And a Mystery to Solve…

While we were installing the new weather station at the Logger’s Retreat, my wife noticed something was different about the old ore car near our picnic area.  She asked me to take a look.

Image of an ore car among rocks
The ore car was rotated 90 degrees from its normal position, and the rails it normally rests on were scattered across the yard.
Image of a tangled pile of chains, cables and straps
Someone had left these heavy tow chains, a long tow cable and several cargo straps stretched across the hillside above the ore car.

It was pretty obvious that someone had tried (and thankfully failed) to drag the ore car up the hill to the driveway.  Apparently they gave up after the cargo straps snapped several times.

That made me wonder what else they might have tried to move.

Image of a large cast iron flywheel resting on burned-out hillside
You may remember this old steam engine flywheel resting on the hillside above the retaining wall.
Image of the same hillside without the flywheel
The flywheel is gone, and directly below it are some very clear, very distinctive tire tracks.

There were other things missing too.

Image of an old ore shovel resting on the hillside before the fire
Notice the large ore shovel sitting on the hillside between two of the breezeway support posts.
Image of the breezeway support posts and the bare hillside behind them
Here are the support posts, but the ore shovel is now gone from the hillside behind them

Further investigation revealed some interesting clues.  In addition to the tire tracks, there was now a pink coat hanger lying on the ground nearby.  That was new.

Image of a pink coathanger lying in the dirt
This was right next to the tire tracks, as if it had fallen out of the truck while they were loading the flywheel into it
Image of a Pinkie Pie pony from a McDonald's happy meal circa 2016
Apparently the thief has a young daughter (or a thing for My Little Ponies). This Pinkie Pie is from a McDonald’s Happy Meal circa 2016
Image of a Corona Extra bottle cap in the dirt
We even know what brand of beer he drinks.
Image of a greatly-lifted white Expedition with blue stabilizers and a sun visor over the windshield
And indeed, we also know what the uniquely-customized getaway truck looks like.

We filed a stolen property report with the Madera County Sheriff and sent them photos of the missing items and the getaway truck.  They began an investigation.

Then we got a tip from a local that the thief might have tried to sell the items to Rust Brothers Antiques and Collectibles in nearby Coarsegold.  And sure enough, look what we found there!

Image of a pile of rusted metal items including the flywheel
Here is our flywheel and several other items missing from our property

We have now recovered most of the stolen items.  As we understand it the thief has been arrested and has confessed to the crime.  Once again our sincere thanks go out to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office!

By the way: if you recognize the getaway truck and know who its owner is, please tell his young daughter that we are keeping her Pinkie Pie pony safe and sound.  We will gladly return it to her, if she wants it  back!

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