Have you noticed that Baristaville is quiet? Many of our neighbors have fled for summer vacation. I tell this cautionary tale below now, not to be a summer buzz kill, but as a reminder that it’s a good idea to have someone keeping an eye on the homestead while you’re out playing.
Ten years ago, while on our annual sojourn to Cape Cod, some kids we didn’t know discovered that we had a trampoline in our fenced-in yard. A group of 10, ranging in age from around 5 to 12 years old, created their own, unsupervised jumping camp on our property, while we unknowingly enjoyed our time away.
Our neighbor (who has since moved), noticed the kids’ daily visits and decided it was harmless. She opted not to call the police, or us, for that matter (she had our emergency contact information). Nor did she mention the issue to us when we returned. We only found out later, when things got ugly.
The kids kept showing up, despite our homecoming. I confronted them — politely at first, then more sternly — and told them they were not allowed to play in my yard. They were opening our gate and throwing themselves around the trampoline with carefree abandon, defiant towards my efforts to get them to leave. Had one of them gotten hurt, I knew it could result in a nasty lawsuit. And, despite my love of kids, this bunch was disrespectful and nasty.
Ultimately, I brought out my dog (who is very friendly, though I let them think otherwise), threatened to call the police and they left. A few days later, I came home to the smell of burning rubber. The trampoline was on fire. Luckily I caught it early, and it didn’t spread. The fire department determined the cause to be arson, which came as no surprise. The kids were never found.
How do you handle leaving an empty house, sometimes for weeks at a time? Do you appoint someone (with better judgement than my former neighbor, hopefully) to keep watch? Do you get a house sitter, notify the police of your absence, or take other precautions against intruders? If you have a pool or other backyard attraction, how do you keep it off-limits when you’re away?