Jennifer Urbanic

It was a restful stop, until crepe murder was spotted.

It’s that most glorious time of the year, when Grumpy and his fans shame neighbors, cities, businesses, and “landscrapers” for committing crepe murder – the senseless practice of reducing beautiful crepe myrtles to ugly stumps in winter and spring. As instructed, readers snuck around with their smart phones and captured some truly epic crimes this year. Out of those, we selected 9 winners for Crepe Murder 2017, all of whom will receive a signed copy of Grumpy’s new book when it comes out this fall! To see round 1 and round 2 of Crepe Murder 2017 winners, click here.

Winner 7: Welcome to the South! Crepe Murder 2017

How many of you grew up on the wrong side of the tracks? Too bad you didn’t spend your childhoods in Ardmore, Tennessee or its sister city, Ardmore, Alabama. It doesn’t matter which side you grew on. The pruning there is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Jennifer Urbanic

I don’t want to give these Ardmore folks too hard a time. They did, after all, attempt to beautify the railroads tracks by planting some lovely crepe myrtles beside them. Why they then chose to murder those crepes by pruning them down to stumps I can’t say. Was it a visibility problem? Were train spotters having trouble reading the numbers on tank cars as they rolled by? Can’t have that!

Now here’s some irony for you. Guess which two towns that share both a name and a state line hold crepe myrtles festivals each summer to celebrate the glory of the South’s favorite flowering tree? That’s right! Ardmore, Tennessee and Ardmore, Alabama. You’ll find live music, food and drink, arts and crafts, and even a beauty pageant.

Wonder if the pageant features any crepe myrtles?

For letting me in on the shenanigans taking place in the two Ardmores, Jennifer wins a signed copy of Grumpy’s new book due out this fall. See you at the festival, Jennifer!

Winner 8: Crepe Murder Never Rests

Allen Bush

Allen Bush is quite particular which bathroom he uses during his travels through the South. Not just any convenience store, pawn shop, fireworks shack, or fortune teller restroom will do. It must do more than satisfy his basic needs. It must inspire.

And that’s why he sent me this photo he took just outside of a rest stop along I-75 in Georgia. The Peach State takes great pride in making every visitor’s experience a memorable one—one they can look back on fondly in the decades ahead and say, “That was totally something.” What better way to do that than by adorning interstate rest stops with works of art?

Unfortunately, the purpose of art, as it has been explained to me by the multitudes of starving people who create it, is not to prevent the realization of potential, but to facilitate it. Cutting large crepe myrtles meant to be 25-foot trees into squat, thick stumps is not art we need to see. It looks like a four-letter word frequently associated with rest stops.

Then again, I could be wrong (very slim chance, I know). Notice how this crepe murder sits in front of the Men’s Room, undoubtedly pointing out that men commit nearly all crepe murders? Very clever. Biting social commentary!

For not waiting to go until he crossed over the Carolina line, Allen wins a signed copy of my new Grumpy book due out in fall. He’ll probably keep it in his restroom.

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Winner 9: Curb Your Enthusiasm—Crepe Murder 2017

Jennifer Lyon

Is there any place more magical than an elementary school? Here happy children eager to learn about the world open their empty minds to be filled with knowledge. What they learn there sets them on course to fulfill their dreams, become leaders of nations and industries, and convince future generations that the best way to inspire a love of the natural world is to chop a crepe myrtle into a stump to which you can hitch your horse—or your Toyota.

Don’t blame the teachers for this. It wasn’t they who decided to plant big crepe myrtles down a 3-foot wide strip of dirt between a parking lot curb and sidewalk. The credit goes to the landscaping crew who never learned what a ruler was for. Whoops! They must have been home with the sniffles when that class was taught.

As crazy as it sounds, there is a way to make such a skinny planting place work without blocking the view or impinging on the space of the parked cars. Plant tall-growing crepe myrtles that have either been trained to a single trunk or had their side branches removed to a height of five feet or so after planting. The ascending, arching branches will then form a wide-spreading canopy to shade the cars during the hot summer. Why, that would be one heck of a good idea!

But nooooo. As Jennifer so rightly observes, these crepe myrtles have been chain sawed into hitching post stumps “because stumps make kids want to come to school.” She also points to signs of repeated mutilation at both the top and bottom of the nearest post. “You can only imagine what this thing looks like at the end of summer,” she adds.

If you can’t, you can be sure the precocious kids at this school in Fort Smith, Arkansas can. They used to think a crepe myrtle could only be a beautiful tree. Now, thanks to the miracle of public education, they can envision it as a tree monster from Lord of the Rings.

Jennifer, thanks for making possible this teachable moment. Your reward will be a signed copy of my new Grumpy book due out this fall. Just in time for the start of classes.