Walnuts are a big crop in this area.  Orchards spread out around the outskirts of Visalia, and throughout this region of Central California.  I’ve always pretty much taken them for granted, they’ve been a staple of my life since childhood.  With the advent of mechanized harvesting, walnut theft has taken on new dimensions.  Part of the problem is the way most crops are harvested these days.  A honkin’ machine rolls up and grabs the trunk of the tree, and proceeds to shake the hell out of it!  Walnuts cascade to the ground, and once the operator is satisfied that he’s dropped all he can, he moves on to the next tree.  The crop lays on the ground until the next guy (or the same one in a different machine) comes along with what amounts to a broom-and-vacuum machine to pick it up.  Often times the crop sits on the ground overnight.  This is the perfect opportunity for theft.  The call of the night was an interesting twist on the walnut-theft capers we usually get.

Routinely, someone will see strangers in an orchard, and call the Sheriff to report possible theft.  Often vehicles will be stopped for one reason or another, and we’ll find sacks of walnuts, but no receipts.  Other times we simply catch them in the act, picking up walnuts in orchards they don’t own.  It’s an ongoing thing, every year.  Tonight’s call was a bit different.

Mom called this one in.

No, not my mom, somebody else’s mom.  She saw someone in an orchard, getting out of a van and walking into the orchard with their gunny sacks at the ready.  Now, at first, I wasn’t sure what Mom was talking about, because she was saying she wanted to know if we gave out tickets to people who picked up walnuts.  “Tickets?”  I was thinking she was asking if we had some kind of system whereby people could just walk into an orchard and pick up some walnuts.  You know, some kind of permit that would allow you to steal walnuts.  I’m thinking to myself “she’s got to be kidding!”.  Well, after a bit, I got her to explain what she meant.

Seems her son was recently cited for stealing walnuts (you have to steal a bunch to actually get arrested and booked) and she didn’t want someone else to get away with it!

It wasn’t a case of good citizen reporting a crime, it was Mom thinking it unfair that her son got nabbed, and those folks might get away with it!  Way to go Mom!  I think I understand why sonny got caught stealing.

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