The Naughtons, Jack and Elaine, seem to be a nice enough couple. As I mentioned earlier we had a lot of fun with them in China, both traveling around and living near to them in Chungjing. Also the trip back to the states through Hong Kong was most enjoyable. However one, if not both, of them is always in need of some reminder of the common decencies of life – like truthfulness, for example. So Sally and I took it upon ourselves to help them out. We had ample opportunity for that since we got together once in a while after both couples returned to the States. And Jack is always trying to persuade us with some outlandish story.
In the summer of 1996 they visited us here in Syracuse. We had dinner together in Waterloo and generally traveled around the Finger Lakes region. That summer Sally had a highly successful garden and the tomatoes were particularly juicy and tasty. Jack and Elaine obviously were not aware of the problems of growing tomatoes, especially in Madison, Wisconsin since they indicated they too were going to have a great garden next year. So we decided to teach them a lesson.
We formed a fake company, “Tomatoes, Etc” to try to run a little scam on them. The idea was to get them to bite into our trickery and be able to one-up them. (They certainly were always trying to do that to us.) We had this fake company send a letter to them to offer help. Then we wanted them enticed into contacting this company to get the great materials that would ensure a good crop.
To help us close the trap on them I signed up for an 800 number on one of our phones. (At that time I had two phone lines into our house – one for human communication and the other for computer-to-computer.) The 800 number was assigned to our computer line since that was an unlisted number and if it rang it would definitely be the Naughtons falling into our trap. The letter I sent him is shown on the next page.
It would be nice to say that the trap worked perfectly. That one evening the phone on the 800 line rang and it was good old Jack looking for his free handout. It would be nice to say that I toyed with him and didn’t let him know it was a scam.
Unfortunately the phone never rang, and Jack is a kind enough person to not laugh at me. All he has to learn is to be more truthful.
November 15, 1996
Mr. & Mrs. J. Naughton
5608 Crestwood PI
Madison, WI 53705
Order Number: 8667
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Naughton:
We have received an order from Mr. and Mrs. Brale, in Syracuse, New York, for certain goods to be shipped, prepaid, to you.
Mr. & Mrs. Brale have indicated that they would like you to have an assortment of our quality products that would assist you in growing excellent tomatoes.
We have the following products that they think would fit your needs. They include:
1. Seed trays of various sizes. For example a 2′ x I’ tray would hold 72 cells.
2. Specialty soils, including Jiffy Mix and Ready Mix for the seedlings
3. Fertilizers such as Miracle Gro for Tomatoes
4. Tomato brands such as Better Boy, Beefsteak, Roma, and Sweet 100.
The exact assortment is open to your choice. We would like to assist you in making the proper selections for your region, so please call us at 1-800-550-1536 as soon as possible so that we can complete this order appropriately, and make sure that it reaches you at convenient times.
Fortunately sometime later I was able to try another scam on the Naughtons. I was undaunted by the lack of complete closure on the tomato scam, so I proceeded full speed ahead. At one point in our conversations the Naughtons suggested that we might be interested in reading some mystery stories about the southwestern states by Tony Hellerman. Well, I sort of got intrigued by this, since it isn’t Hellerman that is the writer but rather Hillerman. I made a few choice comments to them about their lack of literary awareness, and they decided to strike back.
First of all a book by Hillerman appeared in our mail via USPS. It purported to come from Tony Hillerman himself. The return address has only the initials, T.H. and was sent in late August, 1997. It was at that time that Sally and I were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, and we had of course invited the Naughtons. Prior to that we had received a card, again purportedly sent by Tony. In it was an inscription “I’m depressed over not being invited but happy 50th anyway.”
Well, this was just too much pressure on me and I swung into action. First I tracked down what Tony Hillerman’s real signature is like. Then I wrote a letter to the Naughtons, purportedly from Hillerman, that a friend of mine mailed to them from Albuquerque, NM. Following is the letter:
Box 148Albuquerque, NM
Mr. & Mrs. J. Naughton
5608 Crestwood Pl
Madison, WI 53705
It has come to my attention that some people in Madison, WI, have been toying with my good name. How do I know this is true? – because the USPS has been comparing addresses on various packages sent to Syracuse, NY.
Shown in the picture is the major instance of this deception. There are many false indications in this picture. First, the initials T.H. are written in a fashion that I never use. For your edification I refer you to the end of this letter where you can see my real signature. If you look at the publication FIRSTS, June1944 you will see this, and also how it has changed over the years. I suggest you read that report very carefully. You may then be able to improve your scam.
Third, note that the package was mailed from Julesburg, CO which is about as far from Arizona as one can get and still be in Colorado.
The package contained a book, which is the only real item in this ménage. There was an inscribed note but again with a definite non-Hillerman signature.
Now the worst of it all is the final insult. This was in a card that had been sent to some very gentle people, who would never do a thing to upset a fellow human being. Shown here is a note on a card to them, in which I am purported to have criticized these fine, elderly, unassuming people on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. At great personal effort these wonderful people found me and expressed to me their extreme sorrow, and they obviously were suffering untold embarrassment. I did my best to reassure them that it was not I that wrote that note, but in their distress they only thought I was merely trying to protect their friends in Madison, WI. I was so moved by their gentleness that I realized the only way I could help them was to go to their 50th Anniversary celebration. Thus, at great loss to my readership I stopped work on my latest book and took the time to fly to Syracuse to allay their fears.
Knowing that you would react to this in disbelief I persuaded the gentle couple to let me have my picture taken with them. So you can see that for yourself.
While it is not my nature to tell other people what to do, in this case I urge you to re-examine your life style, and try your best to not cause any further distress upon this unassuming couple who would never do anything to upset anyone, and who are only trying to make their way through life with a minimum of disruption.
In hope for the future,
I sent this letter to Jack and Elaine and I can only hope that I have put an end to their shenanigans.