The ‘Mango Caper’ – Wider Curry Victimized by Next Door Work Crew

by on November 20, 2023 · 20 comments

in Ocean Beach, The Widder Curry

By Judi Curry

Let me start by saying that there are many different kinds of “victims.” Some are extremely serious; some are annoying; some are worthy of complaint to the right people.  Some “victims” find relief in many different ways.  This “victim” – me – hopes to find relief by writing about a situation that festers as each minute goes by.  I realize that some of you will think I have blown this completely out of proportion; others of you will scoff at my feelings, but I, personally, will feel better and, at this time, that is all I can ask for.

I am known as a “jammer” amongst my friends and relatives.  I have 18 fruit trees and make jam year round.  Some I sell; some I give away, and an awful lot we eat.  I pride myself in the varieties I make, and have yet to find someone tell me that the jam was not tasty.  I love trying new fruits and wines; and even mark potential calendar days to begin a new batch.

One of my most memorable jams is my mango.  First of all it is very difficult to grow mango’s near the beach in San Diego.  For the most part, the tree needs heat in order to produce and living off of Sunset Cliffs is not conducive to growing large mango’s.  EXCEPT – I have the perfect spot for the tree and I have managed to grow over 100 nice size mango’s every year for the past 5 years.  The crop I had last year produced fruit that weighed over 4 pounds each; and I made over 100 jars of jam.  I had great plans for my tree this year.

All the big mangoes were taken, including this prized one.

But before I tell you about this year, let me tell you something about my neighborhood, and, more specifically, the house next door, which was sold over 30 months ago, with the knowledge that the standing house would be torn down and a two story with a sun deck would be added.  And if that wasn’t enough,  a 460 square foot ADU would be built on top of the garage. The new owners do not live in San Diego, and for the first year they owned the house their grandchildren lived in it while attending Nazarene College on the Point.  The house has been vacant since they graduated in May of 2022.

In order to build their new abode, it has meant tearing down the fence that separates their house from mine; removing their garage that has acted as a fence between us; and putting up a chain-link fence, covered with canvas to separate our two homes.  Where the fence used to be I have several trees – a mango, a Fuji Apple, an apricot, and a Fuerte avocado.  Additionally I have an artichoke bush and pineapple growing in this area.  One has to unlock a gate in order to get into the back part of the house, so, for the most part, the fruit and vegetables are safe from fruit and vegetable thieves.  Usually.  Until the other day.

My mango tree has been growing its fruit for the past 5 months.  We have already had 4-5 of them, and they are delicious.  We have been watching one piece of fruit specifically, and at last weigh in – still on the tree – it weighed 6.3 pounds.  There were approximately 120 mangoes on the tree.  Until the other day.  We have checked the tree every other day for the past month, because we are anxious to start jamming, particularly with the holidays quickly approaching.  The fruit has become so close to being ripe enough to start picking.  Close – but not quite ready.

Two days ago, the building company started preparing the house next door for demolition.  The foreman of the job – Karl – came over to the house and introduced himself, told me what the plans were, said if I had any problems and/or questions to give him a call, and he gave me his phone number.  I went to the back of my house and met some of the workers on the house.  All were nice men, some didn’t speak English, and although I speak limited Spanish I was relieved to have Karl show up and talk to me and answer any questions I might have.

Yesterday was a different story entirely.  I heard the trucks pull up, looked outside and saw a group of workers begin the demolition process.  I didn’t see any reason to go back there this time, and went about my business both in the house and at a meeting away from the premises.  And then Steve came home.  And he went out to check on the mangoes and work done next door.  He took a bucket with him so that he would be able to bring into the house those mango’s that were ripe and ready to eat, or ready to make jam.

When he came into the house I knew immediately something was wrong.  And was I right. It seems that members of the demolition crew took almost half of the mango’s on the tree.  And…. he? or they? took the one that we had been watching for such a long period of time.  They left the small fruit, but almost all of the large, almost ripe fruit, was gone. In checking the fruit I do not have enough to even make two batches of jam.   To say I am livid is mild!

First of all there was absolutely no reason why the crew should have been in my backyard at all.  They were trespassing.  The mangoes were not near the fence and even if they were they were on my property, not the property next door.  The fact that they took so many is stealing, and they are guilty of that.

The following morning I called Karl and told him that I was so angry at the crew.  He told me he would call the foreman of the crew and check with him. Fortunately there was honesty in their conversation, because he told Karl that he did see one of the workers with mangoes. He wasn’t sure where they came from (?) but it was obvious they were from my tree.

Karl was so apologetic.  He kept saying that he wanted to make it right and he would buy me mangoes so I could make my jam. I told him I didn’t want “bought mangoes” – it wasn’t the same thing. He said he would buy me a “pot” so I could plant other things. I told him I wasn’t interested in that either.  I was thankful that he even wanted to try to make things right, but there was no way to make up for the stolen fruit or for trespassing on my property.  These people are going to be working on the house for 18 months and I will be having different kinds of fruit growing the entire time they are here.

The fact that they just came over to my property makes me very uneasy.  I have two dogs – dogs that would love to run around the neighborhood chasing the squirrels, cats and raccoons that meander in and out every night.  If these workers leave a gap in the canvas fence the dogs will have an easy way to get out of the yard and not only cause chaos but run the risk of being hurt in the process.

The fact that the workers felt they could just come over to my yard without any penalty really upsets me.  How do I know they didn’t take any other thing I might have in the yard – tools, surf board, golf clubs, etc.  The feeling of security is gone, and will be until the house is torn down, rebuilt, refurnished, etc.  I’m saddened that until the other house is finished, I won’t even feel safe in my own abode.  My world has become saddened.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Judi November 20, 2023 at 11:20 am

A truck pulled up in front of the house that’s coming down and the driver got out. He had the biggest smile on his face. Was he the thief?


Debbie November 20, 2023 at 11:39 am

I get why you are livid! No excuse for what occurred.

Now you need to take action so you have peace of mind, privacy and security for your animals. Not sure what your property is like since there is no photo. Maybe…build a fence immediately/concrete block wall and camera/motion detectors. Good luck.


Judi November 20, 2023 at 5:07 pm

The fence was on the property line. The thief was definitely in my backyard- not the yard where the house is being torn down. I have cameras set up but there’s no question who took them. He was where he didn’t belong!


Debbie November 20, 2023 at 7:09 pm

Don’t leave it up to “their” fence to protect your dogs. Be pro-active. Put up a fence that you want to look at and will do the trick to keep intruders out and dogs in.


Susan November 20, 2023 at 12:01 pm

I had a similar experience with a naval orange tree. In the months of December and January I enjoyed fresh squeezed juice everyday. My tree was laden with nearly ready fruit. One day I came out to run the dog and all the oranges were gone except for a few. (This was Mt. Helix area). The day before I saw an old truck with a husband and wife (or make and female anyway). They acted like they’d made a wrong turn but now I know they were casing cause the next day the fruit was gone. I understand the feeling of violation. I was surprised how enraged it made me. Nurturing your fruit in anticipation of enjoying it and then just blatantly ripped off. I was furious.


Joyce November 20, 2023 at 12:30 pm

I’m so sorry Judi… it’s bad enough having construction right next-door. I have it at my house too. It never ends but to have them come over and steal fruit that I was going to use for presents. That really is unacceptable. I was looking forward to your jam I hope you can get past this somehow


Judi November 20, 2023 at 5:09 pm

They left the smaller mangos. When they ripen I’ll still make jam – and I’ll let you know it’s ready !


Mark Davies November 20, 2023 at 3:45 pm

Hi Judi,

Have you considered asking for any mangos that workers may still have to be returned?


Judi November 21, 2023 at 7:28 am

I have,Mark , but was told this was the “demolition crew” -not the regular one and they change daily. I don’t believe that for a minute but I can for -see the difficulties I’d be facing if I pressed it


nostalgic November 20, 2023 at 4:52 pm

Are you sure it is your neighbors fence? Laws governing fences are complicated.


unwashedwalmartThong November 21, 2023 at 12:42 am

Anyone call the cops? File a report? Put the workers on a big fat notice?


Judi November 21, 2023 at 7:31 am

No cops. Talked to the head of the job. He is aware -now- Offerrees to buy me mangos to replace those stolen. Turned him down. Am watching carefully and cameras now working again!


Geoff Page November 21, 2023 at 12:54 pm

It is always a miserable feeling when you realize you have been ripped off. But, the tone of your piece seems to blame the whole working crew, which is very unfair. You have no actual proof the crew stole the mangoes. You have an admission from the foreman that he saw “one” crew member with mangoes, which isn’t proof either, but maybe it was just this one guy.

Mangoes are my favorite fruit so I know how much they cost. People had this problem of thievery when avocado pricing hit the roof. People have had pot plants stolen from their yards. You are growing a valuable crop in your yard, you need to protect it whether you like it or not. And don’t lay the blame on all those workers, the majority of whom are decent people working hard.


Judi November 21, 2023 at 4:38 pm

When I first read your comment I decided just to let it pass and chalk it up to lack of compassion and understanding. However as I read it again the steam continued to rise and I decided to answer you . First of all there was no reason for the crew to be in my yard at all. The tree is away from the fence and there is actually a barrier between them . The mangos were stolen by a thief . As a former building foreman myself that worked for a General Contractor honesty is of utmost importance. If the foreman of the job says he saw one of his workmen with MY mangos I trust he saw the worker with MY mangos. The fact that only the large mangos were stolen and the total is close to 50 tells me that it was not a spur of the moment decision . The fact that the number of people working on the crew had to be aware of the thief taking the mangos and didn’t stop him tell me that the crew members are almost as guilty as he was- and they are all to blame for the theft . My yard is protected. I had a wooden fence that was removed by the crew and a chain link fence put up – covered with canvas- in its place. I have cameras around the entire yard protecting the property against thievery. It may have been one worker that stole the fruit – it may have been other crew members. It was impossible for one person to steal that many mangoes and not have others notice. Sorry Geoff – they are all to blame – and what was unfair is not my blaming the crew but that the crew didn’t stop the thievery . Decent people don’t steal; decent people stop thievery.


Geoff Page November 22, 2023 at 10:23 am

I have a “lack of compassion?” I’m the one telling you not to blanket blame a who group of people, most of whom are probably very good people.

“As a former building foreman myself that worked for a General Contractor honesty is of utmost importance.” Honesty is important in any walk of life. I spent 45 years in the construction industry, 16 in the field, and the majority of the people I worked with were honest hard-working people.

” If the foreman of the job says he saw one of his workmen with MY mangos I trust he saw the worker with MY mangos.” He did not say these were YOUR mangoes, he would have had no way to know that even if the fruit he saw was yours.

” they are all to blame.” Who lacks compassion now?

“Decent people don’t steal; decent people stop thievery.” No, very many decent people are too afraid to stop thieves, with good reason. You know nothing about this crew of Mexicans, nothing at all.

If you have cameras everywhere, then why don’t you have a video of the thief or thieves?


retired botanist November 21, 2023 at 6:17 pm

yep, I understand the joys of plant-to-harvest that people lucky enough to have ground to do so can experience. And from the sounds of it, you enjoy the riches of a LOT of property and the bounty you cull from it, understandably from your own hard work, water bills nurturing such, etc.
This is an act of theft, whomever it was, and I get the sense of violation, but isn’t it is worth reframing that 1) you had a genuine, humble and compensation response from someone you queried, that 2) the fruit will, no question, move along to someone else that will enjoy and benefit from it, and so 3) why not let the violation go downstream, and simply try and see that your wonderful fruit has found a different recipient? I know, easy for me to say, I can hardly grow a tomato on my balcony, but food is food, and when the blue jay comes in and eats my 2 little strawberries, well- he’s a thief but its hard to be mad :-)


nostalgic November 22, 2023 at 6:28 am

I think if someone ripped the fence off your balcony and took your two strawberries, you would feel a sense of violation also. Her private space was invaded by a stranger. Will he feel entitled to walk in the back door and see what is in the refrigerator because he is hungry? The contractor’s local manager was not there to supervise this crew. He is paid to placate neighbors during construction. A new flower pot will not provide the sense of safety that was once there. Judi said she was sad; she didn’t say she was angry. A way of life is changing and not always for the better.


Geoff Page November 22, 2023 at 10:52 am

She sounded pretty angry in this post.


Honesty November 22, 2023 at 11:49 am

“A way of life is changing” … it’s really an old, old story, nothing new. The Wampanoag who helped Plymouth Colony settlers were soon enough ill-treated by those settlers, who raided and ravaged the Wampanoag’s crops and food stores.


retired botanist November 22, 2023 at 2:50 pm

Nostalgic, fair enuf, but as I said I do understand the sense of violation. Given that Widder can’t make jam out the mangos, I guess I was trying to suggest she see the ‘lemonade’ from the lemons. Wasn’t trying to be insensitive, but blame and resentment are heavy bags to cart around, so floating them downstream with a different, more positive spin was the aim :-)


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