How hard can this be? A bright yellow, fully illuminated coconut palm tree gets stolen from Beverly and Nicholas Maxfield's front yard and police investigators so far are, how shall we say . . . stumped?

"To me, it's got to be a prank," Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion said Wednesday. "There's no black market in simulated palm trees - at least I don't think there is."

This much we know: Early Monday morning, as a coastal storm pounded Maine and the Maxfields slept inside their perennially tropical home on Naples Road, a pack of thieves backed a truck up into the front yard, broke out their tools and got to work.

By dawn, the 18-foot palm tree - the crowning touch to Beverly Maxfield's eclectic collection of all things Florida - was gone. And Beverly was fuming.

"I just feel so violated," she said, looking out at the three anchor bolts and the cluster of electrical wires still sprouting from the small cement slab. "I can't believe someone would do something like this."

She is, by her own admission, not your typical Mainer. The stained-glass window on her front door features a palm tree. So does the screen saver on her computer. The bird feeder outside the kitchen door resembles a pink flamingo. The license plates on the family's two cars read "LARGOFL" and "FLORIDA."

"I like really weird things," Beverly explained as she pointed to the artificial palm still standing in the back yard. "I've always been described as being really eccentric."

Thus it made perfect sense last summer when Nicholas, wanting to do something special for his wife's 50th birthday, ordered the eye-popping coconut palm during one of the family's many trips to Florida. Three weeks and almost $3,000 later, it stood proudly outside the Maxfield home for all the world to see. Especially at night.

"It had a remote control so you could set the lights at stationary, then moving, then moving really fast," Beverly said. "I liked the moving really fast best."

It wasn't long, of course, before folks throughout this town on the northern end of Long Lake started talking. And gawking. A few even made snide remarks. But Beverly, who works as a secretary at the town office, knew deep down that they were just jealous. When they asked where she got it, she'd change the subject.

Sunday evening, as the rain came down in sheets and the wind howled, Beverly looked outside and decided not to turn on the lights. She remembers waking up around 3:30 a.m. and hearing a thumping noise but decided it was nothing and went back to sleep.

"Then in the morning, I just sensed something was wrong," she said. "And I walked straight to this window and saw (the palm tree) was gone. I stood right here thinking, 'Holy crap!' "


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