The Mystery of the Christmas Vandal

REPOST: I just found this while consolidating my old backups. It’s from 2001.

Winter came late this year. It was so late, I was able to get my Christmas lights up the way I’d wanted to for years. A few strings on the house, a few in the corner bushes, and some on the garage. Much better than previous years’ last minute attempts. They looked great.

A few days after they’d been put up, I found that the string on the garage and fence wasn’t working. Upon examination, I found the lights had been vandalized – cut in three spots just as they transitioned from garage to fence. Our family was angry and sad that someone would want to wreck what we thought was just a sweet Christmas tradition; being vandalized is intrusive enough, but Christmas lights!

I went out and patched up the wires so the lights would be ready for the evening. I wasn’t going to have those lights out even one night, I’d resolved. I refused to be defeated by some little creep with a scissors, which is what I’d concluded by careful examination of the wires, and placement of the cuts. (Ironically, I’d been re-reading Sherlock Holmes at that time and was almost enjoying trying to figure out the crime.)

The lights shone that night, and the night after. The next day, however, brought an unhappy surprise. Looking out the kitchen window, I saw some wires hanging on the fence. He’d come back.

Now I was really mad, and I went out to examine the damage – it was worse. Instead of a simple cut which was easy to repair, the vandal this time chose to remove sections of the wire; sections with the light bulbs and sockets (these were the larger C-5 lights). I couldn’t just pull this together and tape it. I had to take down the string and repair it indoors and replace it outside. This seemed too smart for a really little kid. Someone really wanted to make sure those lights didn’t light.

I defiantly repaired the string and replaced it on the fence – the lights will not go out.

I also had an idea.

At first I wanted to wait in the minivan for the creep to show up and catch him in the act. I had my list of suspects and couldn’t wait to get whoever it was. Then I realized that my new camcorder will record in extremely low light, so instead of waiting all night, I set up the camera in the kitchen window and ran it while I slept. I was now hoping that I’d wake up to see they’d been vandalized again.

I woke up and the lights were untouched. Same for the next night. Then, again, the lights were vandalized, and this time it seemed to have happened during the day! Unbelievable gall!

This time one bulb was smashed in and the wires in the bulb crossed, blowing the fuse and disabling all the lights! This kid is smart! It was, I had to admit, a brilliant and efficient way to bring down a whole string of lights.

But the lights will not go out. The repair took only a few minutes.

Now that this seemed to be done during the day, I’d decided to set up the little creep. The next morning my wife would take my boy to school in the minivan, leaving the driveway empty. I would be at the window with the camcorder in the darkened house.

I waited.

Nothing.

Once my wife got home, I dejectedly decided to go in to work, and as I left, I made the discovery that broke the case.

So much for my Sherlockian skills.

The wires were indeed cut by something weak weilding opposing scissors-like blades – a squirrel’s teeth. There were clues that I’d ignored, of course. Why weren’t the lights in the bush vandalized, too? They were farther from the house than the fence lights. Why did some of the remaining bulbs have two odd, parallel scratches on them? (The squirrel was taste-testing, obviously.)

The smashed bulb and crossed wires turned out to be my boy and grandad opening the garage shed door into the light and crushing it and smashing the wires together. (I found a tiny shard of orange glass in the shed door.)

What I saw when I left for work was that squirrel on top of the fence nervously holding an orange bulb. He stared at me for a moment, and dashed into his nest atop a tree right next to the fence. I laughed for a long time that day.

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