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Thieves make for bad day (07/17/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

This is one of those days that I am having trouble getting started on my column. It began badly, and I just canít shake the negative feeling.

I met a friend at nine. He was going to clean our river cottage, which is over by Bluff Siding, in preparation for hosting the GRSF crew for a picnic and river ride on Monday night. Because of the continued high water, we had delayed the opening of the cottage, but had done some preliminary work, like mowing the lawn, and moving furniture downstairs from where it had been stored in case the water came up really, really high.

We encountered some disarray downstairs, which is really just a concrete slab open to the air, but I didnít think much of it until we went upstairs, where all the cupboards and closets were open, closets emptied on the floor, bins in which I store sheets and blankets open and messed up. Tiles were ripped from the ceiling. The door to the stairs to the little-used attic was open and the attic messed up. I knew we hadnít left it like that in the fall when we closed it up for the season.

Then we found that a screen had been removed from a window and access gained through that window. Outside the window was a box of miscellaneous hardware. When John and our friend Sherm arrived to turn the water on, we discovered why someone would break into the cottage, which we didnít think contained anything worth stealing. Most of what is in the cottage has been there undisturbed for probably more than forty years ó†old dishes, coffee cups, a percolator, beds with droopy mattresses, old paperback books, a dominoes game, a croquet set. But these thieves werenít after stuff. They were after plumbing. All the copper piping was gone, roughly cut off and taken away.

Now a river cottage doesnít exactly have a great deal of copper piping, as the plumbing is pretty rudimentary. The thieves could probably have sold it for a pittance. Someone at the office theorized that the thieves perhaps wanted it for a meth lab. Who knows.

All we do know is that we have a great deal of expense and work ahead of us to repair the damage. A Buffalo County deputy came to look at the place, and remarked that they had been seeing more such damage, maybe in response to the bad economy and people being out of work. Sherm said that in Minneapolis near his sonís neighborhood, a huge sign on an empty house reads: All copper already removed.

As we left the cottage, we were stopped by a train. John took the opportunity to go to our neighborís place, to see if it had been ransacked and stripped of its copper. It had.

The area where the cottage is located is a small, lazy slough, giving a false sense of security to those who camp there and ride through on their fishing boats or jet skis, waving to folks sitting along the banks.

Itís strange to think that in a place where only a few years ago doors were left unlocked on a regular basis we now have caught up with the rest of the world. Do you think an improved economy will give us back our innocence? 


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