Letters to the Editor

Horticulture caper is ripe for solving | Humor

I have lately been writing mystery novels, and so, naturally, I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery of the great hydrangea heist at Kathy’s Corner a week or so back.

I can think of several adjectives to describe the theft of these and other valuable ornamental plants from Kathy Wheaton’s venerable nursery. “Despicable” is one.

But if you will bear with me for a moment, I would suggest “pathetically stupid” is yet another. I do not mean to minimize the financial loss for Kathy, a kind and brilliant horticultural expert and a stalwart of our community who has been through her share of difficulties in recent years.

But, really, think about it: Some guys get together — it has to be guys because women are not this stupid — and maybe they’ve had a few beers or too much of something else less salubrious, and one of them says, “Hey, I have a great idea: Let’s go steal hydrangeas!” High fives all around and off they go. Hello?

I don’t know about you, and this may be a personal matter, but I’ve always associated hydrangeas with funeral parlors. I can’t imagine why anyone would want one in the first place, much less steal one. Or a dozen. Hydrangeas? Come on.

I’m reminded of an old British Monty Python skit in which the great John Cleese plays a Robin Hood-like character who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Except, what he steals is bouquets of lupine flowers, and the peasants are fed up with him, literally: “We’re bloody sick of lupines! We’ve had lupine soup, roast lupines, steamed lupines, braised lupines with lupine mornay sauce, fried lupines in a basket!” You get the idea. I can’t imagine hydrangeas are any more palatable. No, I don’t see a Robin Hood in this caper.

So I’m imagining the scene of the crime: There’s a fence around Kathy’s nursery. The thieves scale the fence and then have to hoist the shrubs and trees back over the fence to their equally idiotic waiting confederates. These specimens are neither small nor light. I’m thinking hernias. But the desperadoes are no doubt young and fit as well as stupid and venal. So hoist they do. I hear a lot of grunting and cursing and, “Whose bright idea was this, anyway?!” But on they go.

And at some point, one of the brighter bulbs in this dim chandelier says, “Hey, this is just me talking, but wouldn’t we be better off burgling the liquor store? The others dismiss him and begin a mad substance abuse-driven chant: “Shrubs, shrubs, shrubs, shrubs!” until he begs them to stop.

I don’t see meth-heads in this picture, and here’s why: Even they are smart enough to steal things that are marketable. I don’t see them skulking around whispering, “Hey, I have some lovely hydrangeas, whaddaya think, eh?” Not gonna happen. These clowns are stuck with a dying asset, of value for only a limited time.

As I see it, there are only two options open to them. First, use the trees and plants in a residential landscaping project somewhere on the island asap. But wait! Wouldn’t the client hear about the theft, make the connection and grass them (so to speak) to save his or her own hide? Of course they would — unless the client was an employer of the thieves! And thus we have obvious search number one: Identify any major landscaping project under way on the island involving hydrangeas and Japanese maples, among others. Satellite images should be enough to pinpoint such activity. Put a bounty on the Japanese maples (forget the hydrangeas). No problem.

Search number two is even more obvious. In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the witches tell the murderous king to fear not, “till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane.” Did Washington State Ferries workers, either north or south, fail to notice a pickup truck slinking onto a ferry, perhaps late at night, loaded with a forest of trees and shrubs, their barely budding leaves shivering in the darkness? And even if the poor deciduous dears were smuggled off the island in an enclosed panel truck, are there not video surveillance films of all such trucks leaving the island at that time? If they’re carrying illicit shrubbery, might they not also be carrying bombs? Do we not have a Department of Homeland Security? Of course we do. Study the videos. Elementary.

The other day, I saw a poster at the Burton Coffee Stand announcing a meeting to discuss the idea of an island-based justice system. All right, people, here’s your first case: Look over your fences, slip through the woods to neighboring properties, carry a camera and collect evidence. Make a statement: This island will not tolerate and will fully prosecute plant pilferers! Once apprehended, we could put them in stocks on the green, and Kathy could torture them with lupines.

Just a suggestion.

 

— Will North is a Vashon novelist.

 

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