When I was 12 years old, my concert violinist mom, who had endured all she could of Amarillo, Texas, moved away to join a major U.S. symphony. Since my older brother and sister had already gone off to school, I was left with my quiet, gruff father, alone in our big home.
It was a rough time for me. When he started dating my future stepmom soon after, there was an estrangement between the two of us. I was not a pleasant child to his future family. And so, for the first time, he wanted to curry favor with me in hopes that I would stop being so horrible to his girlfriend and her three young children.
In an inexplicable gesture (since he was an orthopedic surgeon and would never allow us to play football or be within 100 yards of a motorcycle), he bought me a Honda Z50 mini bike, all the rage at the time. I’m not sure that it made me feel any better about the situation, but it did allow me to focus on something other than my home situation and the loss of my mother.
I loved that little yellow bike, and I thoughtfully put together a toolset to take care of all its needs. I kept it immaculately clean, well oiled and full of gas.
Coe Terrell, a boy down the block—one of those kids who hangs around, whom you don’t really like but you somehow tolerate—came by as I was working on my Honda one spring Saturday. He kept asking me if he could take it for a ride, but I kept giving him my built-in and honest answer: “My dad won’t allow me to let anyone else ride it.”
Coe continued asking and eventually got annoyed with me and left. I was glad. I walked over to my friend Scotty’s house then to see his new dog, a beautiful Boxer named Clipper. I stayed for about an hour and then came back home. When I went out to my Honda, I immediately noticed that my toolset was gone. I had a pretty good idea where it went.
I called Coe but he claimed he knew nothing about it. I knew in my heart that he was lying to me, but I didn’t know how to prove it. A few nights later, thinking about it before I went to bed, I came up with a plan.
The next day, a Saturday, I went over near Coe’s home and found a good hiding space in the neighbor’s bushes and waited. Luckily, in about an hour I watched as Coe got into the car with his father and left. Now, I could execute my idea. I walked to the Terrell’s front door and rang the bell.
“Hello, Mrs. Terrell,” I said brightly.
“Hi there, Sloane. How are you? You just missed Coe,” she said sweetly.
“Mrs. Terrell, I’m trying to do some chores at home, but we don’t have any wrenches or pliers and I was wondering if I could borrow some from you. I think Coe told me he has some.”
“Let me check,” and with that she went hunting for my request. I stood at the door waiting.
A few minutes later she appeared with several tools in a small plastic container. I looked down and smiled. All of them were my own. I didn’t know what to say except “thank you” so I just took them and left.
The next afternoon, having practiced my speech a hundred times, I went back to the Terrell home. Coe’s father, a large, stern man, answered the door. I was petrified.
“Hi, Mr. Terrell,” I said, gulping. “Uh, yesterday, Mrs. Terrell let me borrow some tools and when she gave them to me, well, I’m sorry to say that they were the same tools that were stolen from me last weekend. I had a whole box of tools for my mini bike and I had been hanging out with Coe and then I left and I’m afraid that he stole my tools.”
The Terrells had me come in and sit while they went up to Coe’s room. They came down the stairs together and then a remorseful-looking Coe apologized to me. Unfortunately, he told his parents that he had thrown most of the other tools and the box in the garbage because he was mad that I wouldn’t let him ride my bike.
Fortunately, the Terrells owned a big lumberyard and we got into the car and went there. By the register were a large selection of tools and boxes, and they allowed me to pick anything I wanted to try to recreate my toolset. I found what I needed but my toolset never felt quite the same after that incident.
A few years ago, when I was visiting Amarillo, in what was truly a coincidence, I looked at the Amarillo Globe Times arrest report, and there, immediately grabbing my attention, was the name Coe Terrell. Arrested in Randall County. The crime? Second-Degree Felony Theft.