I'm posting this here because I can put the pictures in order with the narrative. And because I remembered at 3:00 this morning that there's another facet (pun intended, but beside the point) to this whole mess.
First off, let me show you how the streets in my immediate neighborhood are laid out, thanks to Google maps:
Mountain View Road is a main north/south roadway through this part of semi-rural Apache Junction. The small bit of yellow diagonal down in the lower left corner of this screen shot is US Highway 60, which connects Apache Junction and its environs to unincorporated Gold Canyon and then on further east to the mining cities of Superior, Globe, Miami, and beyond. Mountain View ends at US 60.
My house is at the red bubble thing on Southern Avenue. I'm the third house from the corner at Mountain View.
To the west of Mountain View Road lies a huge power line right-of-way, sometimes known as a green belt even though it's rarely green. This ROW ranges in width from half a mile to a mile, and I'm not even sure how long it is. Miles and miles and miles at least. The ROW is fenced so there is no vehicular access allowed at all (other than powerline company maintenance trucks), but there is access provided for hikers and horses.
This is the intersection of Mountain View and Southern looking north, or as it would be seen by someone driving from US 60 toward my house.
Mountain View goes straight for several more miles until it ends at AZ Highway 88. Southern Avenue goes to the right (east).
This is the view to the left (west) at that intersection.
I'm not sure how wide the space is between the edge of the road (white line) and the fence, but it's more than wide enough for two cars to park side by side. Maybe 30 feet? 40 feet? At any rate, it's a sizeable area. In this particular shot from Google Street View, there are no signs posted, but this is where yard sale, real estate, and political signs are frequently posted. There are currently two or three real estate signs stuck there.
This is a closer shot of the fence.
About a quarter of the way in from the left edge of the fence is a black rectangle with a slanted pipe beside it. This is a rubber-padded access point for hikers and horses. Most of the local horse owners ride from their homes to the access points -- the one at Southern is only one of many -- but they could just as easily bring a horse trailer and park in the space off the road. There's more than enough room for a horse trailer or even two. Maybe more.
I'm posting these pictures to give a reference as to how large this area is.
Last spring, after the whole brouhaha about my not being allowed to be a solo artist studio on the March tour, I had a little yard sale the week before and put out a sign in that open space on the west side of Mountain View Road. I had forgotten until this morning that that sign was also trashed. I had left it up overnight Friday, and BF notified me in the morning on Saturday when he went out that it had been knocked down and ruined. We thought someone had just run over it in the dark, perhaps trying to pass someone on the right. Mountain View is only two lanes, and if someone headed southbound was trying to turn left onto Southern, someone coming behind them could have gone off the road to pass on the right -- illegal, but they do it all the time -- and hit my little sign. He notified me about it Saturday morning, so I was able to fix it and had a reasonably successful yard sale last March.
The signs I put down there look like this:
It's just a heavy-duty wire frame with two pieces of posterboard stapled together on two sides and the top so the "envelope" can be slid over the wire. I used the same signs this week-end that I had used last spring.
Normally, these wire frames would have straight legs to be poked into the ground, but out here the ground is so rocky and hard that the legs often won't go in far enough to support the sign. So when AOTS began doing the studio tours back in 2007 and had to have dozens of signs put up in a short period of time -- you can't be hammering each sign in when you only have a couple of hours to set out 100 or more signs -- they had the legs bent so a few stones would hold the signs for the two days of the studio tours.
The original signs were printed and assembled in the same "envelope" style as my posterboard signs, though of course on heavier laminated stock that was supposed to hold up for a couple of years. Even so, those first signs eventually wore out, plus the group's name was changed after the first tour, so somehow or other over the years I ended up with five or six extra wire frames. I used them to make additional signs for the studio tour at my house, and some were picked up by the sign crew, so by last spring I only had two left. No big deal; they weren't mine anyway. I never used them for anything else; they just sat in my workshop.
I used those two frames for my yard sale signs in March, one down at the Mountain View - Southern intersection, and one at the entrance to my driveway.
I had a third wire frame that came from someone's abandoned political campaign sign. I picked it up a couple of years ago. This one does not have bent legs.
I have a spot inside my driveway at the beginning of the path to my exhibit area where I can poke the legs into the ground without encountering rocks. So in addition to a bent-leg sign at the end of the road and another at my driveway, I have a third "envelope" sign on the straight-leg wire frame.
These three signs were deployed Friday morning for my yard sale.
Mountain View being the main throughway for traffic, I expected the sign there -- which has an arrow to point down Southern -- would drive traffic to my driveway. But for some reason, not a single car stopped, not one, all day until about 1:30. I thought perhaps I had made a mistake in having the event Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday, but I had had sales last spring on Friday, so I didn't understand.
When my BF arrived home from his breakfast socializing Friday around 1:00 in the afternoon, he said he saw the sign on Mountain View, but two hours later when I went to collect it for the night it wasn't there. Was he mistaken about seeing it upright on Mountain View? He insists he saw it, but I suspect it had been missing all day.
The wire frame was gone, but I spotted the posterboard "envelope" part lying on the ground on the east side of Mountain View.
As I said, the bent legs of the wire frames require either rocks or some other weight to hold them upright. I had placed a small board across one of the legs to provide better stabilization along with a heavy (10 lbs?) rock. The board and rock were still there, but the sign had been thrown across the road and the wire frame taken.
We had had no wind all day that would have thrown the posterboard that far. And the paper wasn't damaged in the way it would have been had wind flung it that far.
Had someone done this deliberately? That was the only explanation.
Had someone from AOTS decided to reclaim the wire frame? Okay, fine. The signs they have now don't use that kind of frame, but . . . whatever.
Saturday morning I decided to make another frame. I had some leftover PVC pipe in the workshop and it took only about 15 minutes to measure and cut three pieces the proper lengths, then assemble them, with a couple of smaller scrap pieces (the grey and brown bits were already cut) for "feet," into couplings to form a shape analogous to the bent wire frame.
I took my newly-made frame and slightly tattered but still serviceable posterboard down to the end of Southern Avenue and put up my new sign.
You can see how the posterboard fits over the top, as well as how the board across the "feet" holds the whole thing upright when a heavy rock is placed on the board.
I thought, honestly, that someone from AOTS was pissed about the wire frame and was being super petty about it. Okay, now I'm not using their wire frame any more, and I'm just having a little yard sale, and I'm not trashing them at all, so what's the big deal?
The new sign worked great! I put it up at 8:00 and literally had customers waiting for me to open for business at 9:00! For the next two hours I had constant traffic and sold a few things, too. People came in, walked down the path, admired the rainbow obsidian, remarked on the weird spruce cone cactus, and everyone had a good time. They loved the area under the big mesquite tree, raved about my view of the mountain. We chatted about arts and crafts and rocks and cactus.
Some of my visitors had been on previous studio tours and actually thought this was the tour. But I explained that no, the tour is still the first week-end in November, two weeks away.
Then the traffic stopped. After about 11:00, I never had another customer. Not one. Was it because people only go out on Saturday morning? Was it because they had other things to do in the afternoon?
BF was umpiring softball games all day, so I had no one to go check on my sign. Finally, 2:00 rolled around and the show was over. I packaged up my unsold merchandise in preparation for the anticipated repeat next week-end, then around 3:00 drove down to the end of the street to collect my new sign.
It wasn't there.
The board and rock were still in place just where I had left them, but the posterboard and frame had been thrown against the fence, at least 20 feet away. Had there been a sudden gust of wind -- the entire day had been perfectly calm -- the rock would have been knocked off the board. No, someone had stopped in the middle of the day and taken the time to remove the PVC frame and posterboard "envelope" from under the rock and then throw it out toward the greenbelt.
Why? Why such petty vindictiveness? Why me?
Am I really such a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good person that I'm not even allowed to have a little yard sale to sell some of my excess craft supplies?
Apparently I am.
Apparently there is someone -- or more than one someone -- who is perfectly willing to get out of their car in broad daylight on a well-traveled road and trash my signs to sabotage my little sale.
Will it be worth it even to try again next week? The posterboard is pretty well trashed for that sign, but I can remake it, though it will take time I really didn't want to spend. I can even put the sign on sturdier backing to make it more durable. But without some way of monitoring it, I have no guarantee the same thing won't happen again. Maybe this time they'll just steal the whole thing. Do I want to spend another five or ten hours sitting in my front yard waiting for customers who never show up?
Last spring, when the AOTS board decided I wasn't good enough to be on the studio tour, someone else spoke up for me and defended my right to be on the tour. The meeting was a catastrophe as a result, but in the end the decision was reversed and I was on the tour.
No one spoke up for me this fall when they refused to let me be a single-artist studio. I've already written about that. They knew that would keep me off the tour. Maybe they thought it would get me out of the group, too.
As BF and I have discussed many times, people tend to dislike me because I often don't hesitate to tell them when they're wrong, and sometimes I'm not exactly diplomatic about it, even though I try to be. But the level of hatred and petty vindictiveness from AOTS is beyond anything I've ever experienced.
Until a couple of days ago, I had forgotten where it all came from. Without boring you (further) with the details, the worst of it started three or four years ago with a studio tour visitor who couldn't find my studio and accused me of having closed up early. No one else had ever complained that they couldn't find my studio, and certainly no one had ever accused me of closing early. But the accusation was made . . . and it was believed. Even when I provided personal evidence that it wasn't true, that I not only had not closed early but had in fact been open past the closing time because I was making a sale, the tale was repeated and the person who repeated it became vindictive. I know who it is. I know what they have done.
Are they the person responsible for trashing my signs and sabotaging my yard sale? I don't know and I have no evidence to indicate that they were. (Neither do I have evidence to support my own personal accusation against another AOTS member who I strongly believe damaged my car because she parked too close to me at a show several years ago.) I never thought anyone in that group would be that mean, that vicious.
I'm not a wealthy person. The income I make from my arts and crafts and from my writing fills a substantial gap in my retirement budget. Without that income, I would have to make significant changes in my lifestyle, including selling my home and massively downsizing. I'm not asking for hand-outs or charity, but I would like to be left free from this kind of personal vendetta. I have no way to retaliate even if I wanted to, and I don't want to. That's not the kind of person I am.
But at this point I'm not sure what to do. "Get thee to a nunnery"? Sell my house, move into a retirement home, and spend all day just reading and hating people?
I was never one of the popular kids in high school, and I learned to live with the fact that I was never going to have a lot of friends. I never expected to be liked by a lot of people, but I also never expected to be so actively hated that people wold try to keep me from making a modest living.
Yesterday afternoon, after I had discovered what happened to the sign, I had to make a quick dash into town for some groceries and to run an urgent errand. BF wasn't home yet, so I had to leave the dogs alone and suddenly I was frightened. Would the person who trashed my sign try to do more? Were my dogs at risk? Was I at risk? I'm home alone a lot of the time, and I have no neighbors who would watch out for me. I took the precaution of locking the outside front gate, something we haven't done in five or six years.
I'm not entirely sure I feel comfortable going out to eat tonight; I may decide to lock the front gate again.
If you have friends or family members who would come to your defense if someone treated you like crap, show your appreciation! And if you have friends who maybe need someone to stand up for them, do it!
And if you're like me, without that kind of support, well, my DMs are always open and I will never tell you to just get over it, or just take a deep breath and move on.
I thought I had moved on from AOTS. Now I don't know what to do.