Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Barefoot Bandit Leaves Black Footprint Over Orcas

Meet me at the Orcas Book Exchange, 274 A Street, Eastsound, WA from noon to whenever today, where, among other things, I’ll be signing my mystery novels and trying to solve a real mystery.

We’re taking tips as to the whereabouts of our local teen rebel outlaw, Colton Harris Moore, aka The Barefoot Bandit. This lanky 6’5” kid’s been stealing everything from eggs out from under hens to Cirrus airplanes, and leaving outsized footprints around as calling cards, so that I for one woke up the other morning viewing a very large black blot in the shadow on my ceiling, which organized itself into a footprint. This brat is invading my subconscious. This is ridiculous!

I recently arrived on island to find that my own neighborhood had been buzzed by a chopper, searched by tracking dogs and police, in a midnight raid for Moore. He made the mistake of breaking into a rental house right on Cayou Valley Road, whose owner lives across the street, and who happened to notice odd light coming from the residence. This mini shock and awe campaign yielded nothing but signs that Colton Moore had been in the house reading newspapers and eating popcorn by candlelight.

Shades of Vietnam, said the war vet in a letter to The Island’s Sounder. He’s now president of our owners’ association. While the flashing lights and barking dogs were entertaining, maybe it is overkill when we’re talking about an 18-year-old thief, and not some ax murderer, my neighbor said. What was needed, he said, was more comprehensive police work. This is not likely to happen however, since the recession has left the sheriff’s department seriously under-manned and under-funded.

Mostly the stories I’ve picked up since are in the LOL category: two kids who were trying to claim a reward for the bandit were said to have made a citizen’s arrest on two suspicious characters walking down North Beach Road in the wee hours of the night. These youngsters performed a citizen’s arrest on two armed federal agents. Could it really be true that the escaping bandit sprayed the deputy chasing him with bear spray? Is it possible that he was camping in the woods right behind the sheriff’s substation?

All we do know is that The Barefoot Bandit has a Face Book fan group some 30,000 strong, and various publications such as Outside and Rolling Stone have written up his exploits. The movie option has been sold. The Colton Moore tee shirt is available for sale online. ABC TV has interviewed the owner of The Homegrown market, who has been robbed by Colton not once but three times.

Where media attention goes, commerce follows. The blueberry cheesecake Colton ate at The Homegrown during the course of one of his robberies is now said to be the most popular cheesecake on the island. The family whose chicken coop Moore raided made a cast of the bandit’s footprint and sold it on E-Bay for a tidy sum, or so I have heard. Enterprising teens at Orcas High organized a high school business class project to sell tee shirts to raise money for victims of the Bandit’s crime. I’m sorry to say this venture raised an outcry on the island and was shut down.

The Outside article quotes Colton’s mom. She’s one proud lady, proud that Colton managed to fly expensive airplanes with no lessons but computer simulation and reading stolen flight manuals. Not to mention that said planes were crash landed, violated closed airspace, caused upwards of a half million dollars damage in at least one case, that sort of thing. Is it possible that Colton is acting out mama’s own delusions?

Moore’s the quintessential impoverished kid who fell through the cracks of the justice system, or at least slipped through the window of a halfway house where he was serving out a sentence for scores of petty crimes he committed on his home island, Comano, before moving on to Orcas, where he’s knocked over a bank ATM, repeatedly robbed a popular tavern of thousands of dollars, eluding police with a C.U. signature scrawled in his barefoot prints. Why the bare feet? I haven’t a clue, except Colton likes to get into buildings from the roof and maybe he climbs better in bare feet.

Mama Moore claims to be in touch with her son. In long conversations they share a fantasy that he’ll make it big and they’ll go off to the Bahamas or somewhere and live in the grand style. Yes, she might have been poor but she made sure Colton had all the right toys, she said. Right toys, wrong attitude. Where’s the mother’s plea to her son to turn himself in before he gets seriously hurt, if not killed?

Meanwhile, The Orcas Book Exchange is also overshadowed with a signature Barefoot Bandit footprint. Owner Don Yerly had no idea that Moore was scrambling over the top of the Main Street building Yerly was moving out of. The Bandit was a getaway run as Yearly worked below packing books prior to moving to his new location.

So what is the appeal of the Barefoot Bandit? I asked Don. Colton Harris Moore is no Robin Hood after all, he’s an outright thief, and an outsized one, enjoying his own self-aggrandizing pranks.

“The Barefoot Bandit opens up the possibility that a lower class guy with few opportunities can pull off large scale mischief and get away with it,” Yerly said. “It’s usually rich people with a lot of resources who pull off this sort of stuff,” Don said, and I believe Don has a point.

I believe The Barefoot Bandit is a Pacific Northwest homegrown version of the California celebrity wannabes who hung around with Paris Hilton and her jet set pals, followed their movements and then begin breaking into their homes and robbing them.

If you can’t be one of them, then you get even by taking their stuff and selling it so that you can live as well as they do. You are not then simply a wannabe, you’ve become an ought-to-be. Until you get caught, that is, and are retired to a jail cell, no longer a wannabe or an ought-to-be but simply forgotten, and has-been, which no doubt will be the fate of the Barefoot Bandit. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen soon enough.