for the previous incident see this blog post: https://muckville.com/2013/10/30/my-dad-the-fred-g-sanford-of-the-neighborhood-and-his-onetime-csi-investigation/



I ran into my father a short time later and excitedly told him.

Dad: “Really? I didn’t see it between 8-9 am this morning when I came back from deer hunting. Someone must have brought it back.”

Me: “I’m sort of surprised.”

Dad: “Me too, I didn’t think it would work again.”

Later, when I took the photos I noticed that the people who took and returned it were even thoughtful enough to bracket the tires with small stones to prevent it from falling.


I just called my dad and told him about the stones.

Dad: “I saw that … that was nice … you know what, if they identify themselves I will give the battery charger to them for free now.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad throws in a 50 lb bag of onions on top of it … on second thought, I highly doubt that.

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The following below is an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”


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.


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.


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.

Moving a barn …

Allow me to formally introduce my dad, 3rd generation onion farmer Richard Pawelski.


My dad is a thinker and a doer. As he often says:

“I have an idea stuck in my head.”

Frequently these ideas come to him in the middle of the night. They percolate and then come to fruition. Frequently.

Sometimes these ideas which get lodged in his head are good things. He’s always on the hunt for scrap lumber or tin and is always building something, or taking something apart. As our good friend Tom Savaglio has remarked, “you are a cobbler Rich, always doing something!”

The piece of property between my house and his, called “The Cemetery,” is filled with incredibly large Rich-made structures all put together with cannibalized wood and other materials. “I only had to pay for the nails” he has often remarked.

As I said, sometimes these projects work out quite well … sometimes, not so much. Sometimes he is not so easily dissuaded from one of the “ideas stuck in his head.” Allow me to share the narrative of one of those ideas.

See this barn on my yard:

barn today

That barn years ago used to be on my dad’s yard. here is a vintage photo of it when my brother and I were really young (this pic is from circa 1971 or so):


At some point in our early childhood my dad cut the side of the barn off and moved the primary structure to a different spot in his yard. I don’t recall how exactly he moved it, but I faintly remember him doing it.

Well, he then decided, sometime in the early 80’s, that he was going to move it from his yard to my grandmother’s yard (where I live now and it sits to this day) so all of his primary barns would be in one location. How was he going to move it?

He was going to take this forklift:


He was going to drive into the barn, lift it and have it balanced on the forklift, then he was going to drive it down this 1,000 foot driveway:


And then drive it over 1,500 feet down Pulaski Highway to the other yard:

Pulaski Highway

I am not making any of this up. I remember, distinctly, everyone protesting this idea, me, my brother, my mom, etc …. We thought it was insane, but, as usual, my dad was not to be deterred. He even enlisted our neighbor and his good friend Ed Ratynski to stop traffic along Pulaski Highway as he slowly drove the barn down the highway.

I asked my dad the other day what happened next, and as he recalled, chuckling about it:

“I thought it would work … I had the idea in my head. But then as I started down the driveway, and the driveway wasn’t even, the barn started tilting toward the ditch. Then I decided it wasn’t a good idea and went back up the driveway.”

Another neighbor eventually suggested putting the barn on a wagon and then driving through the black dirt fields between the properties to the new location. And voilà the barn was moved!

In recapping this event with my dad the other day he lamented:

“I should have left the barn where it originally was, before I moved it the first time. The yard would have been more picturesque.”

But, if he hadn’t moved it we wouldn’t have had this story!

After moving it to its current resting place my dad built another side addition with his scraps and “timbers” and it houses a number pieces of equipment, including one of our AC-G’s, our Cat-22 and under the side addition our ditchbank sprayer, fertilizer spreader and Case 350. It is quite useful.

“Hey dad, it looks like a roadblock in front of the house!”

Yesterday was a very long day. We were set to spray the entire farm (99 acres) with herbicides. It would take three big tanks of the tank truck even starting at 7 am we wouldn’t finish till late afternoon.

We had an unexpected setback during the day, delaying us for hours. Hence, we didn’t complete the job, leaving 15 acres to do today and we didn’t finish working last night until 7 pm. Did I mention it was hot? (See the image below to see what I wear when I spray herbicides) After a shower and a store bought sandwich and doing all of my e-mail replies and late computer work … and being thoroughly exhausted I finally went to bed by 10 pm.

I was awoken at about 2:15 am by Caleb. He had gotten up to go to the bathroom and called out “mom, dad, it looks like a roadblock in front of the house. Sure enough as we looked out our bathroom window (which faces west) Pulaski Highway in front of our house was blocked with emergency vehicles and trucks and cars with flashing lights. But we didn’t see and evidence of a crash so we thought, maybe it was a literal roadblock. Could some escaped fugitive be heading our way?

I had to find out, so outside I went. I could see what looked like one police car and one ambulance. Two officials were talking to someone along the road, but I couldn’t make the person out from the distance. Closer to me were a group of civilians and I approached them. I quickly recognized my fantastic neighbor Diane Matuszewski (of the world famous Quaker Creek Store: http://www.quakercreekstore.com) I also saw her son Matt. I asked her, what’s up?

She said how a friend of her son’s was driving on Pulaski Highway after coming back from Quick Chek (my dinner source a few hours previous: http://www.qchek.com) and she happened to see a body half lying in the road.

Me: “Was he hit?”
Diane: “We weren’t sure. She called us over, someone else called 911. The scanner was saying a heart attack. He was half in the road, half to the side, and he didn’t appear to be breathing.”
Me: “Lucky he wasn’t hit.”
Diane: “I know. But the funny thing was he had his cell phone to his head, and his other hand was outstretched holding the cover. So, the EMT person took his pulse and it was extremely weak. Then, all of a sudden, he stood up and started talking.”
Me: “Who is he?”
Diane: “He’s a Mexican farmworker, said his name is Mario.”
Me: “MARIO? He works for me, my main man for the last 7 years. Holy crap!”

I turned behind me and could see the lights for my farmworker housing. Oh, crap. But as I walked closer, much to my relief, I could see it wasn’t the same Mario. Thank God.

Diane: “I asked him if he was drunk and he said no. But he has to be drunk. Do you recognize him?”
Me: “No, I don’t.”

As I got closer I could hear the Warwick Town cop and the EMT guy questioning him. They were insisting he had to go tot he hospital to be checked out. As one of the other EMTs took him to the ambulance I asked them what he said. He told them something about he was drinking down the road and works for the Koreans and lives somewhere along Pulaski Highway. I told them I didn’t think the Koreans had housing for their workers. They said he lives like a 20 minute walk from where he was drinking. He told them he was drinking at the Farmworker Community Center, known as the Alamo, but I told them that is impossible, they don’t allow that there and they close early on Saturdays.

Before they took him into the ambulance he said he was “walking with his amigo” who is somewhere around here. The cop starting shining a flashlight in the brush along the highway. We all started peering into the grass along the road. We didn’t see any signs of anyone, so either his friend just left him to sleep it off in the road, had passed out at a different section of the road or never had a friend with him to begin with. What was amazing was this guy had to be stone cold drunk yet he wasn’t bobbing or weaving at all, but was standing straight as an arrow.

We all agreed that he was lucky to still be alive. people do not typically obey the speed limit of 45 mph on Pulaski Highway (http://youtu.be/JqHW4VUk3o0), especially on the stretch by my house, and at 55 mph or faster you would probably not be able to see him in time to avoid him, from where he was passed out. Though Pulaski Highway is a very heavily traveled road the entire time this whole incident played out, which was 45 minutes or so, only a couple of vehicles came by and had to turn around or wait to pass thru.

Diane and I told what happened to our neighbor Mike and his daughter, then we parted ways to head back to bed … after laughing over the whole situation.

Once again our favorite phrase on the farm came to mind … you can’t make this sh*t up.