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Stephenville Empire-Tribune and Glenn Rose Reporter, December 2018
It is almost December and most of my Christmas gifts are already ordered, thanks to Cyber Monday and the unlimited bargains to be had. All morning the texts have been coming to my cell phone informing me that various packages will be delivered today. I pace as I peek out of the kitchen window in hopes that I can grab them off of the porch before I leave for work. Although we have not had a problem with theft of unattended packages in our neighborhood (I am knocking on wood as I say this) you can never be too careful. On one of many trips through the kitchen to glance down the hill for a delivery truck, I spy something unusual and alarming. There is a man just lying in the street on his back…right smack in front of the steep steps leading down from our front door to our mailbox. He is clad in orange.
I know he is not dead because I can see his thumbs moving even from a great distance and realize he is lying in the road texting. To his right, I catch a glimpse of what could be a work truck of some kind but most of the vehicle is obscured by 45-year-old hedges, in need of serious pruning. A prisoner on a work detail filling in potholes is my first thought—based on the orange garb. Maybe he is on a break or maybe he has killed the guard and is now leisurely texting through his contact list asking for a ride across a border. Canada? Mexico? Oklahoma?
I cautiously crack my front door to make sure a box is not sitting there just waiting to be stolen and skirted across a border by this desperate criminal. His ride is probably en route with dynamite and guns and other tools they might need on their Thelma and Louise like trek across Texas. No package awaits me, but the orange-clad man looks up making brief eye contact and nods at me as I slam the door. I gulp and engage the deadbolt.
My phone rings and I jump out of my skin. It is my mother-in-law and I debate letting the call go to voice-mail but then decide to answer. I may need her to call 911, after all.
“Hello,” I whisper. “Why are you whispering?” she shouts. I softly explained to her that I am probably going to get murdered and all of my Christmas gifts will be stolen by a criminal who is lying in the street. She is instantly intrigued so I let her in on the unfolding drama.
“What is he doing now?” blasts into my ear, so I crouch and creep to the window peering just above the sink. “He is still there,” I whisper “but he is wearing jeans with an orange hoodie. Not a jumpsuit and I don’t see any stripes. I think he might be a hobo. He looks a little dirty and scruffy,” I say as I see the man briefly stop his texting to flick grass out of his hair. As I am hanging up, I promise to call her and update her on the outcome.
As a safety precaution, I decided to let my three dogs out in the fenced portion of the yard. They are a combined 125-pounds of barking fury and unless he notices their wagging tails, they will possibly make this hardened criminal think twice before making his way to our front door.
It is just then that I hear a lawnmower start up close by and remember that today is Wednesday...mowing day…a chore that is necessary well into early winter in Texas. I swing the door wide and see the hardened criminal sitting upon a zero-turn-radius lawn tractor...mowing. He is our yardman. I see an orange hoodie, half of an uneaten sandwich, and a cell phone on our front steps and conclude that it was him simply taking a lunch break. I give him an embarrassed little wave. He raises his eyebrows, smirks, and then gives me another head nod. We are good.
By Lisa H. Owens