By Barry Zander
Please listen to the 23-second introduction:
The place: Shepard State Park
The town: Gautier, Mississippi
The accused: Rosemary
Charged with: Herbal Robbery
Peacefully nestled in woody Shepard State Park, we set up our travel trailer for a three-day stay, from which we could explore the environs along the western edge of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. After weeks of seeing relatives and ol’ friends, we were ready to retreat into a serene spot.
Shepard was the ideal place: a beautiful setting under warm September skies … but it wasn’t long before we realized that evil lurked around us.
Shortly after getting set up, we ventured off to see the sights, including homes that had sprung up since my last visit about 40 years earlier in rolling hills close to the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped off to explore some seaside gift shops and to savor some of the best seafood in America, including a shrimp po-boy.
For those of you not familiar with Gulf Coast cuisine, a po-boy is akin to a submarine sandwich, a grinder or a hoagie. Today, it is another highlight of New Orleans’ famous gastronomy extending along the Gulf Coast.
Upon our return to the park, we realized something was missing – Monique’s potted rosemary plant had disappeared. Since there was only one other camper in the park, it seemed unlikely that he was the culprit. It was then that I discovered raccoon tracks near the creek below our campsite. We spent the next half-hour searching for any additional evidence of the theft, hoping in vain to find the plant, but eventually finding the terracotta pot in the woods.
Later that afternoon, we were on our way out of the park on our way to town when we stopped by the rangers’ station to report the theft. They weren’t surprised, apparently having heard other such reports.
Three days later we packed up, ready to continue our journey toward Florida. As we passed the exit, one of the rangers charged out of the office waving a sheet of paper at us. It was a poster: