So what would you do? You look out your window and note a guy standing under your plum tree. He has a bag, and he’s picking your choicest plums.
Quickly, you head out to discuss “theft” with this interloper, and as you approach him, both he and his dog barely look up. He does, however, stop picking because his bag is nearly full.
“Excuse me,” I say, “that’s my plum tree you’re taking plums from.” I wanted to say “stealing from,” but I didn’t want to get into a fight that early in the morning.
“Oh, is this your tree?” he responds. Well, no, it’s only been on my property for 35 years! The guy had a lot of cheek to remain calm and not really be bothered by his plum snatching.
So I tell him that I’d appreciate him asking to pick before he simply helps himself. I mention that we usually give away loads of plums from that tree and wouldn’t have turned down his request if he’d just asked first. In fact, some years we’ve given away pails upon pails when there were lots of plums.
This summer the plum tree had not produced heavily, so there were not many to be had. Giving plums to my friends and to the families of my three sons was a priority. Unfortunately, this pilferer with a bag got there first.
To top it off, he didn’t even apologize as he headed down the street. “Oh, well,” he said. “I guess I saved some from the bears.” If he had stayed and looked me in the eye, I would have told him the four-legged animals had never bothered that tree in 30 years. He was the only invader beyond a kid or two grabbing a plum on the way to school.
His dog looked up at me, and at least I could see “apology” in the dog’s eyes. But then it, too, fell in with its master. After the plunderer had gone, I thought I should have asked him to give back my plums. I should have been sharp enough to say, “I’ll take my plums now. Thank you for picking them.”
Given that he’d taken them and felt no guilt at doing so, I wondered what else he might take some morning. Had I been wide awake, I might have suggested he help himself to my heavily-loaded pear tree. Mind you, he would have had to come further onto my property and nearer my house.
I might have mentioned the fully-ripe tomatoes he could have slipped from the vines. He would have needed another bag or two, but a reprobate like him probably carries extra bags in his pocket—just in case.
I often leave my long spade in the middle of my garden. I wonder now if that’s a good idea. Perhaps my carrots and beets are in danger of disappearing, too. Heaven forbid that he might grab several zucchini. I would have been happy about the zucchini disappearing—but not my plums.
I realize now that my colourful dahlias in yellow, purple, and orange are not far from the street. Nor are my incredible roses—reds and whites—far off my driveway. Both would be easy pickings for such a varlet if he needed flowers for one of his vases to grace his table.
Fences don’t make good neighbours as the American poet Robert Frost has shown. But clearly having my plum tree in the open and too close to the street doesn’t help “neighbourliness” either. I don’t want to build a stone wall. All I ask is the courtesy of a knock on the door or a phone call.