Early Thursday morning began in a typical way, two weeks ago. One of the friendlier neighborhood stray cats scratched at the back screen door to get my attention. It was time for his daily petting session. I grabbed a small bag of kitty treats, flipped on the yard light, and headed out the door.
While kneeling on the concrete slab, petting the orange tabby, I noticed several boot prints in the fresh snow. Why had someone been in my back yard?
Our town was in the middle of a severe cold snap. That morning the ambient air temperature was minus eleven Fahrenheit; and snow had recently fallen. There was no reason for anybody to take a hike along the perimeter of the riverbank in the dead of night.
Neighbors sometimes use my back yard as a shortcut to the four-plex next door. However, these imprints didn’t follow that trajectory at all. The fresh tracks were very near the house and did not continue into the neighboring yard. The boot prints began at the edge of the sidewalk, continued part way into my yard, looped back, and ended at a different place on the sidewalk.
At the place where the person reversed direction, there were several overlapping imprints. It was as if whoever walked in the yard lingered there awhile. Was the person trying to determine if the house is burglar resistant?
The scenario was simply peculiar and suspicious. Somebody went out of their way to walk up the front sidewalk, continue along the cement that borders the west side of the house, to the back door, then enter the yard, turn around, and leave under adverse weather conditions.
After the orange cat wandered away, I went back inside the house to fetch a camera and a yardstick. Photographic evidence might be needed later if a burglary should take place in the near future. I took several snapshots, then went back inside to warm up.
My fingertips were still tingling from exposure to the subzero air when I decided to call the police. A few minutes later, a Norfolk, Nebraska police division SUV arrived and an officer stepped out of the vehicle.
I greeted the young cop after he stepped onto the front walk. Then I described the unusual boot prints as I led him to the back yard. Then I stopped talking and watched as he surveyed the snowy scene.
The policeman hauled a small camera from his tunic pocket then shot several pictures. He then stooped down and took several extreme close-up shots of a few of the boot prints and the place where the imprints overlapped.
After he finished gathering photographic evidence, the cop walked back to where I stood on the concrete slab. He interviewed me for a few minutes, then cautioned me to check my door locks each night and to call the police right away if anything suspicious happens again.
He also reassured me by saying I had not over-reacted when I became concerned enough to call the police. He repeated his cautions that I should be extra watchful and inform them of any other unusual happenings. After the policeman drove away, I noticed my emotions were still running high.
I vowed to take extra precautions from that day forward. Each night I turn on the back yard light so I can observe anything or anyone who shouldn’t be there. Hopefully, the light will act as a deterrent to casual prowlers and the neighbors who trespass onto my yard.
Right now, I’m feeling less happy about my otherwise very quiet neighborhood.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a thought from World War Two Fleet Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Isoroku Yamamoto. “Even a burglar hesitates to go back for more.”