Last Sunday night, a heavy old tubular steel gate that had been hanging, chained and locked, at the end of our barnyard driveway for more than 25 years vanished in the night. All that was left behind was the plastic netting (carefully folded and set aside) that had been zip tied along its base to keep chickens and ducks from wandering onto the busy road, and a couple broken chain links. DH reported our theft to the police, and the fellow who took our report said it was a first for him in more than 3000 calls…usually people enter and exit through gates to steal stuff, they don’t actually steal the gates.
Scavenging a gate from between two fields elsewhere on the property, DH and RG spent much of the day installing and theft-proofing it. Of course, as with any farm chore, the usual number of tangential roadblocks cropped up along the way, each having to be dealt with as it arose. DH’s farm truck battery died at the feed store where he’d stopped to ask them to call us if anyone came in looking for farm gate hangers. RG had to go give him a jump, after one from a kind stranger didn’t work. Then, as well as the new chains and locks, DH had to go buy a new truck battery. Funny how vehicle batteries always die when the weather turns cold, isn’t it. It ended up being a fairly expensive day. Good locks, chains, and truck batteries don’t come cheap.
On the advice of middle daughter, the organized one, I wrote a quick Facebook post and sent it to a couple ‘what’s happening in our community’ pages. My post got lots of attention, so it didn’t take long for the local print and TV media folks to come calling, looking for a story. We indulged each as they came, because of course any publicity just might help. Maybe someone had seen our large (12 feet long!) gate travelling down the road. Maybe someone had noticed a big old gate appear in their neighbourhood. With a replacement looking like it was going to cost north of $300, and the usual insurance deductible meaning the cost would assuredly come out of our own pockets, we really just wanted to get our old gate back.
Lots of folks reacted to the story, we read all the comments, which ranged from sad to mad to everything in between. We enjoyed seeing RG on the evening news – it’s always fun when family is on TV. And that was it, I thought, Muddy Valley Farm’s fifteen minutes of fame. I’d been surprised by the level of interest, and was happy when things started to settle down. I liked the idea of sinking back into quiet obscurity.
The last interviewer who had come by had said as he departed “You never know, it might just turn up, I’ve seen it happen.” I wasn’t holding out too much hope, but thought that if our gate was to reappear, it would come in the form of a call from a good samaritan reporting a gate in the ditch somewhere. Mostly though, I thought that probably we’d just never see our old gate again. Luckily, the gate we’d scavenged to plug the opening onto the busy road wouldn’t be needed between the barnyard field and the Tarzan Tree field until the weather improved, and we could let George and the donkeys out onto grass again.
The week went by quickly, as weeks tend to do, and every morning as I walked out to feed, I’d glance up at the driveway entrance, thinking of what that last interviewer had said, and hoping…on the off chance…
Friday night was a frosty cold one, and the barnyard was gorgeous as I walked out to feed early Saturday morning. I glanced to my right as I crossed the winter field, and saw…something?…what the heck? I set down my buckets and fished for my glasses on their string around my neck, squeezing them on between my scarf and my toque, then peered up the driveway again. The gate almost looked like it had…doubled? Walking more quickly now (could it be??) I dropped the feed buckets at the barn door and headed up for a closer look. Were my eyes deceiving me…or…OMG, the old gate!!! It was back! Leaning against the new gate, it’s chain securely taped (so THAT’s how they kept it quiet!), it was definitely our old familiar gate. The rust spots were just where they were supposed to be, but the metal cash box (which we hadn’t used for years since we stopped selling manure) was missing. I didn’t care, our prodigal gate was home!!!
I pulled my phone out of my pocket, which was not easy as it was nestled under several warm layers, and called DH who was in the house enjoying his morning coffee. “THE GATE IS BACK!!!!” I shouted delightedly. “Really???” he said, and then he laughed and laughed and so did I. We were both shocked. What a head shaker. Then I texted my sister “holy sh!t, it’s back!”, but she never got the message because I accidently sent it instead to a random ex-coworker in my address book whom I hadn’t talked to for several years. Suffice to say I was a little stunned.
By now George was stomping around expressing his strong displeasure at his feed bucket’s delay, so I carried on feeding him and the donks, letting out the ducks and giving them feed and water, then over to the coops to do my chicken chores. When I got back to the house I quickly dashed off another post to let everyone know the good news. One of the nice things about good news is sharing it, so that was fun. Of course the media folks got back in touch for follow ups, and the TV guy is coming back today to interview RG again. I’ll have to congratulate him on his insight.
All in all, it’s been an interesting experience, and I’m thankful for it. Good and bad, these are the happenings that enrich our lives. At its heart though, this is a redemption story. Unknown persons came to our farm, did a bad deed, saw how it affected us, regretted their actions, and then righted their wrong; redeeming themselves in our eyes and, I believe, in the eyes of the universe too. Redemption narratives are as old as humankind, and for good reason; they give us hope. These days, with all that we are living through with this pandemic and everything else that’s going on around the world, a good redemption story provides sustenance to our souls. I don’t know who took our gate, and I likely never will, and it doesn’t matter.
As I said in my second post, we’re all human, and we all do stuff we later wish we hadn’t. And sometimes, we even have the courage to make it right. It couldn’t have been easy for whoever took our gate to return it, but they did so anyway. By doing so, not only did they make my day, they made a lot of other peoples’ day, and they redeemed themselves as well. Gosh I love happy endings. Happy Sunday everyone!