By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – This is a little caper we’re going to call “The Case of the Stolen Canoe Parading as a Christmas Float”. And, the Herald played a role in solving the mystery.
It began almost two years ago when Gary Fachman, a Chittom Circle resident, realized his family heirloom canoe was missing. He was in Montana visiting his daughter when he picked up a book about canoeing and suddenly remembered not having seen his canoe in a while. He called his wife, Nancy, and she confirmed it was gone.
He asked Nancy to file a police report, which she did on April Fools Day. “We had everybody looking. I had given up on ever finding it.”
Fachman said that he was reading the Herald’s Christmas section last week when he noticed a canoe on a church float in the Christmas Parade that resembled his. As he examined the photo more closely, he realized that the registration numbers looked familiar. He checked his paperwork and discovered that the numbers were indeed his.
Fachman said he wondered how the Camp Ground Baptist Church came into possession of his missing canoe.
He went to the Water Valley Police Department and talked with Lt. A. J. Hernandez, who said he would send someone to investigate. About an hour and a half later, Fachman received a call from police informing him that his canoe was out by the church.
Bro. Jerry King, Pastor at Camp Ground Baptist Church, said he suddenly found himself in the middle of a police investigation when officers showed up at his home. “With the most serious look he could have, Officer Hernandez said, ‘Do you know where that canoe is’.”
He told the officers that the canoe was in his back yard and that was when Hernandez told him it was stolen. Bro. King said he was surprised and explained he hadn’t stolen the canoe and that one of his church members had found it.
Police speculate that the thieves took the canoe to the nearby watershed lake and abandoned it. Sometime after that one of Fachman’s neighbors, Ricky Lowe, found it on his property while horseback riding.
He added that Lowe had allowed the church to use it for their Water Valley Christmas Parade float, “Fishers of Men”.
While being questioned, the minister noticed one of his church members driving past. “Two police cars sitting in front of your preacher’s house, you’re curious.”
Bro. King said that the man pulled over and parked. Lt. Fernandez also saw the man and suggested they play a trick on him. “He had me lean against the car like he was frisking me,” Bro King said with a grin. As the man approached, Fernandez sternly told Bro. King to “stand still.”
“I couldn’t even look at the guy,” he said and broke out laughing. “I told him I was quite all right, but we had helped solve the mystery of the stolen canoe.”
“I can say I have never had anything like that happen to me before,” Bro. King added. “I was scared – terrified. But, we all had a good laugh after it was over with.”
Bro. King emphasized that he was glad the canoe was returned to its rightful owner. The canoe had been in Fachman’s family for many years and had been given to him by his father. “It meant a lot to him to get it back. We helped someone find a piece of their life that was gone.”
King believes it will be a while before people stop kidding him about the incident. “In a small neighborhood, everybody knows.”
Neighbors asked if he had company the other night. “Yeah, I had two police officers come to pick me up for having a stolen canoe.”
How did Bro. King feel when police showed up? “Up the creek without a paddle,” he said.