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The gazing ball thief. April 6, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.

Today, our friend Ben would like to tell you a story. It happens to be a true story, related to our friend Ben by our friend Candyce. It may be a story that only a gardener could love (or hate). You decide:

A disreputable but artistic friend of Candyce’s had an apartment in New York City, and he frequently commuted between New York and his native Pennsylvania. At the time of our story, he was amusing himself by decorating his city apartment with gazing balls that he stole out of people’s yards during his commutes. From what Candyce told our friend Ben, he had amassed quite a collection.

At one point, the thief (who when not stealing gazing balls was apparently a musician) had to make the round trip three times over three days to play some back-to-back gigs. The first day, he stole a gazing ball from someone’s yard on the way back up to the city: business as usual. The second day, as he passed the same yard, he observed that the family had replaced the stolen gazing ball with a new one, so he stole that. The third day, he was astonished to see that the family had set out a third gazing ball to replace the two he had just stolen.

The thief must have somehow been touched by the family’s devotion to their gazing balls. So rather than steal the third ball, he drove on to his apartment, retrieved the two he had previously stolen, and returned them to the family’s yard.

You may wonder as I often have what that poor family must have thought when they arose on the fourth morning to find not none, not one, but three gazing balls in their yard. Our friend Ben feels that there must be a moral in here somewhere, though in years of contemplating this curious little story, I have failed to come up with one.* But I certainly hope that the family and their gazing balls lived happily ever after!

* Unless “Keep your lawn art in the backyard and a Rottweiler in the front” qualifies as a moral.  




1. Joy - April 6, 2008

“ben” … Now that was a story … urban legend ? .. I really like the motto “keep garden art in the back garden and the rotty guardian in the front ” ! .. I don’t know what I would think if that situation happened to me. My story is I had a huge terra cotta urn out in my front entrance in our place in Holland .. we were very close (walking distance) to the German border .. beautiful country side .. well that urn prompted some THIEF to take it (it was very heavy !) .. I had all these dreams of bring it back to Canada to grace my gardens here .. poof ! up in smoke .. talk about disappointment .. from that I learned never to put anything I absolutely love in a front garden … sigh !


I agree, Joy! It especially horrifies me when people’s PLANTS “disappear” from their gardens. I just don’t understand the entitlement mentality…

2. Jodi - April 6, 2008

Great story, Ben, though like you and Joy, the mindset of others is a bewildering thing to me. Maybe this is why I relate better to cats (and plants) than to people.

Ha! Yes, animals and plants are a lot easier to understand!

3. deb - April 6, 2008

We have our Jack-o-lanterns swiped almost every year. I think I need to go move my new blue ball.


Ack!!! One nursery near me hosts a pumpkin festival every year, and they always set pumpkins on their fenceposts to decorate. People kept driving by smashing them at night. Finally, the aggravated nursery owner started setting out rotten pumpkins on the posts, so when somebody grabbed one, it would splatter all over him. That put an end to that!

4. CeeCee - April 6, 2008

Just plain weird.
My neighbors once had stone lion statues on either side of their walkway. I know they weighed 100 lbs. apiece if they weighed an ounce. They were both stolen! They bought another pair and chained them to the house. It sort of took away from the decorative purpose they served to have car chains attached to their necks. To each his own.

Ha! Perhaps your neighbors were hoping passersby would view the chains as sort of collars. But you have to ask yourself how the thieves just coolly assumed they could load the original lions up in plain view of the neighborhood and just drive off!

5. Cinj - April 7, 2008

Wow. That’s amazing. A garden triumph really. How often would a theif decide to give back what they stole? Some people are just plain weird. At least when people admire my stuff they don’t take it. I had a bunch of my old neighbors waiting for me to sell my lawn decor at a garage sale. They told me that every time they saw me. Poor folks. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I’d never part with my decor!

Well, that guy was apparently *really* weird. And good for you for hanging on to your beloved yard decor, Cinj! It will help you make the new yard feel like home a lot faster.

6. Lin - April 7, 2008

I, too, have trouble understanding people who do things like that. I think a little poetic justice might have been nice…maybe the thief slipping on one of the stolen gazing balls and having a near-death experience that didn’t really hurt him, but made him see the error of his ways? Or maybe an ending to the story that shows “what goes around, comes around”?

I do have quite a few of things in my front yard, which is fenced but the drive isn’t gated, (I have a front deck so there’s furniture, potted plants, a sundial, etc.) and just hope for the best. I feel pretty safe, but could be wrong. When I lived in another area, I had my two beautiful cats (a Siamese and a Burmese) stolen off my front patio. (Before my consciousness was raised and I realized my cats should always be kept indoors.) When I came home from work, my neighbor told me that a car stopped and someone just ran over and scooped them up. Wish someone had had a change of heart and returned them!

All-in-all, I don’t think we should live our lives like someone is going to rip us off. Though maybe a Rottweiler or two on the front step isn’t a bad idea. 🙂

Yikes, Lin, your poor cats! Vandalism is bad enough, but that is a crime!!! I agree with you about just going for it, though–I have a gazing ball on a beautiful seagreen ceramic pedestal front and center in my front-yard island bed. Every once in a while, the wind sends it bouncing, but nobody’s stolen it yet…

7. GBDW - Garden Whimsy Wrap-Up - July 31, 2008

[…] The Lawn Police (Our Friend Ben): We all know that garden whimsy is a very personal thing – but watch out that you don’t run afoul of the Lawn Police! You’ll also want to check out the story of The Gazing Ball Thief. […]

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