Thursday, January 14, 2010

Visits from Strangers: Part 1 of 2

The Tale of the Tool Man was a popular family anecdote that came up recently in conversation. I wanted to post it as a remembrance, as maybe some of you will get some entertainment out of it, too.

It happened about thirteen years ago when I was helping out at my Aunt Dorcas' in what would be her final years. She was well taken care of in a Dawdy house in the "Amish suburbia" of long numbered streets in NE Indiana. It was attached to a house owned by my Uncle's son-in-law. One spring afternoon, while I was hanging wash outside, a stranger approached me. He pulled up in a large truck and informed me that my husband had just sold him all the tools in his workshop and he had a check to give me. Many red flags went up. I had no husband and all of my Uncle's tools had been sold at the sale after his death, so this man either had the wrong lady or something fishy was going on.

"Are you sure you have the right house?"

He stated the house number and then said that "my husband" gave him a description what I looked like and that I would be outside. No, this wasn't right at all. The man opened up the rolling door on the back of the truck ready to load his wares. I nervously glanced around looking for someone who could back me up and scare this man off. Would he be angry when he discovered that there were no tools here? Would he try to take something else? It was the middle of the day and most of the men were away at work at the construction sites and RV factories that employ most Amish men in that community. The man tried to hand me a check made out to "cash" but I wouldn't take it.

"There are no tools here, so you must be mistaken. Why don't I get someone who can come over and help you find who you are looking for? Because it's not me."

I could see this caught him off guard. He hadn't thought that some lady would question him. He tried to be persistent that he had the right house and there was no mistake. Then he asked me to just show him where things were so he could help himself. I kept telling him that we should ask around to see who his deal was with, because it was impossible for it to be with "my husband"! This turned out to be the right thing to say, because the man did not want to "bother" the neighbors or more likely, involve any witnesses.

"How about I just come back later?" he said. I told him that would be fine and then quickly memorized the license plate number on the truck. The man closed the door on the back of the truck and drove away. I continued working until the truck was out of sight, and then spread the news as fast as I could through the community. It turned out that the "tool man" had successfully tricked some wives in another community by exchanging his bad check for shops full of tools, usually during the day when the husbands weren't home. His scam had worked so well, of course he did not expect it to go wrong. The police were looking for him in three counties.

They say that the strongest sense that recalls memories is the sense of smell, but in this rare case it is always sound that does it for me. Even today when I am working at home alone and a car door closes outside or a large delivery truck opens its door, I inwardly roll my eyes and wonder if the "tool man" has returned!


  1. C-R-E-E-P-Y!!!!!!! Thank goodness it was YOU who had some sense - those poor women who thought they were trusting someone must've been so upset!! Wow, that could happen anywhere to anyone. I wonder if he ever got caught?? Maybe he's in some prison with weird tattoos or something. ;) Have a good weekend ~ ♥

  2. Beth, I heard that someone else was operating a similar scam in another state. I hope they did get caught.

  3. OK - that just made me nauseous! He could have been even worse than a tool thief with that big truck! Good thing you had your wits about you!

  4. WOW! What a story! I have not ever heard of a scam like this one, and I thought I'd heard of most of them! I'm glad you survived this all intact and un-scathed!


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