CHAUMONT — Martin G. Jones is managing to carry on, but it’s without his beloved wheelbarrow.
Meanwhile, he’s carrying a heavy load as he ponders the situation that led to its disappearance.
It appears a thief stole the sturdy wooden implement that he built nearly 20 years ago as a winter project and which he has used for several duties, including weekly Wednesday trips to the curb of his state Route 12E home.
“I’ve been using it to take out the recyclables out front, which is a good distance from our garage, to the sidewalk,” Mr. Jones, 85, said. “If I’ve got more than two bags, I load them up in the wheelbarrow, take it out, set it there and the village comes along and picks up the recyclables. I go out, get my wheelbarrow and bring it back.”
This routine was thrown into disarray about three weeks ago amid a mingle of cardboard, cans, bottles and newspapers.
“I put out the trash with a couple loads of recyclables,” Mr. Jones said. “I left the wheelbarrow sitting there. I looked out about 9 o’clock. The recyclables are gone and so is the wheelbarrow.”
He proceeded to drive around the village, looking for the recycling truck, figuring perhaps its crew mistakenly added his wheelbarrow to the day’s collection.
He couldn’t find it, so he contacted village clerk Karen Fitzgerald. She was able to contact the village truck crew, who informed her that they didn’t take the wheelbarrow.
Mr. Jones then called the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, which dispatched a deputy to investigate.
“The deputy had seen the truck on the way to the village,” Mr. Jones said. “He stopped and asked one of the guys. They told him the wheelbarrow wasn’t there when they picked up the recyclables.”
Mr. Jones said the deputy said he would check into it, but there’s not much he can do.
“Somebody stopped, took the recyclables out of the wheelbarrow and took the wheelbarrow,” Mr. Jones said.
He suspects “junkers”: people who patrol the Chaumont streets on recycling days, seeking metal items that can be sold as scrap.
But his wheelbarrow, made of pine with handles of red oak, has only a metal wheel and legs.
“I just can’t believe someone took the wheelbarrow just for what metal is on it,” Mr. Jones said.
There are also metal latches on the sides of it.
“The two sides come off, which was typical of the old-style wooden wheelbarrows, so I can lay large stuff across it,” Mr. Jones said. “It works out great, especially in the spring when I take care of the flower beds over at the Presbyterian church, two doors down from us. It comes in real handy, but I don’t have it now.”
Mr. Jones, a retired plumbing, heating and electrical worker, is well-known in the community for his handy-man skills. Last year, for the town of Lyme bicentennial, he constructed a sign out of approximately 5-foot-letters that spelled out the town’s name.
“After the celebration, they put it over at the ball field on the other side of the village, but the wind kept blowing it over,” Mr. Jones said. “So they set it over at the school, and it’s been over there since. It’s gotten all kinds of attention.”
These days, when he attends to his recyclables, it’s without the assistance of a wheelbarrow. He does have a store-bought metal wheelbarrow, but he won’t use that to put out his recyclables. The metal may attract “junkers.”
“That would be too tempting to steal,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Jones wrote to the Times, “Whomever took the wheelbarrow, please return it to 11898 State Route 12E, Main St., Chaumont.”
And if that fails?
“I’ve got another old wheel I found out in the shed,” he said. “I was going to look around to see if I can find some metal feet for it and build another one if I had to.”