Len and I were on our way to a party Saturday night. We pulled out of the driveway and noticed the legs of two men on the sidewalk that passes our home. They were reaching up into our mulberry tree and grabbing as much fruit as they could stick into their mouths.
First, I need to describe how our house is situated. We are on a cul-de-sac and we own one of the two houses that has a driveway on the cul-de-sac and a section of land which keeps the cul-de-sac from being a street to the major north-south avenue which is on the eastern border of our property. There is a sidewalk between our house and the one to the south of us, and both of the houses have a plot of land. Our mulberry tree, along the south wall of our garage and a bit of the slump-stone wall that forms the eastern border of our back yard, intertwines with some form of cypress and some branches overhang the sidewalk along the major street. We also have a strip of land closer to the street than the sidewalk is, for which we pay gardeners to mow. Unfortunately, the trapezoidal spit of land is not walled or fenced and people seem to think they are entitled to help themselves to the fruit of our Persian mulberry.
Often, the thieves are English-as-a-second-language folk who pretend to not understand as I tell them they are stealing. But they all seem to understand when I say "I will call the police if you don't stop now." It is a violation of California law to steal produce. I looked it up one day.
Not only did these two, middle-aged, white guys refuse to stop, they came at our car yelling at us about how it was their right to take the fruit and we couldn't stop them--it was on public property. Then, one of them got on the phone while the other one said "tell them it's Officer___," then they got hostile about my license plate, "are you a lawyer? What's your bar number? You're a liar. That's not your bar number." I pulled out my phone and I did call the police. I also pulled out my camera to take pictures of them. One reached toward the window to block the camera, at which time Len said "if you stick your hand in here, I'll take it off at the wrist."
I spoke to an officer and told her what was going on. She went to speak to her partner about whether these bozos were allowed to take the fruit off of my tree. While I was waiting for her return, the creeps kept circling the car and saying things like "she's not really on the phone to anyone." Finally, the officer came back on and said "they can pick up anything that falls on the sidewalk--that's public ground--but they cannot take the fruit off of the tree. That's a misdemeanor, and we can come out and arrest them. I told her they'd probably run off before the police could arrive, and they did go off, continuing to yell at me and grabbing more fruit as they left.
I worried they might do something to the house while we were out, but that didn't seem to happen.
You'd think to well-to-do middle-aged white guys would be smart enough to leave well enough alone, but no. The taller of the two schmucks was back again the next night, pulling down the higher branches of the tree to eat berries. I saw him as I turned to go into the driveway. I immediately drove out to get on the main street where I pulled out my camera and yelled at him to get away from my tree, that he was a thief, and probably a few other things I would have been better off not saying. He yelled at me that I was a black-hearted bitch, black-hearted just like those berries, and that I should die--he wanted me dead. Real nice guy. But pulling out the camera did send him on his way, yelling as he did. I turned the car around and followed him, snapping pictures, and then turned again when he crossed the street until he ducked into another cul-de-sac and disappeared before I could find him.
I went back home and sprayed the branches over the sidewalk with Bitter Apple. I thought about using cayenne pepper spray (which I have to keep horses from chewing on wood), but I was afraid I might actually cause some hurt to someone whereas bitter apple will only make them regret the taste.
As I said, sometimes it is the small stuff that can really set you off and you forget about "don't sweat the small stuff; it's all small stuff." We rarely get a chance to enjoy the mulberries because people steal them before we have a chance to get to them.
I am sorely tempted to make up wanted posters and leave them in the neighborhood to find out who this bozo is and have him arrested. The photos aren't that good, but I have this feeling that public pillory is some times the right punishment for the annoying crimes. Len thinks I'm making more of this that it deserves. I should probably be concerned that the prick lives in the neighborhood and likes to take his evening walk past my house.
The mulberries aren't worth that much, but most people cut them down because birds eat them and the droppings are nasty to clean off cars. I like having the tree there for the wildlife. They are welcome to what I don't want.
Well-off white guys can buy their own.
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