Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Mystery of the Runway Farmsitter

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I took his daughter and her boyfriend to the San Juan Islands. We were quite excited about this trip, as they'd never been to the Islands before. We couldn't wait to share it with them.

One of the challenges we all face when we go on vacation is finding a farmsitter, especially one which doesn't charge an arm and leg.
An old Army buddy of my husband's, we'll call him Leo, volunteered to farm sit for us. Leo had gotten himself in a bit of trouble a few years ago in a drunken bar fight. As a result, he'd spent a few years in jail. After he'd been released, Leo's aunt and uncle had taken him in. He'd really turned himself around in the year he'd lived with them. He'd stopped drinking, was working hard to get his life back on track, was even teaching Sunday school at the church where his uncle was the reverend.

Off and on, Leo would do work for us on the farm, stuff we just didn't have time to do. This visit, we had a list of chores for him. Because the truck his uncle had given him was broken down, my hubbie picked him up at a bus stop near hubby's work.

As we were leaving for our trip, Leo mentioned that he'd like to wash my truck, which sorely needed it. Hubbie showed her where the keys were so he could move the truck over by the barn, nearer the hose. I asked Leo if he would be OK out here on the farm for 4 days without any means of transportation. He assured me he had plenty to keep him busy. I gave him our neighbor's number in case he needed something.

Fast forward to Sunday evening about 5 pm. We're having a great time with the kids. We've gone whale watching and seen two pods of whales, attended the piano/organ concert at Rosario, had some incredible meals, hiked to Mt. Constitution's lookout, essentially hit all the tourist spots.

My cell rings. It's our neighbors (my former daughter-in-law and her new husband, both of whom we're very close to) wondering if we gave Leo permission to drive our truck. It appears as soon as we left on Friday he headed out and didn't come back until after midnight. Saturday, same story. Now it's Sunday, and he's been gone since early morning. They're concerned about our animals and have gone up to feed them.

Hubbie immediately calls Leo on his cell and reaches him. Leo claims he didn't realize he wasn't supposed to drive the truck but says he's on his way up our driveway as he speaks. We don't buy his story. I call our neighbors a half hour later. No sign of Leo. I reach him on my cell. Again, he answers, this time he claims he's only 5 minutes from our home. I tell him in no uncertain terms to get the truck home and not to drive it again.

We go to dinner, but Leo has effectively ruined our evening as we worry he's fallen off the wagon and imagine all sorts of horrible scenarios. We try to call and text Leo several more times, but his phone is now turned off. The last time we talk to our neighbors that evening is about 11 pm. No sign of Leo or our truck.

Our neighbor was going to take the truck in to be serviced first thing Monday morning. He calls us at 7 am (we are already at the ferry landing waiting for the next ferry) to inform us the truck and Leo are nowhere to be found. Leo has now left our animals without care for over 24 hours (though our neighbors are taking care of them).

As we drive the 2.5 hours home, I'm getting more and more frantic. I check my iPhone for possible serious accidents within the last 24 hours. Thank God, there's been none involving a green Chevy pickup truck. So at least, I know Leo hasn't wrecked on I-5 and injured innocent people. We can't get any information from the State Patrol on our truck's whereabouts because I don't know the license number. Lesson #1, always have your license numbers stored somewhere easily accessible.

We're calling everyone we can think of who might know Leo. Via some sleuthing on Facebook, I find out the name of the aunt and uncle he lives with and obtain their phone number, again thanks to my iPhone. They haven't seen him either but are extremely upset that he'd betray our trust like this. After several calls, they haven't located him either. But they do know his brother saw him late Sunday night in a bar in Tacoma (about 45 minutes from our house).

Now, let me pause to say that this truck is my baby. I bought it brand new in 2002. It's my dream truck, a fully loaded 3/4-ton, heavy duty, Duramax diesel with a towing package, leather heated seats, the works. And it's paid for. Since we're all horse people, you know how expensive a truck like this is and how hard it will be to replace it.

As soon as we get home and armed with the truck's title and other info, we drive to the local sheriff's office. They're closed, but a deputy is walking into the building and agrees to take our information. After hubbie and him bond over having both been Army Rangers out of Fort Lewis, we head home.

By the time we arrive home, the deputy has left us a voicemail. He's located our truck. A towing company has it in impound at a nearby towing yard about ten minutes from our place. It appears Leo was picked with a DUI and the truck impounded.

We immediately go the impound yard, which actually isn't open on Labor Day, but a tow truck driver happens to be there. We pay the impound fee, but the truck won't start. It appears Leo has put over 300 miles on my truck and run it out of diesel. Back we go to our house for a diesel can. Still the truck won't start. We find a mechanic nearby, again not working on Labor Day, but in his shop repairing his own car. He agrees to start our truck for us.

Finally, we are on the road, out a few hundred dollars, but no other harm done, unless you count my husband's immense disappointment in Leo. But lesson 2 is trust your instincts and don't be so willing to give your trust to someone who hasn't earned it.

Well, Leo finally surfaces a week later in a VA hospital in Seattle. We don't really know when he went into the hospital, but we do know that he ran the truck out of fuel about 6 miles from our house and was sleeping in it. The State Patrol picked him up at 6:30 on Monday morning and booked him on possession of a vehicle while intoxicated and--get this--driving without a license. They dropped him off somewhere in Olympia and supposedly another friend took him to the hospital later that day as he isn't feeling well.

We haven't talked to him since, nor has he talked to us. We know through his aunt and uncle that he's claiming we'd given him permission to drive our truck, which we did not. We've decided not to press charges and chalk this up as lessons learned for both of us.

Leo had stood by my husband when hubbie came back from Iraq. Hubbie was pretty messed up after having been hit by a roadside bomb. Leo had helped hubbie get through some very difficult times. Hubbie trusted him with his life, now he can't trust him at all. Unfortunately, he's lost a very good friend because of Leo's irresponsible actions and betrayal of hubbie's trust, which hurts more than any of the rest of it.


Mrs. Mom said...

Holy cow. I am so glad that no one got physically hurt (other than the hurt to your families hearts that is.) AND that you got your truck back.

Thank your hubby from us please for his service. Thoughts are with Leo too- in hopes he can get back and STAY on the straight and narrow.

jenj said...

Good heavens what a horror story! I'm glad no-one and nothing was seriously damaged, although breaking the trust that your husband had in Leo is almost worse. For everyone's sake, I hope that Leo finds it in himself to apologize to your family and his, as well as keep himself out of trouble in the future.

Mikey said...

What a terrible thing all the way around.
Thank you to your hubbie for serving our country.
I hope some of this can be repaired. I hope Leo gets it together.

Laura Crum said...

That betrayal of trust stuff really hurts. That's happened to me a couple of times in my life--both times I really believed that the person was trustworthy, and the truth--that they were quite willing to turn against me (and did)--was hard for me to come to terms with. I feel for both you and your husband and hope that eventually the relationship with Leo can be somewhat mended, though I do know that it can never be quite the same.

Anonymous said...

I'm also glad to know that no one was physically hurt and that your kind neighbors took care of your horses. How horrible for you and for your husbands friendship with Leo. I pray he gets his life back together and realizes what he did was harmful to him and to you.

Dreaming said...

What an incredible story - things like that don't happen to us, they happen to other people!
I'm glad the truck was OK, but yuck, having to pay money for your own truck through no fault of your own.
I feel sorry for Leo and his family. Dealing with addiction is really tough. I hope he gets help and can become someone you can trust again. Once that trust is broken, it's so hard to build it back.

Alison said...

Great story, Jami. Perhaps it can be woven into one of your novels. Yup, us writers always look for those realities that can become a good chapter.

Once Upon an Equine said...

What a sad situation. It's really disappointing and it hurts when someone betrays trust like that. I'm very sorry for the disruption of your nice trip. Good thing the truck is not damaged and that Leo didn't hurt anyone while he was driving about, under the influence. He sounds pretty messed up and in denial.

Jen said...

How awful! The saddest part to me would be the betrayal of your husband's trust. I'll cop to emitting an "Oh NO tell me you didn't..." when I got to the part about washing the truck and needing the keys. Sadly, I've become quite cynical and suspicious over the years after getting burned numerous times. Sorry for the emotional damage, but glad there was no physical damage done as likely you could have been held ultimately accountable (which is a scary thought).