DIXMONT, Maine — John Turner just wanted to do a good turn by helping friends build a house to replace one that burned down a year ago.
This week, the Westbrook man got a little burned himself, when thieves got into his mobile construction trailer on the muddy job site and stole about $2,000 worth of power tools.
“A lot of my tools, I use them all the time,” Turner said Wednesday afternoon. “I ain’t the first one this happened to. There’s a lot of this going on.”
“But generally not around here, way out in the williwacks,” said Todd Allen, the friend whose house burned down in an electrical fire Oct. 22, 2007, despite the efforts of four dozen firefighters.
The new construction is rising next to the blackened shell of the burned-out farmhouse off Route 9 that Allen’s sons are working to demolish. Until the new house is livable, the six-member family is staying in much more cramped quarters elsewhere on the 400-acre cattle farm.
The men met a couple of years ago because one of Turner’s jobs is helping to spread manure for farmers.
He took a shine to the Allen family, and when Turner called Margaret Allen about a month ago she said the family could use a little help building the new house.
“So up I came,” said Turner, a 64-year-old Vietnam veteran wearing tall galoshes and full of energy despite his diagnosis of melanoma.
Turner neatly packed his black trailer with tools, hauled it up from Westbrook and got to work.
“I’m volunteering all my time and effort and jokes,” he said, smiling. “We work good, too. We’ve had good times.”
“This is not one of them,” Todd Allen said.
Allen said he and his family went out to dinner earlier this week, and when they came back they realized the trailer had been burglarized.
Frozen tracks showed that two people walked up to the trailer, leaving a small car in the driveway, and helped themselves to some tools.
Turner said he’s missing a planer, a heavy-duty drill, a joiner for cabinet work, a double-headed drill and a 12-volt battery, among other items.
He hopes his insurance will replace the tools, because Penobscot County Sheriff’s deputies are not hopeful that they will recover them or find the thieves. Turner did not engrave his tools and did not keep track of the serial numbers, he said.
“The sheriff came and told us the only chance we had was to look around at pawnshops,” Turner said.
Allen said the whole affair has made him start locking doors at his shop, which he hasn’t done in 12 years, and also to “keep track of my bullets.”
“The sheriff said that new construction is like a big, red flag for thieves,” Allen said.
Turner was packing up his trailer Wednesday to return to Westbrook, but because of the weather, not because of the theft. He said he’d be back to help the family get the roof up before winter really sets in.
“They’re good people,” he said.