Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scene of the Chase

Abbott Hill Road, 2010

Abbot Hill Road, above, is a nondescript picture I took last Saturday morning. I’m not even sure why I took it other than to signal to my body that I was switching into picture-taking mode. There’s nothing about the picture that would have compelled me to keep it if what follows hadn’t happened.

I was in the rolling hills of the Boston Valley in western New York State, just south of Buffalo, for my niece’s wedding. She and her husband have a lovely home perched on a hill on the east side of the valley. It’s a beautiful place which has been leveled over the years to accommodate the house, an ample lawn for yard games, a large garden for flowers and vegetables, a barn for the tractor and a pond with enough water lilies to, had he ever seen it, keep Monet busy. It’s surrounded by thick. Let’s just agree that the setting is gorgeous in the warm months and probably foreboding like something out of a Stephen King novel in the snowy winter months.

Anyway, Abbot Hill Road. I had just pulled out of my niece’s lane when I saw this barn and decided to take a picture of it. I didn’t even get out of the car. I just stuck the camera out the window, took the picture and continued driving up the road.

Abbott Hill Road climbs to the top of the eastern ridge of the valley, where the woods open to rolling fields of hay. It’s really very pretty, and if there’d been room on the road to stop the car and if the property hadn’t been posted against trespassers every ten feet, I’d have a picture of it to show you.

Mind you, I wouldn’t have thought twice about violating the No Trespassing sign. I wasn’t hunting and I wouldn’t have walked more than twenty feet into the field. But there no space to pull over, I had had shorts on and didn’t want to contend with ticks and snakes. As soon as I could, I turned the car around and headed back down to the valley floor.

As I got nearly to the main road, I noticed a pick-up truck behind me. I wanted to wander slowly down the road, so I slowed down and stuck out my arm to wave the guy around. Only he didn’t.

When I turn onto the main road, I pulled over at the first driveway I encountered to again wave the guy past. He was following so closely that I figured he was in a hurry. But instead of passing me, he pulled in right behind me and got out of his car and approached me.

I leaned out the window and apologized if I’d been holding him up, saying again that I was waving my arm to let him by. But instead, he looked back at me and practically screamed, “YOU WERE TAKING A PICTURE OF MY PROPERTY!”

Suddenly remembering that my niece’s son had told me that some people around there grow things they’d just as soon the police not see, I assured him that I was in the area for a wedding, that I’d just taken a picture of his barn because it had caught my eye and that there was nothing more to it and no malice or discovery intended.

This seemed to satisfy the guy, who then explained that he thought I might be an insurance investigator trying to catch his neighbor “not being blind.” It seems the neighbor had lost an arm and a leg and most of his eyesight in a farm machinery accident and that his insurance company had balked at paying disability compensation for the blindness. Another neighbor had reported seeing the man hobble across the street on crutches, doubted the veracity of the man’s vision handicap and notified the authorities that the blindness, at least, might be a scam.

We ended up shaking hands and each heading off in our own directions.


  1. You and your camera sure do seem to find trouble.

    I find that when I go home, I walk through tall grass with no concern for snakes. I've gotten too comfortable to a life with hardly any snakes and very few bugs--the only up side to the winters here in Vermont.

  2. I enjoy exploring the back roads here in the Mountain Empire and frequently stop to shoot pictures from the open truck window. On more than one occasion I'll look up from the viewfinder to discover that someone coming from the other direct has stopped so as not to spoil the shot. They always smile and wave as they drive on.

    On the other hand, I also carry a hand gun when out wandering because the mountains block cell signals and our area is so rural that there is a real chance of rolling up on a meth lab. Tweakers are dangerous, unpredictable and often violent. It's a shame to have to worry about them in such beautiful surroundings.

  3. Hahaaaa! Another wacky encounter. I don't know, Chris--you must be a suspicious looking character, that's all I can say. What a riot. I have a feeling you could sweet-talk your way out of most situations, though. I can't believe he really followed you like that--that's a great story.