Absolutely astonished. That is what Patty Yates felt after she stepped outside Methow Valley Lumber Monday after purchasing some household items and realized her car was missing.
Like many of us here in the valley, Patty, a 35-year resident, had become complacent in locking her car door. Even more, she, like many valley friends I know, left her keys in the console and her bag on the floor. With her phone and credit card in pocket, she dashed into the store to get a few bulky items that would require both hands.
Like most of us here who have become accustomed to the valley’s low crime rate, she didn’t even contemplate the possibility that her bag would be a target, let alone her car. Who would be lurking around by the lumber yard anyway?
After calling 911 and talking to the police, who were an hour out, a Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer happened to hear the call and stopped in at the scene of the crime and sped off down the highway to go look for the vehicle. The effort proved to be futile — the car was gone.
The 2003 Ford Escape wasn’t exactly a luxury car or the kind that gets stripped for its parts. No, this must have been a kind of getaway car. A car used to get away from the real crime — the theft of her backpack that held Patty’s ID and iPad.
With that in mind, Patty knew her car was probably not far from home. Patty decided she needed to take the matter into her own hands. If you happen to know Patty, this particular trait is perhaps her trademark — she does things her way. Recently featured as the Methow Arts artist of the year, Patty possesses a self-assured attitude about life, is full of tenacity and doesn’t let little things get in her way.
Convinced her car was somewhere in the county, she and her partner, Theodore, set off to scope out the dark corners of towns in search of the heisted vehicle. They headed over the Loup on Tuesday to scout the alleys and backroads of Omak and Okanogan but came home empty-handed. Word of the grand theft auto spread, and some friends joined in the pursuit.
Wednesday morning, Jim Schulz, 92, woke and said to his wife, Donna, “let’s go for a drive and find Patty’s car.” The spring tour took them up the narrow canyons of Libby Creek and Gold Creek. They prowled the neighborhoods in Pateros and Brewster. They headed up Highway 97 to Omak where they scoured the streets. Their tour was looking to be a failure until they drove down a downtown street in Okanogan, where lo and behold, the silver Ford Escape was parked.
The backpack with iPad is still missing, but Patty has her car back unscathed and is very grateful to her dear friends the Schulzes who, like Patty, decided to take the matter into their own hands.
This story holds a lot of lessons and fuels some debate. It makes us question our security, our habits and patterns, our levels of trust. It’s easy to point a finger at Patty and say, “what a stupid thing to do.”
But the reality is a lot of people in the Methow do this kind of thing all the time. It’s one of the many little benefits that make living here a blessing — we don’t have to be on guard all the time.
But who was lurking around the lumber yard? How often have our homes or our businesses been cased? It pays to stay a little vigilant, be aware of our surroundings and talk with neighbors. But this story tells us that being vigilant in your friendship is perhaps the best kind of security.